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Empire of the Word (2009)
Empire of the Word is a four-part television documentary series that traces the impact of reading and writing over five thousand years of human history. Hosted by renowned Canadian writer Alberto Manguel, the series is built upon the ageless struggle between individual readers and the forces lined up against them. Reading has been characterized by this never-ending search for the self-determination of readers. Crushing poverty, organized religion, authoritarian rulers, even our own brains – they can all conspire to keep us from reading. Censorship, too, is a constant danger to readers.
The reading tools we deploy shape the future of reading. Technology has become their tool for fighting censorship. But will technology mean the end of reading as we know it? For some, these new technologies are causing a renaissance in worldwide reading. What will these new forms of reading look like? But no matter what shape reading will take in the future, why does this system of small squiggles on a page really have such a hold over us? Some would say the drive to read is found in our need to be ourselves. It is the realized individual human self that is unlocked by reading.