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Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  143 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
Giordano Bruno is one of the great figures of early modern Europe, and one of the least understood. Ingrid D. Rowland’s pathbreaking life of Bruno establishes him once and for all as a peer of Erasmus, Shakespeare, and Galileo, a thinker whose vision of the world prefigures ours.

By the time Bruno was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1600 on Rome’s Campo dei Fiori, he ha
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 19th 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Martin Fossum
Jul 28, 2012 Martin Fossum rated it it was ok
Maybe I'll add more here later, but this book was a bit messy. Bruno was a dynamic and arguably brilliant late 16th century thinker, but Rowland managed to depict him as a somewhat hapless Dominican who didn't have suitable respect for the mortal threat of the Inquisition.

Hey, I'm a historian by trade here, and I wanted Rowland to bring this period of Italian and European history to life for me. Give me some smells, give me the stench of the sewers of Naples and give me a glimpse into the routin
Sep 16, 2008 Bruce rated it it was ok
I found Ingrid Rowland’s biography of Giordano Bruno a bit disappointing, and I still wonder who he really was, Rowland having painted a picture of a visionary thinker wandering around Europe in the late 16th Century, ever out of step with the rigid theological partisans of his time, always forced to flee from one danger to another, writing and writing and writing, finally being imprisoned for seven years by the Inquisition in Rome and burned at the stake in 1600, but she never seems to have giv ...more
Oct 14, 2012 TrumanCoyote rated it it was amazing
A fascinating account of a fellow who was much more interesting than I thought he would be. I expected a retiring and oft-penitent monk, but instead there was this garrulous and larger-than-life (even though smaller than average) figure who traveled widely and wrote a great deal on numerous things. Rowland proves to be a nicely low-key and genial host throughout, and brings both Bruno and his times to life in admirable fashion (all the more remarkable of a feat when you consider that she really ...more
It's hard when you only read one of many accounts of a controversial figure; now I only know one perspective well. Giordano Bruno was many things; by emphasizing certain aspects of his work, one can paint him as whatever one wishes. Among others, Bruno was:

- Some sort of pantheist who believed that God was infinite, the little things don't matter, and anyone who got bogged down in detailed questions of dogma was an ass.

- An obnoxious prick who considered nearly everyone an ass, and frequently to
Gina Scioscia
As full of contradictions in personality as the church that burned him, Bruno emerges in Rowland's biography just slightly out of focus. As a scholarly writer, I can imagine Rowland did not want to embellish what she could not establish as fact. Unfortunately, this makes for a somewhat dry read as we follow Bruno's wanderings in Europe and try to understand him. What emerges in the end is the picture of a man who had harmed no one, who was simply a solitary thinker and writer, who wanted, mostly ...more
Oct 09, 2011 Franz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Giordorno Bruno suffered, at least in some respects, the misfortune of being ahead of his time. Born in near Naples in 1548 and burned at the stake in Rome in 1600, Bruno managed to pack in a lot of traveling and writing in his 52 years. This nicely written biography not only describes Bruno’s life, travels, and trial for heresy, but it also serves as a nice introduction to his philosophy.

Some other readers were not impressed with this book, regarding it as dry, dull, and unfocused, among other
Dec 16, 2013 Caitlin rated it liked it
Ingrid D. Rowland, the author, lives in Rome and teaches in the University of Notre Dame's School of Architecture. She in fact is not educated as a historian or philosopher, etc. She does supply us with a bibliography and notes, but it is not cited throughout the book. Her writing style is decent, but she needed to be more succinct. There is a lot of information given, and I believe that not all of it should be used. She appears to have gone off on a few tangents, where the information/discussio ...more
Apr 08, 2012 James rated it really liked it
I found this book difficult to read, not for its writing style, which I found to be very good, nor the story line, which was well presented, but for the descriptions of the creative savagery and brutality of the Catholic church.

Bruno was a brilliant man who believed divinity existed in all of us and that God in his infinite compassion would forgive every human being. He believed in an interconnectedness of all life. He was a believer in an infinite cosmos. Kepler sited Bruno as the conceiver of
Aug 19, 2014 Roo rated it really liked it
I read references about Giordano Bruno in "M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio." I learned that he was burned at the stake in 1600 for his belief that the universe was infinite. That was the time of the Inquisition.
Imagine my delight when the new series "Cosmos" with Neil DeGrasse Tyson talked about Bruno in it's premier episode! It is nice to be reading a book alongside other media that highlights the subject.
I finished the book in time for my trip to Italy in May. I visited the Campo Di Fiori i
Geoff Wyss
Nov 11, 2015 Geoff Wyss rated it it was amazing
Very readable (but at the same time not "popularized," in the mode of Greenblatt's The Swerve, which in part led me to this book) biography of this restless, iconoclastic thinker. Had thought his way (despite being a Dominican priest) to an infinite universe composed of atoms--before Galileo.
Geo Forman
May 08, 2009 Geo Forman rated it liked it
aka Filipo de Nola. Nola was his home town, just outside Naples. Giordano was his confirmation name.

got a little heavy into philosophy when all I really wanted was a biography. I learned what I wanted to learn about him, and more than I needed to know. his confrontational demeanor finally earned him the stake. he thumbed his nose one time too many at the Church. he was well known for his exceptional memory. when studying to become a priest, he had an audience with the Pope to demonstrate his mem
Oct 24, 2013 Ron rated it it was amazing
A very engaging and thorough biography of another great mind destroyed by the vile influence of religion. From Amazon: Giordano Bruno (1548–1600) is one of the great figures of early modern Europe, and one of the least understood. Ingrid D. Rowland’s biography establishes him once and for all as a peer of Erasmus, Shakespeare, and Galileo—a thinker whose vision of the world prefigures ours.

