This groundbreaking book proposes that the rise of alphabetic literacy--the process of reading and writing--fundamentally reconfigured the human brain, and brought about profound changes in history, religion, and gender relations. Making remarkable connections across brain function, myth, and anthropology, Leonard Shlain shows why agricultural preliterate cultures were principally informed by holistic, right-brain modes that venerated the Goddess and feminine values and images. Writing, particularly alphabets, drove cultures toward linear left-brain thinking. This shift upset the balance between men and women, initiating the decline of the feminine, and also ushered in the reign of patriarchy and misogyny. Examining the cultures of the Israelites, Greeks, Christians, and Muslims, he reinterprets many myths and parables in light of his theory. Shlain traces the effect of literacy on the Dark Ages, Mary, Gutenberg, the Reformation, and the witch hunts.
Shlain ends his book with an optimistic appraisal that the proliferation of images in film, TV, graphics, and computers is once again reconfiguring the brain by encouraging right hemispheric modes of thought and bringing about the reemergence of the feminine.