Published Volume XXV Nos. 1&2 2012

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W. W. Norton, 2011. 365 pp. $26.95 cloth. $16.95 paper.

Stephen Greenblatt’s Pulitzer Prize winning The Swerve: How The World Became Modern is a narrative in search of a story. The narrative is a simple and familiar one: the world became modern when the forces of reason, enlightenment, and human dignity replaced the benighted and repressive superstitions and hypocritical hierarchies of medieval Christendom. This emancipation allowed humanity to live without illusion, prejudice, or fear and thus enabled the full flourishing of human autonomy. Greenblatt is John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He has won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for his critical works. The New York Times’s fawning review noted Greenblatt’s “enormous erudition” and The New York Review of Books called The Swerve “a seductive, beautiful book that will inspire wonder, reflection, and the pursuit of pleasure.” In short, Greenblatt touched the right sorts of cultural notes that resonated deeply with his audience. This should not surprise. Greenblatt is best known as a Shakespeare scholar and a central figure in the . . .

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