The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

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The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

Format:  Paperback,

356 pages

Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc

Publish Date: Sep 2012

ISBN-13: 9780393343403

ISBN-10: 0393343405

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Book Information

The following content was provided by the publisher.
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.

Specifications

Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc
Publish Date: Sep 2012
ISBN-13: 9780393343403
ISBN-10: 0393343405
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 356
Shipping Weight (in pounds): 0.98
Product in Inches (L x W x H): 5.5 x 8.25 x 1.25

About the author

Biography of Greenblatt, Stephen

Stephen Greenblatt is a literary critic, theorist and scholar. He is the author of Three Modern Satirists: Waugh, Orwell, and Huxley (1965); Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (1980); Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture (1990); Redrawing the Boundaries: The Transformation of English and American Literary Studies (1992); The Norton Shakespeare (1997); Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare (2004); Shakespeare's Freedom (2010); and The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (2011).

Reviews

Review by Library Journal (2012-02-15)

Roughly 600 years ago, book hunter Poggio Bracciolini happened upon a "lost" copy of On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura), a poem by Lucretius. It postulated that the world is made up of nature (atoms) and that religion is harmful and damaging to human life. Bracciolini had the manuscript copied and widely distributed. Some believe that this poem caused the world to swerve and change philosophical direction, thus beginning the Renaissance.

Verdict: Whether one poem could be so influential is questionable. In addition to this overzealous history, book lovers are rewarded with brilliant descriptions of the history of books, libraries, and fascinating detail about manuscript production. Narrator Edoardo Ballerini's rather professorial presentation gives listeners the sense of participating in a one-sided lecture.

- Susan Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., Chicago

(c). Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal (2011-06-15)

In this outstandingly constructed assessment of the birth of philosophical modernity, renowned Shakespeare scholar Greenblatt (Cogan University Professor of English & American Literature & Language, Harvard; Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare) deftly transports readers to the dawn of the Renaissance, when in 1417 bibliophile Poggio Bracciolini uncovered the Roman poet and philosopher Titus Lucretius Carus's Epicurean work, On the Nature of Things, in the dusty confines of a German monastery.

After lying dormant for centuries, Lucretius's "atomist" philosophy reemerged, promoting the joys of this world over the punishments and rewards of the next, gradually conquering humanist circles and influencing such luminaries as More, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Newton. At the heart of Lucretius's Latin verse lies the core argument that by understanding the world around us, abandoning superstitious delusions, and coming to grips with humanity's insignificance, we begin to take ownership of our lives and set out on the pursuit of happiness.

Verdict: Greenblatt's masterful account transcends Poggio's significant discovery to encompass a diversity of topics including the Roman book trade, Renaissance Florence, and the Catholic Church's attempts to deal with heresy and schism. Students and general readers from across the humanities will find this enthralling account irresistible.

[See Prepub Alert, 3/21/11.] - Brian Odom Pelham P.L., AL

(c). Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Awards and Recognitions

  • Pulitzer Prize, 2012 (United States)

Book description

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.

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