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The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

Stephen Greenblatt

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.

Description

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.

Publishers Weekly Review

Jun 20, 2011 – In this gloriously learned page-turner, both biography and intellectual history, Harvard Shakespearean scholar Greenblatt (Will in the World) turns his attention to the front end of the Renaissance as the origin of Western culture's foundation: the free questioning of truth. It hinges on the recovery of an ancient philosophical Latin text that had been neglected for a thousand years. In the winter of 1417 Italian oddball humanist, smutty humorist, and apostolic secretary Poggio Bracciolini stumbled on Lucretius' De rerum natura. In an obscure monastery in southern Germany lay the recovery of a philosophy free of superstition and dogma. Lucretius' "On the Nature of Things" harked back to the mostly lost works of Greek philosophers known as atomists. Lucretius himself was essentially an Epicurean who saw the restrained seeking of pleasure as the highest good. Poggio's chance finding lay what Greenblatt, following Lucretius himself, terms a historic swerve of massive proportions, propagated by such seminal and often heretical truth tellers as Machiavelli, Giordano Bruno, and Montaigne. We even learn the history of the bookworm—a real entity and one of the enemies of ancient written-cultural transmission. Nearly 70 pages of notes and bibliography do nothing to spoil the fun of Greenblatt's marvelous tale. 16 pages of color illus.

Customer Reviews

The Swerve

I generally enjoyed it, but a little dry and too many small facts to make it a must read. I am going to try and read " On the Nature of Things" next.

Absolutely stunning

Imagining how the world could have been if only Lucretius wasn't lost and, instead of reviled, followed as the visionary he clearly was, is tantalizing and inspirational.
I read it cherishing each word and part of the story. When I got to the end I went right back to the first page and read it all again. Any person who has any interest in anything should know this story.

Time to learn French

I bought this book in the hopes of listening to it with the voice function turned on. For some reason the voice speaks in French, all of the titles and navigation are in the usual English but the text on each page is spoken in a strong French accent. I like to listen to books while I work because I have so little time, now instead of enjoying the book this week I will read little bits here and there for a month or two when I get a minute. I don't feel like I got what I was promised. Please do something about this.

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
View In iTunes
  • $12.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: History
  • Published: Sep 26, 2011
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • Seller: W. W. Norton
  • Print Length: 368 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings

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