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The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve: The Story That Created Us

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  849 ratings  ·  174 reviews
The most influential story in Western cultural history, the biblical account of Adam and Eve is now treated either as the sacred possession of the faithful or as the butt of secular jokes. Here, acclaimed scholar Stephen Greenblatt explores it with profound appreciation for its cultural and psychological power as literature. From the birth of the Hebrew Bible to the awe-in ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published December 4th 2018 by W. W. Norton Company (first published September 12th 2017)
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3.90  · 
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 ·  849 ratings  ·  174 reviews

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Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion, 2018
"For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
- Genesis


Greenblatt traces the story/myth of Adam and Eve from its origins (a Jewish reaction to Babylonian rule and myths) down to a post-Darwin world. He focuses a lot of time on the literature (Milton), philosophy (Lucretius), doctrine (Augustine), and art (Dürer) while maintaining a rough chronology of time ( from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts*.).

It was fascin
Erin *Help I’m Reading and I Can’t Get Up*
A sweeping review of biblical interpretation and the scientific take on creation myths. The author devoted considerable time, appropriately, to stuff (like Darwin and literary biblical criticism) that makes the literal read of Genesis troubling to say the least.

However, I take issue with the scope (really, the lack of scope) Greenblatt presented with regard to the Genesis story’s theological interpretation.

True, Augustine and Milton and innumerable antique and Middle Ages scholars and poets in
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book through a Good Reads "First Reads" Give-away. Fascinating book that is a "life-history" (Dr. Greenblatt's words) of the story of the biblical Adam and Eve. I am not quite sure how to best describe this book - basically, the author examines how this fantastical story the of the first man and woman's creation and banishment from the Garden of Eden has influenced our thinking about humankind's origins (who we are and where we came from) over the course of time. But it is also a ...more
Jan Rice
I read an excerpt in The New Yorker that made me want to rush out and buy this book: . But its publication date was still in the future.

I'd read part of his book about Shakespeare a long time ago and quit because his hypothesizing that Shakespeare was a homosexual annoyed me. I wouldn't mind if Shakespeare was, but speculating on the basis of how he closed his letters seemed trite to me--or maybe that was Lincoln. But now some Goodreads friends were ravin
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc
I found great enjoyment in reading The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt. He examines the stories humans have created of our first parents, from prehistory's myths to the challenge of scientific evidence shaking a literal reading of the Bible.

Adam and Eve is one of the great stories in Western literature, a tale that has morphed from folklore to Christian canon to inspiration for artistic and literary masterworks and finally become relegated again to myth--a story with meaning
Nov 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-with-dad
For a while now, I've been wondering how I am going to write this review. It's difficult for me to put into words how I feel about this book. The best way to write about it will probably be to split my thoughts into two veins.
One will be about the actual writing, the content, the structure, all the big components that make this a book. In that respect, the book deserves four stars. Greenblatt is a great writer--that much is obvious and well-known. He knows how to turn a phrase, and when he studi
Linda Robinson
Did we need one more book that describes how humans can justify misogyny, patriarchy and the general cussedness of religiously motivated literacy since somebody picked up a stylus and began writing stories? Adam and Eve. "You hear it at five or six years old and you never forget it." Not sure that's accurate. A talking snake was immediately out of my head. Greenblatt makes a good case for how the story of Christ picks up on the much older story of the first humans, including a tree. Mary redeems ...more
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like the last work of Greenblatt's I read (The Swerve) I was struck by his clear prose and narrative sense as well as his extensive historical knowledge and command of the interconnectedness of a wide range of elements. This work takes a look at one of the central myths of christianity, namely the story of Adam and Eve, and examines its staying power, how and why in spite of centuries of, essentially, debunking the story tenaciously clings to our collective psyche. As allegory, this is no myster ...more
Apr 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Greenblatt gives us the full history of the ancient story of Adam and Eve. Somehow with this biography of a story (okay, not just any story. Let's just say it's THE foundational origin story of Judaism, Islam & Christianity) he has us looking backwards and gets us to look forward at the same time. So, as he did with The Swerve, he takes this massive subject and deftly weaves it into a tight canvas.

