The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt

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Greenblatt delineates these contesting readings with wit, subtlety and dramatic flair, bringing them to life by showing what was at stake in the real world of ethics, politics and dogma.
-Star Tribune

Synopsis

Stephen Greenblatt—Pulitzer Prize– and National Book Award–winning author of The Swerve and Will in the World—investigates the life of one of humankind’s greatest stories.


Bolder, even, than the ambitious books for which Stephen Greenblatt is already renowned, The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve explores the enduring story of humanity’s first parents. Comprising only a few ancient verses, the story of Adam and Eve has served as a mirror in which we seem to glimpse the whole, long history of our fears and desires, as both a hymn to human responsibility and a dark fable about human wretchedness.


Tracking the tale into the deep past, Greenblatt uncovers the tremendous theological, artistic, and cultural investment over centuries that made these fictional figures so profoundly resonant in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim worlds and, finally, so very “real” to millions of people even in the present. With the uncanny brilliance he previously brought to his depictions of William Shakespeare and Poggio Bracciolini (the humanist monk who is the protagonist of The Swerve), Greenblatt explores the intensely personal engagement of Augustine, Dürer, and Milton in this mammoth project of collective creation, while he also limns the diversity of the story’s offspring: rich allegory, vicious misogyny, deep moral insight, and some of the greatest triumphs of art and literature.


The biblical origin story, Greenblatt argues, is a model for what the humanities still have to offer: not the scientific nature of things, but rather a deep encounter with problems that have gripped our species for as long as we can recall and that continue to fascinate and trouble us today.

 

About Stephen Greenblatt

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Stephen Greenblatt (Ph.D. Yale) is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. Also General Editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, he is the author of eleven books, including The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (winner of the 2011 National Book Award and the 2012 Pulitzer Prize); Shakespeare's Freedom; Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare; Hamlet in Purgatory; Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World; Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture; and Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare. He has edited seven collections of criticism, including Cultural Mobility: A Manifesto, and is a founding coeditor of the journal Representations. His honors include the MLA's James Russell Lowell Prize, for both Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England and The Swerve, the Sapegno Prize, the Distinguished Humanist Award from the Mellon Foundation, the Wilbur Cross Medal from the Yale University Graduate School, the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre, the Erasmus Institute Prize, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of California, Berkeley. He was president of the Modern Language Association of America and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
 
Published September 12, 2017 by W. W. Norton & Company. 421 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve
All: 6 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 3

Kirkus

Below average
on Apr 30 2017

Many fine passages charged with Greenblatt’s passion and talent for storytelling can’t disguise the fact that he’s not quite sure what story he’s trying to tell here.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Michael Schaub on Sep 14 2017

The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve is almost dizzying in its scope; Greenblatt draws from history, religion, art and science, and he writes about all of these fields with infectious enthusiasm.

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Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by PATRICIA L. HAGEN on Sep 20 2017

Greenblatt delineates these contesting readings with wit, subtlety and dramatic flair, bringing them to life by showing what was at stake in the real world of ethics, politics and dogma.

Read Full Review of The Rise and Fall of Adam and... | See more reviews from Star Tribune

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Marilynne Robinson on Oct 06 2017

“The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve” is an ambitious attempt at an important cultural history. It is cursory, and, to the degree that its treatment of these influential texts and movements is uninformed, it is not a help in understanding them.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Peter Conrad on Sep 03 2017

What gives Greenblatt’s “intellectual adventure” its tension and excitement is a sense of his own divided loyalties.

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Globe and Mail

Good
Reviewed by MICHAEL COREN on Sep 15 2017

This is iconoclasm with a delicate touch, never mean-spirited and intent on opening doors rather than pushing people through them.

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