From Dawn to Decadence

From Dawn to Decadence

500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present

Book - 2000
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"A stunning five-century study of civilization's cultural retreat." -- William Safire, New York Times

Highly regarded here and abroad for some thirty works of cultural history and criticism, master historian Jacques Barzun has set down in one continuous narrative the sum of his discoveries and conclusions about the whole of Western culture since 1500.

Barzun describes what Western Man wrought from the Renaissance and Reformation down to the present in the double light of its own time and our pressing concerns. He introduces characters and incidents with his unusual literary style and grace, bringing to the fore those that have been forgotten or obscured. His compelling chapters--such as "Puritans as Democrats," "The Monarchs' Revolution," and "The Artist Prophet and Jester"--show the recurrent role of great themes throughout the era.

The triumphs and defeats of five hundred years form an inspiring saga that modifies the current impression of one long tale of oppression by white European males. Women and their deeds are prominent, and freedom (even in sexual matters) is not an invention of the last decades. And when Barzun rates the present not as a culmination but a decline, he is in no way a prophet of doom. Instead, he shows decadence as the normal close of great periods and a necessary condition of the creative novelty that will burst forth--tomorrow or the next day.

Only after a lifetime of separate studies covering a broad territory could a writer create with such ease the synthesis displayed in this magnificent volume.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollins, [2000]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2000
ISBN: 9780060175863
Branch Call Number: 940.2 B289F 2000
Characteristics: xviii, 877 pages ; 25 cm


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Feb 08, 2017

I read ¨The House of Intellect,¨ paperback copy of the original published in 1959 by Harper Brothers, New York. Cultural criticism, dense and opinionated.

Jul 09, 2012

This book might accurately be titled "Jacques Barzun Free-Associates on the History, Art, and Literature of Western Civilization."

Those well-versed in the Western Canon may well find M. Barzun's approach delightful and informative. The beginner, lacking a range and depth of exposure to the subject matter, is unlikely to benefit from detailed and somewhat random observations on this or that aspect of poetry, music, architecture, etc. This book may indeed be a virtuoso performance of cultured observations by a deeply learned man, but for that reason it is not accessible or useful for thos not similarly equipped.


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