Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides's Reviews > The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
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Dec 31, 11

bookshelves: history, history-of-knowledge, history-of-thought, lit-crit, philosophy
Recommended to Snail in Danger (Sid) by: spotted it in a bookstore
Read from December 29 to 30, 2011

I liked Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare so I figured I'd give this a try. The subtitle is ... a little ... exaggerated perhaps? "How a recovered classical poem influenced generations of important thinkers" would probably be more accurate than "How the world became modern."

Also, there are some issues with sourcing. A lot of assuming that one knows things, but also, some things are simply left out. It's not at all fair to assume that the general reader knows that gestural or sign languages was used in monastery libraries, and that therefore there's no need to provide a source.

The perspective here is very secular. If you are Christian this book will probably rub you the wrong way in spots. I could go on a rant about how this book seems to have a hostile-to-religion slant that bugs me, though I am not religious myself, but time is short so I won't just now.
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Quotes Snail in Danger (Sid) Liked

Stephen Greenblatt
“The quintessential emblem of religion — and the clearest manifestation of the perversity that lies at its core — is the sacrifice of a child by a parent.

Almost all religious faiths incorporate the myth of such a sacrifice, and some have actually made it real. Lucretius had in mind the sacrifice of Iphigenia by her father Agamemnon, but he may also have been aware of the Jewish story of Abraham and Isaac and other comparable Near Eastern stories for which the Romans of his times had a growing taste. Writing around 50 BCE he could not, of course, have anticipated the great sacrifice myth that would come to dominate the Western world, but he would not have been surprised by it or by the endlessly reiterated, prominently displayed images of the bloody, murdered son.”
Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern


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