Four Cultures of the West / Edition 1

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Overview

The workings of Western intelligence in our day--whether in politics or the arts, in the humanities or the church--are as troubling as they are mysterious, leading to the questions: Where are we going? What in the world were we thinking? By exploring the history of four "cultures" so deeply embedded in Western history that we rarely see their instrumental role in politics, religion, education, and the arts, this timely book provides a broad framework for addressing these questions in a fresh way.

The cultures considered here originated in the ancient world, took on Christian forms, and manifest themselves today in more secular ways. These are, as John W. O'Malley identifies them: the prophetic culture that proclaims the need for radical change in the structures of society (represented by, for example, Jeremiah, Martin Luther, and Martin Luther King, Jr.); the academic culture that seeks instead to understand those structures (Aristotle, Aquinas, the modern university); the humanistic culture that addresses fundamental human issues and works for the common good of society (Cicero, Erasmus, and Eleanor Roosevelt); and the culture of art and performance that celebrates the mystery of the human condition (Phidias, Michelangelo, Balanchine).

By showing how these cultures, as modes of activity and discourse in which Western intelligence has manifested itself through the centuries and continues to do so, O'Malley produces an essay that especially through the history of Christianity brilliantly illuminates the larger history of the West.

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Editorial Reviews

America

This sweeping survey of Western cultural history, by John W. O'Malley, S.J., ought to be required reading for—among others—literary and philosophical [unbelievers]: postmodernists, New Agers, Generation-Xers and college students everywhere. It's a clear cogent survey of the cultural roots we all have, willy-nilly, consciously or otherwise...In all this Father O'Malley makes an illuminating guide. His relaxed, agreeable prose (a blend of cultures two and three) should attract a wide spectrum of readers.
— Peter Heinegg

Times Higher Education Supplement

O'Malley has given us a readable book with very wide learning in four cultures...This book will be of interest to and accessible to anyone interested in the cultural life of the West. At a time when the Christian origins of our culture, which in reality are so fundamental, are ignored, it offers a very valuable reminder and corrective.
— Richard Harries

National Catholic Reporter

Four Cultures of the West would make an excellent text for an interdisciplinary seminar on Western civilization, but the non-academic reader can enjoy and profit from it as well.
— Darrell Turner

Ecclesiastical History

This wise and elegant little survey of western Christian culture began life as the first Blessed Pope John XXIII lecture series at the University of Notre Dame, and it is a fine example of rhetoric in the best sense: an explicit exercise in epideictic, sorting out praise and blame.
— Diarmaid MacCulloch

Bridges
O'Malley's book is helpful in gaining a better understanding of the intellectual underpinnings of what we call the "student-centered" approach. This is one reason why the book will be of interest to educators. Lucid, yet at the same time rich in history, it will be attractive to students and teachers of world cultures in many different disciplines.

— Dr. Dovile Budryte

Bridges

O'Malley's book is helpful in gaining a better understanding of the intellectual underpinnings of what we call the "student-centered" approach. This is one reason why the book will be of interest to educators. Lucid, yet at the same time rich in history, it will be attractive to students and teachers of world cultures in many different disciplines.

