The introductory chapter sets the stage for the book and outlines its main arguments. It begins with a discussion of the study of reading vs. the study of writing in literacy research, showing that over the years, scholars have tended to ascribe more significance to one or the other. This discussion is then brought to bear on the case of Eastern European Jewish society in the nineteenth century, and one of the central arguments of this book is presented, namely, that the processes of Enlightenment, modernization, and secularization in Jewish society were marked not by a revolution in reading, but rather by a revolutionary change in the conception and status of writing. The chapter then proceeds to introduce the role of writing in the Jewish Enlightenment, the Haskalah, and to discuss the principle of the primacy of speech over writing, which operated as a deep cultural code in traditional Jewish society of the time, and which the Jewish Enlightenment sought to overturn. This analysis sheds new light on the origins and formation of modern Hebrew literature. The chapter concludes with an outline of the structure of the book and an exposition of its chapters.