Customer Reviews for

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

An important book about the power of books...

This is a great short history about a long lost Roman poem that encompassed the very humanistic ideas that brought Western Europe out of the intellectual morass of Christendom and into the Renaissance and Reformation. I find great comfort reading about the importance o...
This is a great short history about a long lost Roman poem that encompassed the very humanistic ideas that brought Western Europe out of the intellectual morass of Christendom and into the Renaissance and Reformation. I find great comfort reading about the importance of "a book" and the humanities that have shaped so much of our society despite the sad state of the humanities within our education system and the slow sad disappearance of the paper book. The hero of Stephen Greenblatt's work would no doubt be unsettled by the anti-intellectualism prevalent in the modern West and our complete obsession with cheap stimuli. Turn off the TV. Put the cell phone away. Find a nice quiet place to read and enjoy this wonderful book.

posted by HarryVane on December 12, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

Not quite as advertised

The publisher's blurb calls this a "riveting" account of great cultural change and a "thrilling tale of discovery." While interesting, it was hardly riveting or thrilling. Rather, it was a matter-of-fact and sometimes pedantic account of the rediscovery of Lucretius' "O...
The publisher's blurb calls this a "riveting" account of great cultural change and a "thrilling tale of discovery." While interesting, it was hardly riveting or thrilling. Rather, it was a matter-of-fact and sometimes pedantic account of the rediscovery of Lucretius' "On the Nature of Things." The author makes a less than compelling case for one of his own favorite poems changing the course of Western cultural history. I don't think it moved others as much as it did him. An interesting read, but not compelling.

posted by jobriant on October 27, 2011

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  • Posted October 27, 2011

    Not quite as advertised

    The publisher's blurb calls this a "riveting" account of great cultural change and a "thrilling tale of discovery." While interesting, it was hardly riveting or thrilling. Rather, it was a matter-of-fact and sometimes pedantic account of the rediscovery of Lucretius' "On the Nature of Things." The author makes a less than compelling case for one of his own favorite poems changing the course of Western cultural history. I don't think it moved others as much as it did him. An interesting read, but not compelling.

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 1, 2012

    recommend

    ¿The Swerve¿ by Stephen Greenblatt. A historical epic featuring a true man of the emerging renaissance, Poggio Bracciolini, chief secretary to several popes and a member of the small Italian humanist intelligentsia movement who were seeking to recover the wisdom of the ancients in remote monasteries in the form of the copies of pagan manuscripts which had been lost with the fall of the Roman Empire and the collapse of Europe into the dark ages. In 1417, Poggio found in a Benedictine monastery near Constance a copy of a copy¿ of Lucretius¿s poem On the Nature of Things. This Latin poem, depicting Epicurus¿s philosophy of the atomic basis of matter, the inconsequence of men to gods if there were any, the impossibility of an afterlife, and the conclusion that pleasure was the highest human aim, spread with the newly found poem to infect intellectual thought in Europe and led to influence the modern western world. Isaac Newton echoed Lucretius atomistic ideas in his Optiks (1718) ¿While the Particles continue entire, they may compose Bodies of one and the same Nature and Texture in all Ages, but should they wear away or break into pieces, the Nature of things depending on them would be changed¿. Thomas Jefferson owned fives copies of Lucretius¿s poem, and Epicurus¿ philosophy found itself into ¿the pursuit of Happiness¿ phrase in the American Declaration of Independence. Interesting insights about the relative level of intellectual life in Italy, England and Germany; what has happened since to Italy?

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2013

    Recommended

    The Foreword had me holding my breath. Greenblatt opened with a pomposity that threatened to be relentlessly unbearable, but I understood by the next chapter that this was the perfect set-up. The rest of the book has proven to be a fascinating tour of Graeco-Roman-Italian, and then world cultural history. It tool me out of my modern world while explaining why I live in it. I can't wait to re-read it so I can take the time out of the straight-ahead narrative to ruminate amongst the many enriching footnotes.

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