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The Cartoon History of Humanism: Volume One:…
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The Cartoon History of Humanism: Volume One: Antiquity to Enlightenment

by Dale DeBakcsy

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
After angering a passing logical positivist, Dave was cursed to wander time and space to meet with humanist philosophers until he learned his lesson. This is the story of his journey so far. I'd expected this to be more of a graphic novel, but it's actually a four-panel gag and then an essay about each historical figure Dave encounters. I learned a whole lot about a bunch of people I'd never even heard of and even had a few laughs. That said, I feel like the audience for this sort of thing is pretty niche. The art isn't all that great and can't stand on its own without the accompanying essays. It's also an unwieldy book physically: large and square and really floppy. Basically, if you're interested in learning about some influential-but-more-obscure figures in the history of humanism, this is a good start. If you're not, you probably won't find much in here to strike your fancy. ( )
  melydia | Dec 16, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
From the title, I was expecting a graphic novel, and this is NOT a graphic novel. There is one small cartoon at the beginning of each chapter, and the rest of the chapter is written in a strange font and with strangely formatted columns. I couldn't get past my disappointment in its being falsely advertised to really appreciate the book itself. ( )
  SandSing7 | Oct 4, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is a collection of the column "The Cartoon History of Humanism" from the Humanist Magazine's website. this book includes 32 episodes plus a "bonus" holiday special.

Each episode contains a 4 panel cartoon which introduces a famous person or theory in humanism along with a page or two eassy giving more details about the subject. Recommended further readings are often given as well for those who wish to go further into a topic.

I was expecting more comic without all the text (something like the Action Philosophers series) but this is fine for what it is. ( )
  rsps | Sep 20, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The faults of *The Cartoon History of Humanism* are many, but its virtue outweighs them all: the writing is erudite, informative, opinionated, and frequently hilarious. I learned more in this little volume about the lives and thought of figures such as Ibn Rushd, Thomas Hobbes, and Denis Diderot than I had in decades of general reading, and learning about people I'd never heard of, like Arnold of Brescia and LaMettrie, was exciting and fun. The concept is that "Dave," an unremarkable guy with a '70s hairstyle, tinted shades, and an enthusiastic if rather shallow attitude, bounces around time meeting the great philosophers of the past—particularly those thinkers who made signifiant progress toward modern, enlightened thought. One of the charms of the book is the inclusion of men and women who are not now and never were famous. Another is the blasé response that they typically take toward being visited by a hepcat in Day-Glo T-shirt. The exchanges are sharp and to the point.

DAVE: I'm a free being!
LA METTRIE: You're an entropy tube...in a shirt.
DAVE: Look, can't we redefine free will so that we have it, please?
LA METTRIE: You can redefine cats as senators. Doesn't mean they'll stop licking themselves.

The strip from which this repartée was taken is followed, as they all are, by a detailed page explaining the context in which the met individual lived and thought, some discussion of why that person's contribution proved so important, and a "Further Reading" section that points you to where you can learn more. It's really great.

The faults? Well, the book is set in a thin sans-serif font that's so difficult to scan that I have to gird myself to attack it. The drawing style takes getting used to, too: everybody has raised eyebrows and a blank, gaping hole for a mouth, and everybody who is not a young woman is wrinkly. (It's not particularly pretty—and most sections fill empty areas by reproducing parts of the drawings in huge closeup.) The strips have been forced into chronological order to fit the "history of" idea in the title, so they tend to refer to other strips the reader hasn't yet read. And the brand of humanism that forms the author's viewpoint is that of narrow materialism, presented from a standpoint of dogmatic, dismissive triumphalism. Of course, goes the unspoken thread, we are so much smarter than people have ever been before. Of course all human problems are essentially mechanical, for what are we all but a collection of atoms that can eventually be completely described?

Of course, you can learn even from the somewhat insufferably smug, and so I have. And so I'll continue, with the aid of a bright reading lamp, a magnifying glass, and a notebook by my side. ( )
  john.cooper | Sep 14, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Requested and received via LibraryThing Early Reviewers. This is labeled a review copy, so the final copy may differ.

I requested this in part because my 10th grader son is interested in Philosophy (among many other topics), and both of us like graphic novels. I was a bit surprised that there is not much "graphic novel" about this, but went along with it anyway.

Possibly because this is a collection of essays originally posted online, the content is a bit uneven; indeed, the author states in this volume's introduction that he approached the entire project idiosyncratically.

I think the essay I enjoyed the most was about Leonardo da Vinci. The author states that da Vinci appeals to us still even today and probably always will because of his mindset and approach to life and especially because his curiosity about how the world works resonates with us as human beings.

Many figures covered here here I didn't know much about, and it was good to obtain more background on these humanists. My son has yet to finish reading this but he agrees with me that it could have used more cartoons -- especially since the title describes it as a "Cartoon History" -- this volume really only has a few cartoons/illustrations here and there. "A History of Humanism with some Cartoons" would have been a more fitting title, perhaps.

One nice touch is the "further reading" recommended in each chapter, if one wishes to explore more about the people covered in that section. ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Sep 12, 2016 |
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