“The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve” by Professor Stephen Greenblatt Part 1
Review by Peter Conrad of The Guardian 3 Sep 2017
Greenblatt – a professor of humanities at Harvard, academically celebrated as the biographer of Shakespeare and the founder of the new defunct fashion in literary criticism known as the new historicism – here picks apart the most invidious and onerous of myths. Genesis devised a story that told us where we are, why we are here, and established rules for our conduct. Human history in the Christian west has been a long battle to come to terms with that tale, whose inflictions include a drastic ban on acquiring knowledge and a baleful sexual morality, with the pain of childbirth and inevitable death imposed by God as penalties for disobedience. Greenblatt follows Adam and Eve out of the garden and shows how they were loaded with an extra burden of guilt by St Augustine, who invented the vile notion of original sin to make us all take the blame for an impromptu erection that embarrassed him in the public baths. Greenblatt welcomes the redemption of Adam and Eve by Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo or Dürer, who saw them as ideal physical specimens, not the harassed victims of a repressive God. Finally, a little relieved, he has Darwin kill them off.