Rewriting the Self

In 1512, Dutch philosopher Erasmus of Rotterdam published a text on how to rewrite pre-existing texts. The purpose was to show that there were many ways to say the same thing. His book, De Copia, begins like this: “The speech of man is a magnificent thing when it surges along like a golden river, with thoughts and words pouring out in rich abundance.” Although he has an abundance of choices in how to express himself, complained Erasmus, man often resorts to mere glibness and word-mongering. Four hundred and thirty five years later, French novelist Raymond Queneau wrote Exercises in Style which was the same story retold in 99 different ways.

Often we don’t realize how many choices we have and how important it is to explore them.

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