Mr. Jefferson's University

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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 ...
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Mr. Jefferson's University

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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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780792255604
  • Publisher: National Geographic Society
  • Publication date: 8/15/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 690,267
  • Product dimensions: 5.52 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Garry Wills
Garry Wills
One of our foremost Catholic intellectuals, bestselling author Garry Wills writes thoughtful, provocative nonfiction that roams across history, politics, and religion.

Biography

Born in Atlanta in 1934 and raised in the Midwest, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and distinguished religion writer Garry Wills entered the Jesuit seminary after high school graduation, but left after six years of training. He received a B.A. from St. Louis University (1957), an M.A. from Xavier University of Cincinnati (1958), and his Ph.D. in classics from Yale (1961).

After graduating from Xavier, Wills was hired to work as the drama critic for National Review magazine, where he became a close personal friend and protégé of founding editor William F. Buckley. But as the winds of change blew across the 1960s, Wills got caught up in the cross-currents. A staunch Catholic anti-Communist in his youth, he began to drift away from political conservatism, galvanized by the civil rights movement and the Vietnam debate. He parted ways with National Review and began writing for more liberal-leaning publications like Esquire and the New York Review of Books, a defection that left him slightly estranged from Buckley for many years. (They reconciled before Buckley's death in 2008.)

In 1961, while he was still in grad school, Wills's first book, Chesterton: Man and Mask was published. [It was revised and reissued in 2001 with a new author's introduction.] Since then, the prolific Wills has gone on to pen critically acclaimed nonfiction that roams across history, politics, and religion. He expanded one of his Esquire articles into Nixon Agonistes (1970), a probing profile John Leonard said "...reads like a combination of H. L. Mencken, John Locke and Albert Camus." (The book landed Wills on the famous Nixon's Enemies List.) He has also written penetrating studies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Wayne, and Saint Paul; he has won two National Book Critics Circle Awards; and his 1992 book Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

Something of a rara avis, Wills is a Catholic intellectual who has produced thoughtful, scholarly books on religion in America. His translations of St. Augustine have received glowing reviews, and he has acted both as an outspoken critic of the Church (Papal Sin) and as an ardent advocate for his own faith Why I Am a Catholic). Proof of his accessibility can be found in the fact that several of his religion books have become bestsellers.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      May 22, 1934
    2. Place of Birth:
      Atlanta, GA
    1. Education:
      St. Louis University, B.A., 1957; Xavier University, M.A., 1958; Yale University, Ph.D., 1961

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