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The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began
 
 

The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began [Kindle Edition]

Stephen Greenblatt
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £10.99
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Product Description

Review

"[This] concise, learned and fluently written book tells a remarkable story" (Sunday Times)

"More wonderfully illuminating Renaissance history from a master scholar and historian (starred review)" (Kirkus Reviews)

"[A] superb history... This concise, learned and fluently written book tells a remarkable story... Highly skilled, close-focus readings of moments of great cultural significance are Stephen Greenblatt's speciality" (Charles Nicholl Observer)

"In this gloriously learned page-turner, both biography and intellectual history, Harvard Shakespearean scholar Greenblatt turns his attention to the front end of the Renaissance as the origin of Western culture's foundation: the free questioning of truth (starred review)" (Publishers Weekly)

"[A] superbly readable piece of historical work...an exciting story, and Greenblatt tells it with his customary clarity and verve" (Robert Douglas-Fairhurst Daily Telegraph)

Review

In this outstandingly constructed assessment of the birth of philosophical modernity, renowned Shakespeare scholar Greenblatt deftly transports reader to the dawn of the Renaissance...Readers from across the humanities will find this enthralling account irresistible.--starred review

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 903 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (1 Sep 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005L18C4E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #118,593 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Stephen Greenblatt is the John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University and is the founder of the school of literary criticism known as New Historicism. As visiting professor and lecturer at universities in England, Australia, the United States and elsewhere throughout the world, he has delivered such distinguished series of lectures as the Clarendon Lectures at Oxford and the University Public Lectures at Princeton. He has received two Guggenheim Fellowships and has been President of the Modern Language Association. Professor Greenblatt is the author and co-author of nine books and the editor of ten others, including The Norton Anthology of English Literature (7th edition) and The Norton Shakespeare.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Last month this book won the Pulizter prize (in general non-fiction), which is how I found out about it. It tells the story of how Lucretius's poem, a 'secular bible', came to be discovered in the 1400s and some of its impact on Western thought since.

What I enjoyed:
- The style and structure brings a bit of 'Dan Brown' intrigue to what could otherwise be a fairly thin book
- Brings to life the social, political and religious context in which the manuscript was discovered
- Engaging style, the author's passion for his topic shines through
- Very clear and written for the non-specialist

What I didn't enjoy:
- The narrative feels quite padded, possibly due to the limited fact-base about the book's discoverer
- The structure of the book involves a bit of a dance until we reach the moment of discovery of the manuscript - a touch frustrating at times
- It felt as if there was a missing chapter about the actual content of Lucretius's book (as opposed to how the content related to 15th century Vatican politics)

Overall I enjoyed the book and found it opened my eyes to an influential work of literature that I had previously never heard of and I'd recommend it on that basis. However if you've already read about Lucretius or are knowledgeable about the late-medieval history of the Catholic church this probably isn't for you.
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Power of Books 11 Oct 2011
By westmer
Format:Hardcover
First of all, this is a good read. Greenblatt writes fluently, intelligently and can tell a good story, all of which makes him a good populariser. In The Swerve he takes part of the story of the Renaissance, the rescuing of Lucretius's immensely influential poem on the nature of things, and explores it in some detail. He probably tries to make this one episode in a complex history even bigger than it was but perhaps in a storyteller that's not a bad fault.

There's a subtext running throughout the book - basically a long blast against "intelligent design" which probably is more important for an American readership than a British one, although it's unlikely that many people who adhere to that stuff will read this. How can it be, he asks, that Lucretius (and other Ancients) could construct such a "modern" and intellectually coherent theory of everything, while our contemporaries (too many of them)want to dwell in ignorance, fear and superstition? The churches' attempts to suppress Lucretius's work and his epicurean world view continue to fail, but they fight hard. Greenblatt's frustration is palpable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read! 24 July 2013
Format:Paperback
This book is really good. Very readable and the story it tells is fascinating - the discovery, by an Italian book hunter in the 15th C, of a 1500 year old poem by Lucretius which displays a world view much more in keeping with contemporary ideas (heliocentric system, matter composed of atoms, no divine interference) than those we might expect of ancient Romans never mind medieval Italians. The book only contains excerpts and summations from Lucretius' work but even these are intriguing. In addition he tells how this discovery work and its subsequent transmission led to other developments including the work of Thomas Harriot who it transpires made discoveries that have been credited to Galileo & others.
My only gripes are that it seems to me that the original title is more accurate (How The World Became Modern) rather than How The Renaissance Began. Also there feels like some padding in this because the details of life of Bracciolini are relatively sketchy so the early part particularly seems to spend along time telling us about monasteries and monastery life..
Well worth reading though
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I intermittently enjoyed this book having come across Poggio Bracciolini, the bookhunter a couple of times recently. Firstly a television programme on the 'history of the joke' and secondly in Christopher Krebs book on the influence of Tacitus' Germania. He is a figure to whose obsessive industry the world owes a great deal and he deserves to be better known. The authors main argument, which he overemphasies in the title is to show that Poggio's extraction of Lucretius's 'On The Nature of Things' from monastic oblivion was the seminal text in kick starting the Rennaisance. Aside from the fact the Rennaisance is a retrospective view of an elongated period of European history and that other cultural interactions inevitably played their part, not even the most ardent biblical scholars would claim that the Bible answered all possible line of intellectual enquiry (fanatics aside who are a class unto themselves in any culture), Greenblatt's emphasis offers an attractive case for Lucretius influence upon developing thought and its wrestle with the dominant power structure of the church.

The author is attempting to argue that the intellectual freedom that emerged from the particularly Greek but later Roman world was inherently superior to that of medieval Christian custom and practice, and that the loss of these works, the vast majority to simple neglect, acts of war and the passage of time rather than prohibition presented a purposeful restriction of intellectual development and human understanding.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Its a pity about the title I may well have overlooked it but being...
In 1973 I discovered a copy of De Rerum Natura written 2000 years ago, being very impressed I opened my PhD thesis in Biochemistry with with some verses from the poem. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Terry Bagnall
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and entertaining read
An excellent and entertaining read, though I do think that the author failed to make his case for the find being the single event on which the Renaissance hinged. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Helena Nightingale
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and gripping
History that reads like a novel, full of fascinating characters and the surprises of a thriller. If you're at all interested in thoughts and the Western world, this is a great... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr. P. Trippenbach
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Glad I didn't live in medieval times.
But a good account of early humanism
Published 3 months ago by B. F. C Lonetree
5.0 out of 5 stars A book about an ancient poem worht reading.
A book about a poem written over 2,000 years ago by a minor Greek philosopher and discovered by a fifteenth century papal secretary does not sound riveting reading to me. Read more
Published 4 months ago by M. Hillmann
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic
simply brilliant. this book should be on the curriculum of every school in the country.
mr Greenblatt should write a follow up volume giving more examples of just how... Read more
Published 5 months ago by david craig
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book despite the misleading title
Did a long-lost epic poem by the Roman Epicurean Lucretius, rediscovered by ex-papal bureaucrat Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini in the library of a German monastery in the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Jezza
4.0 out of 5 stars (3.5 stars) Poggio and the re-discovery of Lucretius
The grandiose title alone would indicate that this is a popular book rather than a serious academic one. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Roman Clodia
5.0 out of 5 stars Unmissable!
This is a truly gripping account of the disappearance and recovery of one of the most influential texts of antiquity. Read more
Published 10 months ago by John J Hayes
5.0 out of 5 stars It is a must!
By far, one of the best book I have read in the last 5 - 10 years! The most amazing intellectual "adventure": it is a must-read!
Published 11 months ago by Volkan
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