Dan's Reviews > The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
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's review
May 27, 12

Read in May, 2012

I was not entirely sure what this book was about until I started reading it. It had received such good reviews that I had to check it out. I'm so glad I did because this was my favorite book so far this year.

In a nutshell, the author shows how a rare book collector in the 1400's finds one of the only remaining copies of Lucretius's "On the Nature of Things" and has it copied from a monastic library. From there, the work sees a resurgence of interest, much to the chagrin of the Catholic church and other traditional institutions at the time. After that the work becomes a huge hit with the great thinkers of the Renaissance and afterward, up to Thomas Jefferson. You have to read it to get all the details, but the thesis is that the rediscovery of Epicureanism, which has been grossly misconstrued by centuries of traditionalists, lies at the root of our modern world. It was Lucretius's work that helped people to see the world in a completely different way and thus made the world "swerve" towards a new future.

My only complaint was that Greenblatt only spends one chapter (the last one) connecting great thinkers and "On the Nature of Things". I would have liked to have seen more writing on how famous thinkers adopted it and used it in their ideas and their writing.

Overall though this book was fascinating and fun to read!
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message 1: by Kevin (new) - added it

Kevin Gannon Agreed; the last chapter on the afterlife of Lucretius seemed anticlimactic. But the early portion's discussions of classical themes and book culture are tremendous. Overall, I really enjoyed the book.

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