So this is the book on which I end my year.
It's a good one. Greenblatt gives a far-ranging account of the ways in which the Adam and Eve story developed in (Western, Christian) thought--from its initial status as premodern speculation on origins, though Augustine's neurotic attempt to escape whatever sexual hangup he developed as a child, through Milton (of course!) and finally to the rise of evolutionary theory and the subsequent "fall" of the first parents. It's a lot of book, and I'm probably lucky to have approached it as an audiobook rather than in print (or Kindle) edition.
Greenblatt makes a lot of the status of Adam and Eve as primal parents--that is, of their position as a just-so story to explain evil and death--but the really interesting stuff comes up when he discusses the ways in which sexuality interacts with the pair. Sex is, of course, the under-acknowledged core of the Eden myth; the command to "be fruitful and multiply" demands copulation, after all, whatever Augustine initially wanted to say. And Greenblatt shows the different ways in which various thinkers and writers used Adam and Eve to understand sex--Augustine, again, and Milton--the latter of whom makes the Adam-Eve couple more interesting as a couple than as avatars of sin and death. The discussion of visual art is, of course, where the sexuality/sensuality stuff really pops. Greenblatt's discussion of Albrecht Dürer's engraving (above) gives a lot of attention to the amount of attention Dürer gives to his Adam and the revolution that attention created in the art world.
I could wish (as Tim Whitmarsh seems to) that Greenblatt had said more about Jewish and Muslim reflections on the myth. I certainly wish that he had said more about twentieth century approaches; ardent fundamentalism is only one way the myth continues to exert itself. Ross Lockridge, Jr. positions the myth at the core of Raintree County, for instance. But that's a minor sort of quibble. This is a fascinating, and occasionally thrilling, study.
As a chaser, I recommend R.W.B. Lewis's The American Adam.
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Nathanael T. Booth. All views are my own.