The written world The power of stories to shape people, history, civilization

Martin Puchner, 1969-

Book - 2017

"Great stories of people, history, and literature are combined to show how the power of the written word has influenced civilizations throughout time. Puchner writes about Ezra and the Old Testament, a young woman in 9th century Japan who wrote the first novel, a wild story about Cervantes and pirates, how Benjamin Franklin became the father of print in the United States, and more. Over this remarkable, engaging book, Puchner tells stories of creative people whose lives and beliefs led them... to create groundbreaking foundational texts, and how those texts affected the world they were born into. Puchner offers a truly comprehensive and worldwide literary perspective, spanning time and cultures, from the first written story--The Epic of Gilgamesh--to the wordsmiths of Mande in Africa, to Harry Potter. He also focuses on writing technologies, including the invention of paper, the printing press, and the modern book, and how they shaped not just writing, but religion and economy, too. Taking us from clay tablets and ancient scrolls, all the way to internet tablets and scrolling down on computers today, Puchner will change the way you view the past, present, and future of literature. Readers will find new discoveries about old texts they love, and new stories they hadn't known before, as Martin Puchner tells the story of literature in 17 acts: how stories shaped history, and gave us THE WRITTEN WORLD"--

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2nd Floor 809.93358/Puchner Due Jul 9, 2022
Subjects
Published
New York : Random House [2017]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xxiii, 412 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 341-388) and index.
ISBN
9780812998931
0812998936
Main Author
Martin Puchner, 1969- (author)
  • Alexander's pillow book
  • King of the Universe : of Gilgamesh and Ashurbanipal
  • Ezra and the creation of Holy Scripture
  • Learning from the Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, and Jesus
  • Muraski and The tale of Genji : the first great novel in world history
  • One thousand and one nights with Scheherazade
  • Gutenberg, Luther, and the new public of print
  • The popol vuh and Maya culture : a second, independent literary tradition
  • Don Quixote and the pirates
  • Benjamin Franklin : media entrepreneur in the republic of letters
  • World literature : Goethe in Sicily
  • Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao : readers of The Communist Manifesto, unite!
  • Akhmatova and Solzhenitsyn : writing against the Soviet state
  • The epic of Sunjata and the wordsmiths of West Africa
  • Postcolonial literature : Derek Walcott, poet of the Caribbean
  • From Hogwarts to India.
Review by Library Journal Reviews

In this timely chronicle, Puchner, a professor of English and comparative literature at Harvard University, tells the story both of the ideas that shaped civilization and the equally crucial technology that transmitted and preserved those ideas. Literature here means more than just fiction: it encompasses publication platforms, such as newspapers, and various formats of political speech, such as the manifesto and the pamphlet, as well as poetry and foundational religious texts. Puchner sweeps from the ancient civilizations that produced The Epic of Gilgamesh to contemporary fascination with the invented world of Harry Potter, with stops along the way in classical Greece, the insular court of 11th-century Japan, 16th-century Mayan culture, the turmoil of 19th-century Europe, and the violent repression of 20th-century totalitarian regimes, among other settings. The technological revolutions he explores include the rise of paper, the book's ascendancy over the scroll, and the development of printing from early wood blocks to the extraordinary process perfected by Gutenberg. Finally, he comes to the digital present, leaving the reader curious to see the next, still-to-be-written chapter of the written word. By providing snapshots of key moments in the written word's evolution, Puchner creates a gripping intellectual odyssey. Agent: Jill Kneerim, Kneerim & Williams. (Nov.) Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Puchner (English & comparative literature, Harvard Univ.; The Drama of Ideas; coeditor, Norton Anthology of World Literature) looks at a number of diverse and influential works of world literature, from the Iliad and Epic of Gilgamesh through The Tale of Genji and the Popol Vuh to Derek Walcott's Omeros and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. He examines how these stories are refracted through the effects of writing and writing technologies in various cultures: from scribes marking clay tablets to the development of papyrus to paper, printing, and the Internet. The author is also interested in the influence of prominent readers in shaping the concept of literature and literacy: for example, Ezra on the Bible, Benjamin Franklin on popular media, Goethe on world literature, or Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, and Ho Chi Minh on The Communist Manifesto. Puchner's work frequently reads like a book meant to accompany a television series on world literature, offering personal accounts of his visits to the historical sites associated with the works he discusses. VERDICT Informative and engaging, Puchner's work provides a substantive but accessible account of the culture of writing and the transmission of literature. Of value to both general readers and specialists. [See Prepub Alert, 5/22/17.]—Thomas L. Cooksey, formerly with Armstrong Atlantic State Univ., Savannah Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this timely chronicle, Puchner, a professor of English and comparative literature at Harvard University, tells the story both of the ideas that shaped civilization and the equally crucial technology that transmitted and preserved those ideas. Literature here means more than just fiction: it encompasses publication platforms, such as newspapers, and various formats of political speech, such as the manifesto and the pamphlet, as well as poetry and foundational religious texts. Puchner sweeps from the ancient civilizations that produced The Epic of Gilgamesh to contemporary fascination with the invented world of Harry Potter, with stops along the way in classical Greece, the insular court of 11th-century Japan, 16th-century Mayan culture, the turmoil of 19th-century Europe, and the violent repression of 20th-century totalitarian regimes, among other settings. The technological revolutions he explores include the rise of paper, the book's ascendancy over the scroll, and the development of printing from early wood blocks to the extraordinary process perfected by Gutenberg. Finally, he comes to the digital present, leaving the reader curious to see the next, still-to-be-written chapter of the written word. By providing snapshots of key moments in the written word's evolution, Puchner creates a gripping intellectual odyssey. Agent: Jill Kneerim, Kneerim & Williams. (Nov.) Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