Prof. Greenblatt tracks the creation & expulsion stories back to epic of Gilgamesh
Peter Mcloughlin
Enjoyable bible as literature and intellectual history book. Takes the genesis story of Adam and Eve and the garden and shows the intellectual interpretations of it through history including such figures as Augustine, Milton, and Darwin also its interpretations involving the roles of women, on ideas of political equality, what to make of people in the New World, and its challenge by Evolution. I am not religious although raised in the Catholic tradition and I can say whatever one's take on this ...more
David Powell
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book because I felt Greenblatt’s Will of the World the best Shakespeare “biography” for general consumption. It remains one of my favorite books on Shakespeare. The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve follows the same level of scholarship and easy-to-read style, and it should be read by anyone with an open mind about one of the most sensitive issues in Christian society—the symbolic versus the literal interpretation and acceptance of The Bible. It is a exploration of the origin, the emer ...more
Aug 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, non-fiction
As a disclaimer, I received a copy of "The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve" from the publisher. As a further disclaimer, I'm Agnostic. I think the story of Adam and Eve is just as likely to have happened as the story of the Easter Bunny. That being said, I appreciated the level of research that went into "The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve" from a historical perspective. The author doesn't try to persuade the reader one way or another as to the validity of the story but rather its context throughou ...more
Lee Underwood
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Marilynn Robinson's review of this book, and although the argument, "it is a tendentious reading of any ancient text that would apply modern standards of plausibility to myth", is true, it was not myth to those who ordered entire civilizations around it. That included the horrifying ways humans were treated, and unfortunately, continue to be treated today. Perhaps Greenblatt didn't give the holy text the academic or scholarly treatment a pious religious monk would, but we live with the co ...more
Galen Weitkamp
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt.
Review by Galen Weitkamp.

The story of Adam and Eve is a story of origins; not just the origin of Earth and sky, flora and fauna, man and woman but also a story about the origin of right and wrong, or at least about the origin of our human knowledge of right and wrong. It seems to me we haven’t quite acquired that knowledge in its entirety as yet, but that is not really so much Stephen Greenblatt’s concern. His book, The Rise And Fall Of Ada
Kyle Muntz
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recently I've had probably the strangest desire of my life--to read literary criticism (which is something I thought I would never want to do after grad school). Greenblatt dominated the field when I was studying, so a lot of his approach in this book felt familiar, both in the good and the bad. The writing and focus was fantastic, vivid, and accessible. On the other hand, he also reminds me of the new-historicism I studied in college with his tendency to make absurd, counterintuitive, broad rea ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
History of the biblical creation story and its meaning and interpretation over the centuries. Also depictions of Adam and Eve, the garden and the fall in literature, Theology, its conflict with modernity. Covers the major movers and shakers who lent a lot of thought to the way we look at the story.

You say evo psych, I'm NOT there
Jim Robles
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Five stars! Another great book by Stephen Greenblatt.

"And most threatening of all they had begun to intermarry" (p. 34).

"You would spend eternity in hell, and justly so, because of the taint you inherited from the sin of Adam and Eve" (p. 104).

"For sex as we know it is not natural and not healthy" (p. 107).

"The truly serious issue was that the Messiah himself, citing the story of Adam and Eve, seemed explicitly to prohibit divorce, except on grounds of adultery" (p. 179).

"But on a foggy mid-June
Liam Guilar
Is there something ironic about a scholar who made his reputation challenging the idea of the grand narrative with a reading practice focussed on specific textual traces now writing grand narratives full of subjective and impressionistic commentary?

While this is a readable book full of fascinating bits of information, it feels like it goes nowhere. The majority of people no longer believe in the literal truth of the story of Adam and Eve. The trajectory of their narrative 'their rise and fall'
David Steele
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding and very readable. I grew up in a Protestant home where Adam and Eve where treated as real people along with Noah, Jonah, etc. And of course I had many questions and today I have even more.
Just as Adam was molded out of clay, the story of Adam and Eve can, and has been molded by many people and groups to meet their needs. And that is the way that it will always be. Great research, well told. I am glad that I read this book.

