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Publisher's Summary

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.
©2017 Stephen Greenblatt (P)2017 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

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By Not anybody special on 10-09-17

Dissappointing, yet interesting

Two of the major sets of commentary are given short shrift. While there is mention of Jewish and Islamic traditions they are mostly set aside as contrasts against the more influential Christian traditions, because this book is really about how the story influenced Western Civilization.

Even when they were mentioned it was too frequently without proper chronological context. Islamic traditions of the story came hundreds of years after Augustin, and the comparison of his work, that of Muslims, and that of Jews seems out of place in the chapters that relate to his establishment of a literal tradition among Catholics. More appropriate it would have been to examine the departures of Islam from Augustine, not the reverse. The cross currents between Judaism and Islam seem to have been more fruitful than those of Jesuits, yet they are mentioned only in passing.

Further, without the viewpoints offerred in the very rich mystical traditions of Judaism and Islam, which examine the allegories in ways that are much more interesting and relevant to cosmogony and psychology as today we understand it, the story told is incomplete, leaving the impression that these scholars were simpletons.

Emptying these traditions of adult -level meaning by relating only to their children's stories literal version (after a short detour explaining how allegory lost out to literalism in the Catholic dogma - the actual "original sin"), treating them as plagiarisms of earlier Babylonian works that are clumsily rewritten, summarizes the historical view of western scholars but limiting it to that results primarily in an examination of Europe's and Catholicism's evolutions and interpretations of the story. That's interesting but that us only one part of the story, and it is not really about Adam and Eve influencing Europe as it is Europe influencing Adam and Eve - the relegation of the story to fairy tale status, with nothing to learn from.

I'd have liked to have known much more about the evolution of the story in Oriental cultures, which, though having had debates between literalists and proponents of allegory as well, its allegorical mystical treasury would have rounded out and completed this book, showing there is still much tone learned from it. Without it, it is partial at best

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By jimbostank on 10-20-17

Well Worth Reading

Very interesting history of the story and similar ideas. As well as the people who the story inspired. The book is very well written and researched. I highly recommend

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