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March 25 book discussion on The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt

From: Evelyn D.
Sent on: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 4:16 PM

Rich will be leading our discussion of this important book  on the 25th


I’ve posted some questions he’s crafted to guide our discussion on the Meet-Up site.  For good redundancy sake, Here’s a post from Rich with the list of questions on one page:


We will talk about this book on March 25 with the help of the
following questions:

1.    How persuasive is Greenblatt's argument overall?  To what extent did
"On the Nature of Things" directly or indirectly influence various
ideas in the modern world and by implication some of the ways you
think, too?

2.    How persuasive is Greenblatt’s argument that Renaissance thinking
was heavily influenced by rediscovery of "On the Nature of Things" and
ideas about the pursuit of pleasure and so on?  What textual support
is there for his argument?  Are there counter-arguments?

3.    Greenblatt concludes by writing about how "On the Nature of Things"
had a strong effect on Thomas Jefferson.  One result of that may be
that instead of having the phrase “the pursuit of property” in the
Declaration of Independence we have the phrase “the pursuit of
happiness” instead?  How has the use of that phrase instead affected
American society over time? How persuasive is Greenblatt’s argument
involving Jefferson overall?

4.    What is your own view of “atomism”?  Dalai Lama’s book "The
Universe in a Single Atom" certainly seems to echo many of the points
involved.  On the other hand, conservative theologians, sociologists
and even logicians sometimes argue -- in direct opposition to ideas of
“atomism” – and that we are most importantly parts of relationships
instead.  The relationships in question can be spiritual,
interpersonal, social, or more abstract in nature.  What’s your take
on atomism?

5.    Has anyone read various parts of "On the Nature of Things" and, if
so, what is their take on it? To see public copies, just search the
Internet for On the Nature of Things – Project Gutenberg has an
English version, for example.

6.    What is your take on Epicureanism in general?  The Dalai Lama talks
about how “pursuit of pleasure” or even “the pursuit of happiness” is
just problematic – you really ought to shoot for “well-being” instead.
 On the other hand, theologians and thinkers of other types could
argue they have long had a foot in both camps, i.e., both the
“physical pleasure” and “spiritual/religious” camps.  But maybe that
also just means Greenblatt is right – at least some aspects of
Epicureanism are now part of the thinking of everyone today to include
theologians.  What is your own take on Epicureanism?

7.    If you Google "Criticism of Swerve Stephen Greenblatt" you will
find some critiques of the work.   You might pick one of those and
read it.  Do you give any credence to what you found?

8.    As a college student Greenblatt found a book in his college book
store that changed his life.  Are there specific books (or specific
bookstores) that have given out particularly happy memories or have
even changed your life, as was the case with Poggio Bracciolini and
Stephen Greenblatt?

As summed up by its publisher, “One of the world's most celebrated
scholars, Stephen Greenblatt has crafted both an innovative work of
history and a thrilling story of discovery, in which one manuscript,
plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human
thought and made possible the world as we know it…  The copying and
translation of this ancient book-the greatest discovery of the
greatest book-hunter of his age-fueled the Renaissance, inspiring
artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped
the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a
revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare
and even Thomas Jefferson”.



Sent by Evelyn

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