History of Paradise: THE GARDEN OF EDEN IN MYTH AND TRADITION Paperback – 20 Apr 2000
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"A revealing and often fascinating history of Western man's conception of a primitive paradise." -- Robert Bireley, Times Literary Supplement
From the Back Cover
With erudition and wit, Jean Delumeau explores the medieval conviction that paradise existed in a precise although unreachable earthly location. Delving into the writings of dozens of medieval and Renaissance thinkers from Augustine to Dante, Delumeau presents a luminous study of the meaning of Original Sin and the human yearning for paradise.
The finest minds of the Middle Ages wrote about where paradise was to be found, what it was like, and who dwelt in it. Explorers sailed into the unknown in search of paradisal gardens of wealth and delight that were thought to be near the original Garden. Cartographers drew Eden into their maps, often indicating the wilderness into which Adam and Eve were cast, along with the magical kingdom of Prester John, Jerusalem, Babel, Ophir, and other places described in biblical narrative or borrowed from other cultures. Later, Renaissance thinkers and writers meticulously reconstructed the details of Eden, providing schedules of the Creation and physical descriptions of Adam and Eve.
Even when the Enlightenment gradually banished the dream of paradise on earth, a nostalgia for Eden shaped elements of culture from literature to gardening. In our own time, Eden's hold on the Western imagination continues to fuel questions such as whether land should be conserved or exploited and whether a return to innocence is possible.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Delumeau is able to demonstrate the evolution of the concept and today's deconstruction of paradise through an acceptance of 'evolution' but only because he first establishes the original sacred and secular constructs.
The examples of 'paradise' depicted in medieval manuscripts, and medieval and renaissance art will appeal to the art history lover looking for more in depth context for the paradise narrative.
Although I found there was a little too much of a bias towards the Western traditions and a subjective weighting given to certain stories such as Prestor John's Kingdom , the book overall was informative and for fact and fiction writers alike, revisiting paradise with Delumeau is a worthwhile inspirational journey .
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