From Dawn to Decadence

From Dawn to Decadence

500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present

Book - 2000
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Baker & Taylor
One of the century's great intellectuals synthesizes his thinking on art, scholarship, manners, morals, and religion to offer his critique of Western culture today, which he sees in a period of decadence and serious decline. Original.


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

In this account, Barzun describes what Western Man wrought from the Renaisance 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 "Puritans as Democrats," "The Monarch's Revolution," "The Artist Prophet and Jester"--show the recurrent role of great themes throughout the eras.

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 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.

& Taylor

Showcases the triumphs and defeats of five hundred years of Western cultural history, highlighting the contributions of women and arguing that decadance is required in order to spark creativity in the next era.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollins, c2000
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780060175863
Branch Call Number: 940.21 BAR
Characteristics: xviii, 877 p. ; 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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