The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (Paperback)

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(World History)

Staff Reviews

Do you think a book can change a person's life? Well, Stephen Greenblatt thinks a longish poem changed the course of world history, and he makes a pretty convincing case out of a melange of history, biography, and ilterary exegesis. This is the kind of book that makes you think that English major might not have been such a bad idea after all.

— Hank


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.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780393343403
ISBN-10: 0393343405
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: September 4th, 2012
Pages: 368
Language: English