The Most Charming Pagan

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

by Stephen Greenblatt
Norton, 356 pp., $26.95

Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve celebrates an ancient Latin poem. So, as he shows, did the scholars and scribes who brought it back into circulation in Renaissance Europe. The frontispiece of one manuscript suggests something of what they found in it. On it stands a classical arch, adorned with colored marble and sculpted capitals, standing before a landscape with river, cliffs, and a spindly, towering tree—the kind of imaginary country you usually see in fifteenth-century paintings of saints receiving the stigmata.

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