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In this all-encompassing history of—what were supposedly—the first man and woman on earth, Pulitzer Prize winning scholar, Stephen Greenblatt, unpacks the birth, maturation, and eventual death of one of humanity’s oldest and profoundest origin stories. Much like his other books, Greenblatt leaves no analytical stone unturned. By seeking out and scrupulously examining the multitude of disciplinary tissues which allowed for such a tale to become prominent, Greenblatt grants us total access. Whether it be through the lens of physiological historiography, traditions in oral storytelling, a cultural study of certain writers’ adaptations—cough, Milton—or observations regarding the possibility of an Eden like space during ancient times: this book has it all. By the end, I had learned far more than I had bargained for—which is always a good thing!— From Bennet's picks
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, D rer, 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.