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Breaking Bread with the Dead: A…
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Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader's Guide to a More Tranquil… (2020 original; edició 2021)

de Alan Jacobs (Autor)

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1952122,071 (4.11)4
"W.H. Auden once wrote that "art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead." In his brilliant and compulsively readable new treatise BREAKING BREAD WITH THE DEAD, distinguished professor and author Alan Jacobs shows us that engaging with the great writings of the past might help us live less anxiously in the present. Today we are battling too much information, a society changing at lightning speed, algorithms aimed at shaping our every move, and a sense that history is not a resource, only something to be vanquished. The modern solution to our problems is turn inwards, to surround ourselves only with that which is like us. Jacobs' answer is just the opposite: to be in conversation with, and to be challenged by, the great thinkers of the past. What can Homer teach us about force? What does Frederick Douglass have to say about our difficulties with the Founding Fathers? And what can we learn from modern authors who are doing this work? How can Ursula K. Le Guin teach us to see the women of the canon differently? BREAKING BREAD WITH THE DEAD is a close reading with a gifted scholar of texts from across the ages, including the work of Amitav Ghosh, Anita Desai, Henrik Ibsen, Jean Rhys, Simone Weil, Edith Wharton, Claude Levi-Strauss, Italo Calvino, and many more. By agreeing to a conversation with the past, we can draw on more wisdom than the modern consciousness offers"--… (més)
Membre:bugenhageniii
Títol:Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader's Guide to a More Tranquil Mind
Autors:Alan Jacobs (Autor)
Informació:Penguin Books (2021), 192 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca, Per llegir
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Etiquetes:to-read

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Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader's Guide to a More Tranquil Mind de Alan Jacobs (2020)

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Summary: A case for reading old books as a means of increasing our “personal density” to expand our temporal bandwidth.

Alan Jacobs teaches students to read old books and contends, contrary to many critics, that this reading is essential in a day when we are bombarded by an avalanche of information, and all matter of questions about the future. Drawing upon Thomas Pynchon in Gravity’s Rainbow, he argues that old books increase our “personal density” through expanding our temporal bandwidth.

What does this mean? Jacobs is not arguing for learning from the lessons of the past or that old books help us recognize universal truths. Rather, he suggests that the great works of the past startle us with their difference. They help us see the choices of our own age in light of those of the past. They are the “other,” the “generative oddkin.” Jacobs believes that understanding how people of other ages met the challenges of life equip us to better face challenges of the future than if we draw only upon the resources of the present.

The greatest challenge to Jacobs’ proposal is the invidious aspects of many of these works–racist, chauvinist, colonialist, and more. Jacobs does not deny any of that. What he observes is that those in the past often enunciated ideas, the implications they failed to fully grasp in their own lives. He points to the American founders who laid the groundwork for our own ideals of equality, yet held slaves and failed until 100 years ago to enfranchise women. Reading them forces us to ask how future generations will evaluate us. Drawing upon Ursula LeGuin’s novel Lavinia, an adaptation of the Aeneid, giving voice to the woman Aeneas loved, Jacobs argues both that we read with double vision, recognizing both the work and the flawed character of work, and that our reading from our time can bring new insight that perhaps even an author like Virgil had not grasped.

Jacobs develops these themes through nine essays in which we consider works like The Iliad, The Doll’s House, and Jane Eyre, and authors from Virgil to Italo Calvino. He contends that the presence and tranquility of mind enabling us to meet the challenges of the day comes from a perspective that goes beyond “the latest thing.” If we read only sources from the present, as diverse as they may be, we may still be caught in “echo chambers.” Sometimes, the voices of the past will give voice and words that make sense of our own reality. At other times they will startle and challenge us. Rather than lulling us to sleep with placid verities, they challenge and shake us up, nurturing the kind of resistance fostering “unfragile” and resilient thought.

Jacobs does all this in elegant prose evoking the voices he would have us give more careful attention–an engaging read and a warm invitation. ( )
1 vota BobonBooks | Apr 11, 2021 |
This is an excellent exploration of the way reading voices from the past can help us cultivate what the author calls "personal density." We can learn from writers who are not our contemporaries because their blindspots are different than ours, and they can help us learn to view our own immediate context with a more critical eye. I listened to this one on Audible, but I will definitely have to go back and listen again or buy the book in print (or both) because I feel like there was more here than I was able to absorb in a single reading. Highly recommend. ( )
1 vota amy_reasoner | Apr 6, 2021 |
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In Memory of Brett Foster (1973-2015)
All of these afflictions, petty in
Love's gargantuan light,
provide a most ripe tinder to
raise love's fire further.
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I've been a teacher for many years now, and one of the best things about teaching is the way it presses you to revisit decisions you made in decades past, to defend and explain actions that for you long ago ceased to need defense or explanation.
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"W.H. Auden once wrote that "art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead." In his brilliant and compulsively readable new treatise BREAKING BREAD WITH THE DEAD, distinguished professor and author Alan Jacobs shows us that engaging with the great writings of the past might help us live less anxiously in the present. Today we are battling too much information, a society changing at lightning speed, algorithms aimed at shaping our every move, and a sense that history is not a resource, only something to be vanquished. The modern solution to our problems is turn inwards, to surround ourselves only with that which is like us. Jacobs' answer is just the opposite: to be in conversation with, and to be challenged by, the great thinkers of the past. What can Homer teach us about force? What does Frederick Douglass have to say about our difficulties with the Founding Fathers? And what can we learn from modern authors who are doing this work? How can Ursula K. Le Guin teach us to see the women of the canon differently? BREAKING BREAD WITH THE DEAD is a close reading with a gifted scholar of texts from across the ages, including the work of Amitav Ghosh, Anita Desai, Henrik Ibsen, Jean Rhys, Simone Weil, Edith Wharton, Claude Levi-Strauss, Italo Calvino, and many more. By agreeing to a conversation with the past, we can draw on more wisdom than the modern consciousness offers"--

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