An analysis of the power of literature to shape people, civilizations and world history explores 16 classic stories from more than 4,000 years of literature, from The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Iliad to Don Quixote and the Harry Potter series.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"The story of literature in sixteen acts, from Alexander the Great and the Iliad to ebooks and Harry Potter, this engaging book brings together remarkable people and surprising events to show how writing shaped cultures, religions, and the history of theworld"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

"Great stories of people, history, and literature are combined to show how the power of the written word has influenced civilizations throughout time. Puchner writes about Ezra and the Old Testament, a young woman in 9th century Japan who wrote the firstnovel, a wild story about Cervantes and pirates, how Benjamin Franklin became the father of print in the United States, and more. Over this remarkable, engaging book, Puchner tells stories of creative people whose lives and beliefs led them to create groundbreaking foundational texts, and how those texts affected the world they were born into. Puchner offers a truly comprehensive and worldwide literary perspective, spanning time and cultures, from the first written story--The Epic of Gilgamesh--to the wordsmiths of Mande in Africa, to Harry Potter. He also focuses on writing technologies, including the invention of paper, the printing press, and the modern book, and how they shaped not just writing, but religion and economy, too. Taking us from clay tablets and ancient scrolls, all the way to internet tablets and scrolling down on computers today, Puchner will change the way you view the past, present, and future of literature. Readers will find new discoveries about old texts they love, and new stories they hadn't known before, as Martin Puchner tells the story of literature in 17 acts: how stories shaped history, and gave us THE WRITTEN WORLD"--

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Explores the history of writing and the role it has played in shaping cultures, religions, and world history through sixteen foundational texts from four thousand years of world literature.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

The story of literature in sixteen acts—from Homer to Harry Potter, including The Tale of Genji, Don Quixote, The Communist Manifesto, and how they shaped world history In this groundbreaking book, Martin Puchner leads us on a remarkable journey through time and around the globe to reveal the how stories and literature have created the world we have today. Through sixteen foundational texts selected from more than four thousand years of world literature, he shows us how writing has inspired the rise and fall of empires and nations, the spark of philosophical and political ideas, and the birth of religious beliefs. We meet Murasaki, a lady from eleventh-century Japan who wrote the first novel, The Tale of Genji, and follow the adventures of Miguel de Cervantes as he battles pirates, both seafaring and literary. We watch Goethe discover world literature in Sicily, and follow the rise in influence of The Communist Manifesto. Puchner takes us to Troy, Pergamum, and China, speaks with Nobel laureates Derek Walcott in the Caribbean and Orhan Pamuk in Istanbul, and introduces us to the wordsmiths of the oral epic Sunjata in West Africa. This delightful narrative also chronicles the inventions—writing technologies, the printing press, the book itself—that have shaped people, commerce, and history. In a book that Elaine Scarry has praised as “unique and spellbinding,” Puchner shows how literature turned our planet into a written world.Praise for The Written World“It’s with exhilaration . . . that one hails Martin Puchner’s book, which asserts not merely the importance of literature but its all-importance. . . . Storytelling is as human as breathing.”—The New York Times Book Review “Puchner has a keen eye for the ironies of history. . . . His ideal is ‘world literature,’ a phrase he borrows from Goethe. . . . The breathtaking scope and infectious enthusiasm of this book are a tribute to that ideal.”—The Sunday Times (U.K.)  “Enthralling . . . Perfect reading for a long chilly night . . . [Puchner] brings these works and their origins to vivid life.”—BookPage “Well worth a read, to find out how come we read.”—Margaret Atwood, via Twitter