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  • Published: 3 December 2018
  • ISBN: 9780099587224
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $24.99

The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve

Pulitzer Prize-winner Stephen Greenblatt tackles the origins of humanity through the most enduring story of all time.

Selected as a book of the year 2017 by The Times and Sunday Times

What is it about Adam and Eve's story that fascinates us? What does it tell us about how our species lives, dies, works or has sex?

The mythic tale of Adam and Eve has shaped conceptions of human origins and destiny for centuries. Stemming from a few verses in an ancient book, it became not just the foundation of three major world faiths, but has evolved through art, philosophy and science to serve as the mirror in which we seem to glimpse the whole, long history of our fears and desires.

In a quest that begins at the dawn of time, Stephen Greenblatt takes us from ancient Babylonia to the forests of east Africa. We meet evolutionary biologists and fossilised ancestors; we grapple with morality and marriage in Milton's Paradise Lost; and we decide if the Fall is the unvarnished truth or fictional allegory.

  • Published: 3 December 2018
  • ISBN: 9780099587224
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $24.99

About the author

Stephen Greenblatt

Stephen Greenblatt is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He is the author of twelve books, including The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, which won the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize, as well as the New York Times bestseller Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare and the classic university text Renaissance Self-Fashioning.

He is General Editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature and of The Norton Shakespeare, and has edited seven collections of literary criticism.

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Praise for The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve

With all his usual clarity and freshness, one of our foremost literary historians and critics sets out a comprehensive picture of how a story foundational for European civilization developed, from its origins in western Asia to its much-contested place in the post-Darwinian world. This is a rich, learned, lively book, which should engage all who are interested in the history of our imagination and the interweavings of faith, poetics, and philosophy.

Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury

Greenblatt's inexhaustible curiosity goes without saying; what makes this book a wonder is its passion . nothing less than a love story, a hymn. Who would have thought scholarship could be so ardent or so poignant?

Howard Jacobson, winner of the MAN Booker Prize

Human beings have always told stories about who we are and where we came from . In this enchanting book, Stephen Greenblatt puts this ancient story into historical, literary, and artistic context, helping to illuminate how we humans have chosen to think about ourselves.

Sean Carroll, New York Times bestselling author of THE BIG PICTURE


Roger Lewis, The Times

This is a learned book, but Greenblatt's passion for story-telling makes it read like a series of fascinating anecdotes. The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve is exhilarating to read and a feast for the mind

John Carey, Sunday Times

Enthralling, thrilling. Along the way, there is an often hilarious account of scholastic efforts to rationalise the myth's illogic, and an array of entertaining heresies. What gives Greenblatt's "intellectual adventure" its tension and excitement is a sense of his own divided loyalties

Peter Conrad, Observer

Erudite, wide-ranging, thought-provoking and elegantly fashioned

Darragh McManus, Irish Independent

Pellucid, absorbing and for many contemporary readers surely definitive account

John Gray, New Statesman


Christina Borg, Sunday Times

A compelling, all-encompassing story of myth, theology and belief ... He delves deftly and lucidly into theology... Fascinating

Sam Leith, Spectator

Greenblatt, on excellent form here, visits familiar destinations ... with fresh eyes, and opens up new interpretative vistas ... Hefty themes are covered in this spellbinding book, but the learning is worn lightly.

Jonathan Wright, BBC History magazine

Thrilling . a study of western disenchantment, of intellectual progress, of the fading powers of the myths of a simpler age. But it is a more complex study than that. It is also an ode to human creativity and to the powerful grip of narrative

Tim Whitmarsh, Guardian

Vibrant and accessible. It is a fascinating subject, and Greenblatt brings to it all the skill of his distinguished career as a scholar and cultural interpreter. His narrative moves briskly from one (arguably) historically pivotal moment to the next. His reading of Milton, whom he greatly admires, is especially illuminating. The whole book is lit up with flashes of insight. This is a very engaging book which explores a rich seam in European history and culture. Well worth reading

Teresa Morgan, Tablet

Greenblatt sets out to tell the story of the story - and it's just as fascinating. Greenblatt canters through millennia of human history with ease

James Marriott, The Times

Tunnelling upwards from the murky beginnings of our origin myth through its myriad interpretations by Augustine, Michelangelo, Durer, Milton, Darwin and more, this riveting book raises essential questions about the nature of narrative.

Claire Lowdon, Sunday Times

Greenblatt is utterly engaging.

Miri Rubin, Prospect

While some of the conclusions are provocative, that's always half the fun with Greenblatt.

Jonathan Wright, The Catholic Herald

[A] wonderfully readable account of the most potent of all myths

Simon Shaw, Mail on Sunday

A fascinating book, which throws light on a good many dark corners about what we think we know

Ian Harrison, Methodist Recorder, *Books of the Year*

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