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FROM DAWN TO DECADENCE Years of Western Cultural Life, to the Present. By Jacques Barzun. pp. New York: HarperCollins. Jacques Barzun (Author) 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 From Dawn to Decadence: Years of Western Cultural Life - to Present. Jacques Barzun, Author HarperCollins Publishers $36 (p) ISBN.


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With feminist ardor, he depicts the 16th century as molded and directed by women ""as brilliant as the men, and sometimes dawn to decadence powerful"" e. Repetition and frustration are the intolerable result.

Review: From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun | Books | The Guardian

Boredom and fatigue are great historical forces. The present cannot be judged in the same dawn to decadence as the past;, and only make sense with hindsight.

Similarly, greatness in art, itself a mutable designation, is determined by later generations. The present age, unquestionably suspicious of ideology, may appear bereft of genius and empty of meaning; but who knows, any day now another Luther may be posting a new set of incendiary propositions on the internet, making placemen dawn to decadence plutocrats quake.

Still others are painful home truths: And dawn to decadence others are gems from the cabinet of world-weary cynicism: History is the product of individual initiative aided or stymied by chance. Women are also well represented in Mr.


Talking about Byron and other poets with a city notable in Cincinnati, Mrs. He gives as much space to the Renaissance philosopher and historian of science Joseph Glanvill author of The Vanity of Dogmatizing as to many better known figures, and he includes a number of personal favorites: Barzun is everywhere ready to rehabilitate a reputation unjustly diminished or to challenge received wisdom that unfairly pigeonholes its victim.

About Beaumarchais, for example, he reminds us that, in addition to his literary achievement, he did as much as Lafayette to aid dawn to decadence cause of the American revolution by surreptitiously channeling money from the French government to the dawn to decadence American army.

Barzun in some of his judgments. What matters, though, are how many worthy figures he rescues from obscurity or semi-obscurity.

About the early nineteenth-century wit and clergyman Sydney Smith, Mr. Here was a pamphleteer propounding what is just, humane, and tolerant without dawn to decadence ignoring these virtues by writing like a fanatic.


Dooley who once described John D. Nothing human is alien to me. But these are small things, easily rectified. It is central to Mr.

The age of entropy

His very cause has been argued for him by such proponents of national self-determination as President Wilson and such rationalizers of violence as Georges Sorel and Bakunin, the Russian anarchist.

If From Dawn to Decadence is partly a dawn to decadence of the West, it is also an elegy for its passing. For dawn to decadence thing, being a slur is not incompatible with being a technical term.

As one would expect, the sources of decadence are many and varied. Barzun shows us that historically there are no new things under the sun, as most historical events have distant precursor. Originality itself is a modern notion. Barzun himself refrains from formulating any dawn to decadence conception of history.

He believes history is strongest as literary narrative, and is dubious of the attempts at a philosophy of history, which he feels dawn to decadence by reducing the march of history to a single cause.

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Hardly a committed pacifist, I would think. While I dawn to decadence one who agrees that WWI Germany has often received an unfair treatment in much historical writing, I can't agree with the apologetic attitude of the author in this particular instance.

Apart from these issues, though, the author's historical writing is generally compelling, precise, very interesting and rich with insights.