(goodreads winner)
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So ... what is the deal with Adam and Eve? This book is what resulted when Stephen Greenblatt - a top literary scholar - took up that question. After his book, "The Swerve", Greenblatt became one of the few authors for whom I would drop what I was doing to read their latest book. He is a scholar who writes well and possesses a sense of history, along with the skills needed to pursue interesting historical questions wherever they may lead.

The book covers virtually the entirety of recorded history
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story of Adam and Eve is universally known in Christendom and beyond. It’s a simple story taking up only a few pages of the Bible, yet it has a universal appeal. It is a story about the origin of man was no doubt included in the Bible to give context to man’s struggles in life. Most of us accept the story allegorically, but that understanding was not always condoned by the Christian Church. Indeed, our current view was considered heresy for over one and a half thousand years.

Many philosophe
Rachel Sowerby
I have to say I was disappointed by this book. I don’t particularly enjoy Greenblatts writing style - a lot of it (particularly in the early chapters) proscribes emotions and thoughts to long dead people and communities with seemingly little evidence to back this up - although I know this book is meant to be a narrative it’s leans a little too much into what feels at times like historical fiction for my liking, and seems a little light on substance. Some of it - for example the chapters on Augus ...more
Anna Bates
My father told my brother and me the story of Adam and Eva. He was a traditional Ashkenazi Jew from Poland. Is that true, Daddy? No, it is a story to explain why life is hard. We cannot remain children. We need to understand good and evil so we can choose the good. That was simple. We already knew that our parents worked hard and provided for us but not forever. When I heard about “original sin” as a cornerstone of some Christian theology I did not realize that this was supposed to be literally ...more
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very thorough and fascinating in-depth look at the origins and repercussions of the Adam and Eve story from the book of Genesis. To me, the most interesting section was on the possible authorship of the story - as a deliberate reaction against the Babylonian origin myths. The rest of the book certainly went deep in search of singular humans who have used the tale for their own ends. It held my interest, but in the end, kinda failed to wrap it all up with any kind of thesis. For that, I’d give ...more
Gray Gordon
Mar 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: publib4eva
A far longer slog than I anticipated, I teetered between divine revelation and bored frustration at Greenblatt’s dense theology—which I acknowledge is something I could have been better versed in going into this. Still, there are so many fascinating insights made on the back half of the book: the literary symmetry of the creation and redemption stories, the allegorical theories of creation, the literal interpretations of holes in the creation story’s logic, and so on. The most striking to me was ...more
Eugenea Pollock
Meticulously researched, this book is based on the art, literature, theology, psychology, ancient history, etc., inspired by the classical origin story familiar to readers around the world. Having read “Will in the World”, I was familiar with Greenblatt’s style; and he did not disappoint. My Sunday School class chose this, and we read it chapter by chapter over about four months. It sparked a number of quite interesting discussions.
Rhuddem Gwelin
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Greenblatt's books are alway 5*. His books have inspired me in my own writing. Without his 'The Swerve' my 'The Nature of Things - the Merlin Chronicles Volume 1' would have been so different and so much less. Who knows where this book about Adam and Eve will lead? It's a fascinating book about how this myth, just a few lines in a dusty old pile of parchment written 2000-3000 years ago, has twisted our view of the world for centuries. As always, thank you, Stephen Greenblatt!
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Greenblatt traces the Biblical story of Adam and Eve through religion, art, literature, and evolutionary science. The book is well-written and well-documented, but those who take the Bible literally would probably have some problems with Greenblatt's point of view.
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an extremely well-written and researched book. It made me think about long-held beliefs and cherished childhood stories. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.
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Stephen Greenblatt (Ph.D. Yale) is Cogan University Professor of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard University. Also General Editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Eighth Edition, he is the author of nine books, including Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare; Hamlet in Purgatory; Practicing New Historicism; Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of t ...more
“Eve is a figure for the soul that each human should love. The commandment to be fruitful and multiply did not originally refer to the flesh but to “a spiritual brood of intellectual and immortal joys filling the earth.” 2 likes
“In Gilgamesh the human formed from clay is a wild man, with flowing hair (possibly all over his body) and the strength and manner of life of the animals. In Genesis the clay human is created “in the image of God” and has from the beginning the status of one who is not a companion to the other animals but of one who dominates them.” 1 likes
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