Stephen Greenblatt on Lucretius

Just heard an interesting interview with Stephen Greenblatt on Bob Edwards (NPR). Greenblatt has been getting a lot of press for his new book The Swerve, How the World Became Modern.

The title is not just a reference to that moment or series of moments, however. As you may know Greenblatt focuses on the poem by Lucretius about the physical nature of the world, On the Nature of Things [De rerum Natura] (a 1916 English text available here).

Apparently Greenblatt is referencing Lucretius’ notion that the physical world is made up of atoms that keep aloft by moving and swerving, or in Greek “clinamen.” I wrote a chapter for Dodge and Kitchin’s Rethinking Maps book contrasting the “cline” idea to the “chora” idea in mapping.  So I’m always alert to that word and I’m glad to hear it in reference to Lucretius. This is not “Lucretius vs. Plato” however (ie., the Timaeus where Plato’s discussion of the chora takes place) because the meaning of chora at play in chorography and choropleth etc. is a modern one.


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