Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Educational Reading

"The literary world had revolted against the yoke of coming capitalism - its money-lenders, its bank directors, and its railway magnates... The middle class had the power, and held its coal and iron well in hand, but the satirists and idealists seized the press..."

That's from The Education Of Henry Adams, which we did for book club this month. It was long stretches of yawn interrupted by bursts of insight.

Adams had been a professor of medieval history at Harvard, and in some ways his heart was still in the medieval world. On the other hand, he had a lively inquiring mind, and he saw that technology was transforming the world in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

In an often-anthologized chapter of the book, "The Virgin And The Dynamo," he argues that devotion to Mary was the power behind medieval civilization, but that the big electrical generator is the power behind modern civilization.

The Virgin's power controlled
Europe in days of old.
But now the Dynamo
Makes the whole world go.

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