Mr. Jefferson's University

Mr. Jefferson's University

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by Garry Wills
     
 

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In Charlottesville, Virginia, at the University of Virginia, there is today—beneath the irregular rhythms of modern student comings and goings—a severely rhythmic expression of the Enlightenment, a philosophy concretized in brick and timber. The play of one architectural element into another is meant to express the interconnectedness of all knowledge. It is… See more details below

Overview

In Charlottesville, Virginia, at the University of Virginia, there is today—beneath the irregular rhythms of modern student comings and goings—a severely rhythmic expression of the Enlightenment, a philosophy concretized in brick and timber. The play of one architectural element into another is meant to express the interconnectedness of all knowledge. It is Jefferson's last but not his least achievement, and one of the three things that he put on his own tombstone to be remembered by.


In important ways, this architectural complex is a better expression of Jefferson's mind than is his home on the hill overlooking the campus. Chance had a great deal to do with the way Monticello grew up over the years. But everything in the university's structure was planned, to the last detail—a meticulous ordering that is both romantic and quixotic. It is a place of study that itself repays study, and makes on lost world of the 18th century only half lost after all.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Skilled historians have a way of making the past seem more vivid than the present, and Wills (whose Lincoln at Gettysburg won a Pulitzer) is no exception. His new book is part of National Geographic's series devoted to travel writing (other titles include Oliver North on Oaxaca and A.M. Homes on L.A.), though it doesn't quite feel like it belongs. Wills is far nimbler at describing the hurdles Thomas Jefferson faced while constructing the "academical village" of his dreams, the University of Virginia, than he is at imparting any real sense of what a visit to the finished product is like. Jefferson employed a fair amount of diplomatic and legislative trickery along the project's course-fending off competition from the burgeoning College of William and Mary (his alma mater), deflecting criticism over not having a chapel or professor of divinity, and enlisting the advice of such esteemed fellow architects as Benjamin Latrobe. Describing these various tasks is by far Wills's strongest gift, and he's wise to devote as much of the book to them as he does. (An early chapter describing the central buildings one by one, while well reasoned, feels a bit obligatory.) Visitors to the Charlottesville campus may not glean much in the way of practical information from Wills's tour of the university, but they'll have a much deeper appreciation for how it got there. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780792255604
Publisher:
National Geographic Society
Publication date:
08/15/2006
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
909,849
Product dimensions:
5.52(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.68(d)

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