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The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by…
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The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

by Stephen Greenblatt

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 223 mentions

English (101)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  All languages (105)
Showing 1-5 of 101 (next | show all)
An intellectual detective story. ( )
  DanDiercks | Jun 21, 2018 |
I thought this book was riveting and eye-opening. It's a must-read if you are at all interested in intellectual history. And well-written, too. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
I love books about classic books that are otherwise difficult, a guide is welcome. Despite the subtitle chosen by the publisher, I don't think Greenblatt is saying this one book by Lucretius created the modern world, but he is saying it was influential to some degree and he succeeded in showing that. Lucretius provided a model, atomism, for understanding the physical world that was in the end correct, at least more so than the alternative of faith.

Critics say Greenblatt is anti-religious and falls into the trap created by Italian Humanists who depict the "middle" ages (a term they invented) as being "dark" (a concept they created); that these intellectual models were part of a propaganda campaign to restore the glory of Rome, one that lives on in the modern imagination for various reasons. In short, anyone who uses the term or concept of a "Dark Ages" is not a serious historian rather a populist. These are valid criticisms.. and yet. This is still a good book, as a history of On the Nature of Things, of Italian "book hunters" and some Humanists brought back to life. ( )
  Stbalbach | May 23, 2018 |
Would have made a good magazine article. The preface and chapters 8, 10 & 11 were the interesting parts for me; all the rest was a too academic review of 15th century Italian whatever. It was not what I expected from the title.

I was not previously aware of the content of Lucretius' poem but am always blown away by how the ancient Greeks, just by thinking about things, had everything figured out, right down to atoms & evolution. ( )
  Siubhan | Feb 28, 2018 |
An interesting story about how On The Nature of Things was reintroduced to the world from one (maybe 2) copies in monastic libraries. I don't know enough about the subject to have any option on the validity of the authors assertions as to how important the work is the modernity, but he makes good points. The book is written in such a way that I could follow it, and never felt like I was being talked over. I may, just may read Lucretius ( )
  dreamweaver529 | Jan 16, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 101 (next | show all)
Every page of the book strives to present the Renaissance as an intellectual awakening that triumphs over the oppressive abyss of the Dark Ages. The book pushes the Renaissance as a rebirth of the classical brillance nearly lost during centuries mired in dullness and pain. This invention of modernity relies on a narrative of the good guy defeating the bad guy and thus a glorious transformation. This is dangerous not only because it is inaccurate but more importantly because it subscribes to a progressivist model of history that insists on the onward march of society, a model that allows moderns like us to excuse our crimes and injustices because “at least we’re better than those medievals.”

Now unlike most of those thousands of innocent believing readers, I see the deep problems of such an approach, as have the last dozen generations of historians. History does not fit such cookie-cutter narratives. Having studied medieval culture for nearly two decades, I can instantly recognize the oppressive, dark, ignorant Middle Ages that Greenblatt depicts for 262 pages as just… fiction. It’s fiction worse than Dan Brown, because it masquerades as fact.
 
The distortions in Greenblatt’s narrative may have slipped past the Pulitzer committee, but they won’t slip by someone with even a basic knowledge of church his­tory. St Jerome, to be sure, is no inconsequential figure, but Greenb­latt focuses most of his attention on Lactantius and Peter Damian. He is more interested in the latter because he reformed the already self­abasing
Benedictine order in the eleventh century, making voluntary self-flag­ellation “a central ascetic practice of the church” and thus accomplishing the thousand year struggle “to secure the triumph of pain seeking” (107). If this is genuinely how Green­blatt understands the significance and nature of the Benedictine order, one can only wonder why Harvard retains him.
added by 2wonderY | editHumanitas, Jeffrey Polet (Sep 3, 2013)
 
Why Stephen Greenblatt is wrong and why it matters.
 
Greenblatt's story of the unleashing of the pleasure principle on the European world after the discovery of Lucretius conveys his own passion for discovery, and displays his brilliance as a storyteller. The Swerve is, though, a dazzling retelling of the old humanist myth of the heroic liberation of classical learning from centuries of monastic darkness. The light of Rome fades into gloom, sheep graze in the Forum; then the humanists rebel against the orthodoxies of the church, bring about a great recovery of classical texts and generate a new intellectual dawn. This book makes that story into a great read, but it cannot make it entirely true.
added by 2wonderY | editThe Guardian, Colin Burrow (Dec 23, 2011)
 
The ideas in “The Swerve” are tucked, cannily, inside a quest narrative. The book relates the story of Poggio Bracciolini, the former apostolic secretary to several popes, who became perhaps the greatest book hunter of the Renaissance. His most significant find, located in a German monastery, was a copy of Lucretius’ “On the Nature of Things,” which had been lost to history for more than a thousand years. Its survival and re-emergence into the world, Mr. Greenblatt suggests, was a kind of secular miracle.

Approaching Lucretius through Bracciolini was an ingenious idea. It allows Mr. Greenblatt to take some worthwhile detours: through the history of book collecting, and paper making, and libraries, and penmanship, and monks and their almost sexual mania for making copies of things.

The details that Mr. Greenblatt supplies throughout “The Swerve” are tangy and exact.
 

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Greenblatt, StephenAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ballerini, EduardoNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Binder, KlausÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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(Preface) When I was a student, I used to go at the end of the school year to the Yale Coop to see what I could find to read over the summer.
In the winter of 1417, Poggio Bracciolini rode through the wooded hills and valleys of southern Germany toward his distant destination, a monastery reputed to have a cache of old manuscripts.
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But the extravagance and bitterness of the charges – in the course of a quarrel over Latin style, Poggio accused the younger humanist Lorenzo Valla of heresy, theft, lying, forgery, cowardice, drunkenness, sexual perversion, and insane vanity – discloses something rotten in the inner lives of these impressively learned individuals. (p. 146)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393064476, Hardcover)

Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction
Winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Non-Fiction

One of the world's most celebrated scholars, Stephen Greenblatt has crafted both an innovative work of history and a thrilling story of discovery, in which one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it.

Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius—a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions.

The copying and translation of this ancient book-the greatest discovery of the greatest book-hunter of his age-fueled the Renaissance, inspiring artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare and even Thomas Jefferson. 16 pages full-color illustrations

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:43 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A humanities professor describes the impact had by the translation of the last remaining manuscript of On the Nature of Things by Roman philosopher Lucretius, which fueled the Renaissance and inspired artists, great thinkers and scientists.

» see all 4 descriptions

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