The History Book Club discussion

From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present
This topic is about From Dawn to Decadence
25 views
ART - ARCHITECTURE - CULTURE > 10. FROM DAWN... August 3 ~ August 10 ~~ Part Two - Chapter XV and XVI (375 -424) Non-Spoiler

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Aug 05, 2009 05:16PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44167 comments Mod
This is this week's reading assignment.

August 3 – August 9 ~~ Part II, The Encyclopedic Century (cont.) (375-392)
Also: Cross Section, The View from Weimar Around 1790 (393-424)


I hope that folks get caught up so that we can keep moving along.

The moderator tries to stimulate/instigate discussion but please feel free to open up any thread with questions of your own or your own opinions. These threads are for all of you.

Additionally, it is never too late to pick up the Barzun book and participate. We welcome all of the membership to this discussion.


Bentley

From Dawn to Decadence 500 Years of Western Cultural Life 1500 to the Present by Jacques Barzun







message 2: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 67 comments On Page 271, Barzun says, "In spite of the forces of the state arrayed against the writers and the publisher, the fat folios kept coming out and none who collaborated lost his freedom or his life ... This tells us that the ancient regiime was beginning to feel the loss of nerve typical of periods of decadence."

Do you think this is an accurate statement? I have a tendency to say its not nerve that the regime did not lose its nerve but simply saw that censorship and fear tactics are not the best solution to getting your message across. What do you think?


message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44167 comments Mod
I agree with your interpretation Sarah, They probably realized repression does not work in the long run. I honestly do not see how Barzun equates loss of nerve such as in this example as typical of periods of decadence. Does he mean laissez faire (anything goes).

Barzun makes some interesting self revelations when he expresses his personal opinions.


Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments I've been thinking about this a lot since I read page 371 and your comments. I guess I don't see any evidence that the regimes had weighed the pros and cons of censorship and decided it wasn't worth it. I more get the impression that the regimes were so certain of their power that it didn't occur to them that any pesky, lowly, Encyclopedie could take away their power. And then it gradually did.

I don't think it was so much "loss of nerve" that Barzun describes, but more false security. Maybe I just don't know enough about this point in history. What kinds of things might I be missing?


message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44167 comments Mod
Elizabeth S wrote: "I've been thinking about this a lot since I read page 371 and your comments. I guess I don't see any evidence that the regimes had weighed the pros and cons of censorship and decided it wasn't wor..."

Elizabeth, I don't think you are missing anything. I think cultural history is open to many interpretations. Jacques Barzun having lived his life in excess of 100 years now has spent many years studying these subjects and seeing all the synapses between the varying ideas. Sometimes I think we read about all of these events and scenarios in isolation and because we are trying to think about these things chapter by chapter versus over a lifetime of "eating and breathing" these topics; possibly we are all missing things; I would imagine probably quite a bit.

I think Barzun over his lifetime came to the scholarly conclusion that what he has stated was true or apparent to everyone; of course, most of us have disagreed with Barzun more than once though we appreciate his vast intellect and his brilliance.

Maybe just like so many things we are giving people and regimes too much credit. Maybe they didn't think much about much! You raise a good point about power; if you are so sure of your power; you really do not worry about the weak or less powerful. And maybe as you pointed out; that was their achilles heel.

Sometimes I wish we could sit down with Barzun and ask him these questions. But I do think Barzun reveals his own personal opinions when he makes a quantum leap and states a conclusion prefacing his thoughts with the words "what this tells us"...but we don't have to agree with him.

Elizabeth S...great independent thought.

Bentley




back to top