Writing with great verve and erudition, Rowland traces Bruno’s wanderings through a sixteenth-century Europ
Chris Bartholomew
Aug 02, 2014 Chris Bartholomew rated it liked it
Giordano Bruno believed that the Earth circled the sun and worse than that was one of an infinite number of planets circling an infinite number of stars. He was also a man of great religious faith believing that God made of this possible. a result he was defrocked from his religious order, banned from practicing his Catholic faith by the Pope and driven from his homeland by the Spanish Inquisition. He eventually returned was tried, held in a squalid prison cell for many years, tortured and ...more
Steven Williams
Apr 22, 2014 Steven Williams rated it it was ok
Isn't all that good. To bad because Bruno had ahead of his times ideas. Althought he these ideas were not what one could call scientific. Compare his work to Galileo to get the picture.
Aug 07, 2011 Katie rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This is a tough book for me to rate because it's the first book that I've read about Bruno. He's an inherently fascinating guy, full of massive contradictions and intelligence, and so the book winds up being inherently interesting because of its subject matter. As a biography, though, I think it spends a bit too much time ponderously following Bruno from city to city and not quite enough actually unpacking his ideas. Most chapters are interesting but unfocused.

In Ingrid Rowland's favor though,
A somewhat interesting, though meandering, biography of Giordano Bruno of Nola (Iordanus Brunus Nolanus, Renaissance philosopher burned at the stake for heresy. Bruno is often cited as a martyr to intellectual freedom, and I had hoped that this biography would lead me to understand why he is so revered as such. I was somewhat disappointed - while I often had the thought that the author was trying to make some kind of point along these lines, it never really became clear to me what the author's p ...more
Mar 04, 2015 Amanda rated it it was amazing
A 16th-century philosopher within the context of pivots in scientific and religious perspectives is a bit outside the areas I have tended to read in the last several years, but I was glad I dug into this book.

Rowland's presentation of Bruno's life was engaging and illuminating, and her translations of his verse, beyond being impressive simply by existing, were both lyrical and entertaining.

My time spent reading a biography of a man who was imaginative, unconventional, and ultimately too sure of
Aug 04, 2015 Roy rated it liked it
A good introductory biography of Bruno. Well-written and easy to read. Some, but very little, previously unknown material is presented. It must be difficult to write a biography of someone such as Bruno for whom there is so little original source documentation. Rowland includes several comparisons to near-contemporary figures of Bruno, suggesting that similar things must have happened to him.
Not very in-depth philosophically.
I would recommend this book to someone who knows little or nothing abo
Jan 27, 2009 Christopher rated it liked it
Bruno is a fascinating character--rather out of his time--and the slow unraveling of his trial by the Inquisition is handled with admirable tact by Ingrid Rowland, and even a fair amount of suspense. Rowland isn't much of a prose stylist, but she does let Bruno's words ring through thanks to ample quotations from his huge and wonderfully bizarre body of work.
Mar 11, 2009 David rated it it was ok

The first chapter and last couple of chapters were fine. But that's when he was being burned at the stake. This kinda read like a thesis. The author is a fine researcher, but not much of a writer. You could get most of his story on google.

I give it a two. It says something that it's a short book, and I had to start it several times.....
Oct 01, 2008 Tara rated it did not like it
Shelves: the-middle-ages
What a fascinating man. What a dull, dull, dreadfully dull book. I hope I can read something else about him one day, rather than flee at the mention of his name as I intend to do for some time to come.
Detailed, engaging account of both the life of Giordano Bruno and the times when he lived. Much to be learned and to be inspired to learn as well! Very well written work. Thought provoking.
Oct 23, 2009 Jim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: esoteric
Well researched. Author brings excellent insights to this often-misunderstood philosopher.

Her interpretations on Bruno's memory system are spot-on.
Dec 11, 2014 Joe rated it really liked it
A little dry, would have preferred more analysis/interpretation of Bruno's beliefs, but overall, a fascinating slice of history
Nov 11, 2009 Michael rated it it was ok
Dry and uninteresting - I'm going to try Frances Yates' book on Bruno instead.
Sep 18, 2011 Joe rated it liked it
Great story of a great man but the writing was a little dry.
Jeffrey Greggs
DNF. Decently written but more attractive books got in the way.
Excellently written about one of my favorite people.
Lucy Gillis
Aug 10, 2013 Lucy Gillis rated it it was amazing
Jan 17, 2013 Jason rated it liked it
Bruno! Bruno!
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Ingrid Drake Rowland is a professor at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture. She is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books. Based in Rome, Rowland writes about Italian art, architecture, history and many other topics for The New York Review of Books. She is the author of the books Giordano Bruno: Philospher/Heretic (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008); The Place of the ...more
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