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Wednesday, January 4, 2012
A book of possible interest
I've just finished reading a book that might interest some of you: Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt, about the rediscovery of Lucretius' poem, "On the Nature of Things." The book describes how a "lost" book was found by a book collector, Poggio Bracciolini, and became influential on the Renaissance. "On the Nature of Things" is the longest surviving exposition of Epicureanism, which turns out to be very modern: It said the world consists of atoms in a void, for example, and doubted that gods intervened in the day to day affairs of men. Notably, Swerve discusses how Lucretius influenced Giordano Bruno and Thomas Jefferson.
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Vico read Lucretius and seems to have been heavily influenced by it, although he couldn't talk/write all that openly about it, for Inquisitorial reasons, probably.
I'm surprised in my toe-dips into the vast world of Vico scholarship in finding how few scholars seem to have made the connection between Naples in the 17th c. and Epicureanism and Lucretius and what must have been a large part of the radical disjuncture in Vico's writings about "God" and what he must have really believed.
Marchetti's tran of Lucretius into Italian wasn't printed until 1717, but it was widely circulated in manuscript in the 1680s and 90s. (Vico's father had a bookstore and Vico turned 18 in 1686.)
"Vico says nothing of the Inquisition in his autobiography, but his writings are not fully intelligible to one who does not bear in mind that it was active in Naples throughout his lifetime." -from Bergin and Frisch's Intro to Vico's _Autobiography_.
Very interesting, Michael, thank you.
Did RAW ever express direct interest in Epicureanism or Lucretius?
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