The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve (Hardcover)
With the storytelling verve that made The Swerve such a delight, Greenblatt plumbs a central question regarding the biblical creation story and the myth of The Fall: “How does something made up become so compellingly real?” Tracing its origins back to diasporic Hebrews attempting to blunt the influence of such competing lore as found in Gilgamesh and other polytheistic traditions, Greenblatt brings us into close familiarity with many who were influential in establishing the centrality of the Adam and Eve story in Western civilization—primarily Augustine, artists such as Dürer and Milton; and those responsible for its return to allegorical status—principally Voltaire and Darwin. -Peter— From Fall Booknotes 2017
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, Durer, 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.