A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious by Alex Beam

By Alex Beam

Today the classics of the western canon, written via the proverbial “dead white men,” are cannon fodder within the tradition wars. yet within the Nineteen Fifties and Nineteen Sixties, they have been a popular culture phenomenon. the good Books of Western Civilization, fifty-four volumes selected via intellectuals on the college of Chicago, all started as an instructional stream, and developed right into a winning advertising and marketing proposal. Why did 1000000 American families purchase books by means of Hippocrates and Nicomachus from door-to-door salesmen? and the way and why did the good books fall out of style?

In A nice proposal on the Time Alex Beam explores the good Books mania, in an exciting and surprisingly poignant portrait of yank pop culture at the threshold of the tv age. Populated with memorable characters, A nice thought on the Time will depart readers asking themselves: Have I learn Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura in recent years? If now not, why not?

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Extra info for A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books

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It was less than forty years old. While architect Daniel Burnham had been building his famous, temporary “White City” along the shores of Lake Michigan for the 1893 Columbian Exposition World’s Fair, John D. Rockefeller was breaking ground for his Gothic limestone “Gray City” less than a mile inland, on lands donated by Marshall Field. ” Rockefeller later commented. ” The setting was promising; both Burnham and Rockefeller were building on land adjacent to parks landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted.

The notion that Chicago would swallow up all of Northwestern’s graduate departments, and that Northwestern would take all of Chicago’s undergrads, was dead on arrival. Later, a wealthy patron offered to endow an engineering school, and Hutchins turned 1586484873_beam 8/22/08 9:26 AM Page 49 T h e G re a t B o o ks i n th e G ra y C i ty him down flat. ” The young president gained national fame, and regional infamy, for eliminating the university’s storied football program, the Monsters of the Midway, once coached by the legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg, who enjoyed tenure at Chicago’s Department of Physical Culture and Athletics.

Sontag married Philip Rieff, one of her teachers, and when he landed a job at Brandeis, she transferred to Harvard. ’” Keeping Hutchins amused was of paramount importance, and the Great Books classes achieved this. Hutchins loved controversy, and he loved the querulous reaction of mainstream aca- 1586484873_beam 8/22/08 9:26 AM Page 47 T h e G re a t B o o ks i n th e G ra y C i ty Mortimer Adler and Milton Mayer teach the Great Books at “Mr. ” TIME & LIFE PICTURES / GETTY IMAGE demics to the news emerging from Chicago, that the undergraduates were “dialoguing” with the ancient greats.

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