Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age

Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age

Language: English

Pages: 231

ISBN: 022638196X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


How old are you?  The more thought you bring to bear on the question, the harder it is to answer.  For we age simultaneously in different ways: biologically, psychologically, socially. And we age within the larger framework of a culture, in the midst of a history that predates us and will outlast us. Looked at through that lens, many aspects of late modernity would suggest that we are older than ever, but Robert Pogue Harrison argues that we are also getting startlingly younger—in looks, mentality, and behavior. We live, he says, in an age of juvenescence.
 
Like all of Robert Pogue Harrison's books, Juvenescence ranges brilliantly across cultures and history, tracing the ways that the spirits of youth and age have inflected each other from antiquity to the present. Drawing on the scientific concept of neotony, or the retention of juvenile characteristics through adulthood, and extending it into the cultural realm, Harrison argues that youth is essential for culture’s innovative drive and flashes of genius. At the same time, however, youth—which Harrison sees as more protracted than ever—is a luxury that requires the stability and wisdom of our elders and the institutions. “While genius liberates the novelties of the future,” Harrison writes, “wisdom inherits the legacies of the past, renewing them in the process of handing them down.”
 
A heady, deeply learned excursion, rich with ideas and insights, Juvenescence could only have been written by Robert Pogue Harrison. No reader who has wondered at our culture's obsession with youth should miss it.

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the usual interval, the stream from heaven, like a pestilence, comes pouring down, and leaves only those of you who are destitute of letters and education; and so you have to begin all over again like children, and know nothing of what happened in ancient times, either among us or among yourselves. Note the succinctness of the priest’s distinction between Greek youth and Egyptian senility, which has to do not with chronological age but with institutional stability. The “oldest” cultures are not

(vii). The “astonishing development of the arts and sciences” in this period is a matter I must skip over here. I will simply note that much has changed since 1959—the year Arendt first delivered the address from which I have been quoting at length—yet precisely to the degree that much has changed, little has changed, or as Arendt herself put it, “little has changed for the better.” The “violent wrenching” of the world into constant movement has remained constant. Indeed, the only constancy of

establishment of Mendelian genetics converted previous exceptions into new expectations).” Thus, Gould claims, “the biogenetic law was not disproved by a direct scrutiny of its supposed operation; it fell because research in related fields refuted its necessary mechanism” (168). See also Robert J. Richards, The Tragic Sense of Life: Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Evolutionary Thought, especially chapter 5, “Evolutionary Morphology in the Darwinian Mode” (113–70). Richards criticizes past

love. For a helpful general introduction to feminist critiques of Freud, see Danielle Ramsey, “Feminism and Psychoanalysis,” in The Routledge Companion to Feminism and Postfeminism, edited by Sarah Gamble (133–40). See also the essays in Between Feminism and Psychoanalysis, edited by Teresa Brennan; Mary Jo Buhle, Feminism and Its Discontents: A Century of Struggle with Psychoanalysis; and Juliet Mitchell, Psychoanalysis and Feminism. On Ezra Pound and Chinese poetry, see Ming Xie, Ezra Pound

rev. ed. Edited by Stephen Orgel and A. R. Braunmuller. New York: Penguin Classics, 2002. ———. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. 7th ed. Edited by David Bevington. New York: Longman, 2013. Shaw, Ian. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Shea, William R., and Mariano Artigas. Galileo in Rome: The Rise and Fall of a Troublesome Genius. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Sheehan, Thomas. Karl Rahner: The Philosophical Foundations. Athens: Ohio

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