A masterwork of history and cultural studies, Marvelous Possessions is a brilliant meditation on the interconnected ways in which Europeans of the Age of Discovery represented non-European peoples and took possession of their lands, particularly in the New World. In a series of innovative readings of travel narratives, judicial documents, and official reports, Stephen Greenblatt shows that the experience of the marvelous, central to both art and philosophy, was manipulated by Columbus and others in the service of colonial appropriation. Much more than simply a collection of the odd and exotic, Marvelous Possessions is both a highly original extension of Greenblatt’s thinking on a subject that has permeated his career and a thrilling tale of wandering, kidnapping, and go-betweens—of daring improvisation, betrayal, and violence. Reaching back to the ancient Greeks, forward to the present, and, in his new preface, even to fantastical meetings between humans and aliens in movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Greenblatt would have us ask: How is it possible, in a time of disorientation, hatred of the other, and possessiveness, to keep the capacity for wonder—for tolerant recognition of cultural difference—from being poisoned?
- 2017 Stephen Greenblatt
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