Labyrinth Books, Anthony Grafton and Benjamin Weiss 3/25/09
Anthony Grafton and Benjamin Weiss Double Feature: Worlds Made by Words and Obelisk Wednesday, March 25 @ 5:30PM Labyrinth Books, Princeton Please join us for a discussion and celebration of two new books of intellectual history: In Worlds Made by Words: Scholarship and Community in the Modern West, Tony Grafton lets us in on one of the great secrets of scholars and intellectuals: although scholars lead solitary lives in order to win independence of mind, they also enjoy the conviviality of sharing a project sustained by common ideals, practices, and institutions. It's like Masonry, but without the secret handshakes. Grafton reveals the microdynamics of the scholarly life through a series of essays on institutions and on scholars ranging from early modern polymaths to modern intellectual historians to American thinkers and writers. He takes as his starting point the republic of letters-that loose society of intellectuals that first took shape in the sixteenth century and continued into the eighteenth. Its inhabitants were highly original, individual thinkers and writers. Yet as Grafton shows, they were all formed, in some way, by the very groups and disciplines that they set out to build. In our noisy, caffeinated world it has never been more challenging to be a scholar. When many of our fellow citizens seem to have forgotten why we collect books in the buildings we call libraries, Grafton's engaging, erudite essays could be a rallying cry for the revival of the liberal arts. _____________________ The second book, Obelisk: A History, is a book co-authored by Tony Grafton and three colleagues, a beautiful example of shared scholarship: Nearly every empire worthy of the name-from ancient Rome to the United States-has sought an Egyptian obelisk to place in the center of a ceremonial space. Obelisks-giant standing stones, invented in Ancient Egypt as sacred objects-serve no practical purpose. Obelisks, everyone seems to sense, connote some very special sort of power. This book traces the fate and many meanings of obelisks across nearly forty centuries-what they meant to the Egyptians, and how other cultures have borrowed, interpreted, understood, and misunderstood them through the years. The history of obelisks is a story of technical achievement, imperial conquest, Christian piety and triumphalism, egotism, scholarly brilliance, political hubris, bigoted nationalism, democratic self-assurance, Modernist austerity, and Hollywood kitsch-in short, the story of Western civilization. Anthony Grafton is Henry Putnam University Professor of History at Princeton University. Benjamin Weiss is Manager of Adult Learning Resources at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Location: Labyrinth Books, Princeton
Date/Time: 2009-03-25 at 5:30 pm - 2009-03-25 at 8:00 pm