— Dr. Dovile Budryte

Jill Ker Conway
John O'Malley's Four Cultures of the West will delight scholars, students, general readers, specialists, young and old, the learned and the merely curious because of its combination of great learning with simplicity of language, elegance of style, and narrative gifts. Whatever our place in the culture wars of our troubled present we will learn to see ourselves differently from O'Malley's analysis of styles of thought and expression flourishing side by side in what we call Western culture.
Kenneth Woodward
O'Malley's succinct analysis of the Four Cultures of the West is one of those rare books that uses history to tell us as much about the intellectual conflicts of the present as it does about those of the past. I predict his categorical analysis will be widely cited and widely debated by commentators well beyond academic specialists.
Jaroslav Pelikan
This is a bold tour de force.
America - Peter Heinegg
This sweeping survey of Western cultural history, by John W. O'Malley, S.J., ought to be required reading for--among others--literary and philosophical [unbelievers]: postmodernists, New Agers, Generation-Xers and college students everywhere. It's a clear cogent survey of the cultural roots we all have, willy-nilly, consciously or otherwise...In all this Father O'Malley makes an illuminating guide. His relaxed, agreeable prose (a blend of cultures two and three) should attract a wide spectrum of readers.
Times Higher Education Supplement - Richard Harries
O'Malley has given us a readable book with very wide learning in four cultures...This book will be of interest to and accessible to anyone interested in the cultural life of the West. At a time when the Christian origins of our culture, which in reality are so fundamental, are ignored, it offers a very valuable reminder and corrective.
National Catholic Reporter - Darrell Turner
Four Cultures of the West would make an excellent text for an interdisciplinary seminar on Western civilization, but the non-academic reader can enjoy and profit from it as well.
Ecclesiastical History - Diarmaid Macculloch
This wise and elegant little survey of western Christian culture began life as the first Blessed Pope John XXIII lecture series at the University of Notre Dame, and it is a fine example of rhetoric in the best sense: an explicit exercise in epideictic, sorting out praise and blame.
Bridges - Dr. Dovile Budryte
O'Malley's book is helpful in gaining a better understanding of the intellectual underpinnings of what we call the "student-centered" approach. This is one reason why the book will be of interest to educators. Lucid, yet at the same time rich in history, it will be attractive to students and teachers of world cultures in many different disciplines.
America
This sweeping survey of Western cultural history, by John W. O'Malley, S.J., ought to be required reading for--among others--literary and philosophical [unbelievers]: postmodernists, New Agers, Generation-Xers and college students everywhere. It's a clear cogent survey of the cultural roots we all have, willy-nilly, consciously or otherwise...In all this Father O'Malley makes an illuminating guide. His relaxed, agreeable prose (a blend of cultures two and three) should attract a wide spectrum of readers.
— Peter Heinegg
National Catholic Reporter
Four Cultures of the West would make an excellent text for an interdisciplinary seminar on Western civilization, but the non-academic reader can enjoy and profit from it as well.
— Darrell Turner
Ecclesiastical History
This wise and elegant little survey of western Christian culture began life as the first Blessed Pope John XXIII lecture series at the University of Notre Dame, and it is a fine example of rhetoric in the best sense: an explicit exercise in epideictic, sorting out praise and blame.
— Diarmaid MacCulloch
Times Higher Education Supplement
O'Malley has given us a readable book with very wide learning in four cultures...This book will be of interest to and accessible to anyone interested in the cultural life of the West. At a time when the Christian origins of our culture, which in reality are so fundamental, are ignored, it offers a very valuable reminder and corrective.
— Richard Harries
Publishers Weekly
O'Malley (The First Jesuits), a scholar of church history at Weston Jesuit School of Theology, offers a warm and conversational invitation to reflect on four cultural configurations that feed into contemporary consciousness. First comes the style of thought that the author terms "prophetic culture" and which might also be conceived of as a culture of inspired revolution, encompassing Gregory VII, Martin Luther and his spiritual heir Martin Luther King Jr. Second is the paradigm of restless, insistent, academic analysis-the perennial mode of questioning that was first institutionalized in the medieval universities and the one to which Father O'Malley professionally adheres. The third culture, to which his friends suspect that he really belongs, is the humanistic world of letters, with its fondness for multivalent ambiguity and well-rounded manners, a style that became pervasive in the classical world and re-emerged in the Renaissance. Finally comes the silent but ebullient culture of image and ritual, art and performance. What, O'Malley asks throughout, echoing the words of the late Roman polemicist Tertullian, has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What does human culture have to do with the culture of spiritual transcendence? His book, primarily concerned with the manifestations of these various cultures in the history of Christianity, spurs the reader on to meditate on the different streams that jostle, but sometimes converge, in an "ocean" we all navigate. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this erudite work of cultural history, O'Malley (church history, Weston Jesuit Sch. of Theology) extends "an invitation to consider and notice" four distinctive paradigms or cultures that, taken together, handsomely help decode Western intellectual and cultural history. These four paradigms are the prophetic, the academic, the humanistic, and the culture of art and performance. O'Malley's interest lies in representing the forms and delivery of each culture rather than the actual historical or chronological content. His overriding theme derives from the question posed by ancient theologian Tertullian, "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" a question signifying the role of each unique culture and its distinctive perspective in defining and privileging particular aspects of the Christian West. O'Malley successfully showcases the affinities between historic cultures (e.g., the Greco-Roman) and persons (e.g., Aristotle, Aquinas, and Luther) and cultural realities in our own time (e.g., the contemplative rhetoric of Lincoln at Gettysburg prefiguring the rhetorical contemplation at Ground Zero). Scholars of Western history and culture will find this complex and vastly academic argument an engaging rhetorical exercise. Recommended for Christian history, intellectual, and cultural history collections. Sandra Collins, Univ. of Pittsburgh Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674021037
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2006
  • Edition description: ANN
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,059,443
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John W. O’Malley is University Professor at Georgetown University.
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Table of Contents

Introduction : Athens and Jerusalem 1
Culture 1 Prophecy and reform 37
Culture 2 The academy and the professions 77
Culture 3 Poetry, rhetoric, and the common good 127
Culture 4 Art and performance 179
Epilogue : the book of our experience 235
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