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The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt

The Swerve (edition 2012)

by Stephen Greenblatt

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1,741904,057 (3.96)169
Title:The Swerve
Authors:Stephen Greenblatt
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2012), Edition: 1, Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library, X
Tags:renaissance, history, 2012

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The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt


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Showing 1-5 of 87 (next | show all)
I'm a little annoyed by the way this book was marketed. I expected to get a book talking about how the writing of Lucretius changed the world, but instead it was a nine-chapter biography on Poggio Bracciolini with two chapters thrown in at the end about the effect One the Nature of Things had on the modern world. I don't think we needed THAT much background information about one person in order to appreciate the points Greenblatt finally made at the end.

Nevertheless, it is fascinating to think about how our world became what it is today. It isn't just chance that we know certain things about science and feel certain ways about religion; many people sacrificed their lives because they thought outside of the box. Getting to where we are today took a lot of work. I don't agree with everything Lucretius asserts, and in some ways modern society is worse off than societies of the past, but I am grateful Lucretius changed our lives as much as he did, and that Poggio recognized the poem's importance and put it back into circulation. ( )
  AngelClaw | Feb 2, 2016 |
The search for the classics in the Middle Ages. ( )
  jerry-book | Jan 26, 2016 |
This was an interesting account of the rediscovery of Lucretius and the impact that the circulation of On the Nature of Things has had in our modern world. It was amazing to find that an ancient poet wrote so thoroughly of modern scientific ideas such as atoms, evolution, space-time phenomena and many of the laws of science that we don't think of having been put into words until centuries later...and Lucretius did it in beautifully flowing poetry! ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
This was an interesting account of the rediscovery of Lucretius and the impact that the circulation of On the Nature of Things has had in our modern world. It was amazing to find that an ancient poet wrote so thoroughly of modern scientific ideas such as atoms, evolution, space-time phenomena and many of the laws of science that we don't think of having been put into words until centuries later...and Lucretius did it in beautifully flowing poetry! ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
This is both a history of the discovery of Lucretius' poem "The Nature of Things" a biography of Poggio Braccioline, the man who first found it hidden in a monastery in the early 15th century. It belongs, I suppose, under the history of ideas as well. During this time a number of humanists were actively searching for classical writings which had been all but lost save for old copies of copies that had been copied by monks as parchment and/or vellum aged. Lucretius preserved the teachings of Epicurus in the from of a brilliant poem.

The title is a play on words from a swerve, which comes straight from that school of classical humanism, and if you don't already know it, you'll have to read it to find out just what that means. I'm not sure if the title means that this one discovery is how the world became modern (which is the face value of it, and in that case is presumptuous and incorrect) or if it was the entire search which certainly is touched on here. I give it a 4 because it was well written and kept me interested, but I didn't love it enough to give it a 5, and certainly if it were depended on me agreeing with some of the author's biases, etc, it would receive a lower rating.

If you are interested in the history of ideas, the history of humanism or European history of this time in general, then this is worth reading. ( )
  Karin7 | Jan 20, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 87 (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.

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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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