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The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by…

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

by Stephen Greenblatt

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
The premise behind the book was promising, but after a few chapters of colourful vignettes about life in the early Renaissance, the book turned into a philosophical treatise. The author's anti-religious agenda was also quite obvious. Notwithstanding, the book was thought-provoking, particularly in this era of culture wars.

To give the author's anti-religous bias its due, organised religions have not covered themselves with glory over history, and this has become particularly pronounced in the past 20 years as large minorities of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Christians have become less and less tolerant of other religions and of non-believers. ( )
  oparaxenos | Nov 27, 2015 |
@swerve +school

I really liked this book, it manages to be awe-inspiringly scholary and extremely interesting. As a latin student, I can not wait to start De Rerum Natura. But, I also am looking forward to going through some of the articles he references. It's going to take me a long time to digest the sprawl of human experience he describes here (which is another way of saying it was great) ( )
  Lorem | Oct 15, 2015 |
Coming late to the game with all the hype about this book, I was a bit disappointed with it. Some of it is probably due that I have always hated Lucretius' De rerum natura. Facts are best presented in prose not in rhyme. The life of Poggio Bracciolini serves as the background for a sweeping portrait from antiquity to the renaissance with one digression after the other so that the final pages have to rush to present Bracciolini's actual life and career. There it is revealed that the supposed monumental find of Lucretius' work was actually kept under wraps for many years by one of his acquaintances so that the key thrust of the swerve collapses like a bad soufflé.

The main protagonist was but one among many, many humanists whose eagerness of rediscovering antiquity was in part made possible by the economic take-off happening as a consequence of the Black Death. Many of these texts were trophies for the newly rich (like Bill Gates buying Leonardo da Vinci's workbooks). ( )
1 vote jcbrunner | Sep 27, 2015 |
Fascinating and highly readable account of the rediscovery of a work by the philosopher and poet Lucretius. Greenblatt asserts that the reintroduction of the Epicurean ideas of Lucretius was a significant consideration in the development of the modern world.
It is a very convincing argument. This account of the various scholars, clerics, rogues, saints and thinkers from Greek and Roman times, as well as the 14th and 15th centuries, involved in keeping writing and reading and open-mindedness alive is riveting. ( )
  rosiezbanks | Sep 1, 2015 |
I did not want this book to end;but to my dismay, the last 100 pages turned out to be notes and references. A surviving manuscript shaped our modern world. ( )
  Mohamed80 | Jul 11, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
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.
This concise, learned and fluently written book tells a remarkable story. It may not quite tell us "how the Renaissance began", as the subtitle rather rashly promises, but the episode it describes is certainly resonant. Highly skilled, close-focus readings of moments of great cultural significance are Stephen Greenblatt's speciality, whether in "new historicist" studies such as Marvellous Possessions, about the European encounter with the New World, or in his more populist biography Will in the World: How Shakespeare became Shakespeare.

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephen Greenblattprimary 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.
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)

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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.

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