Like all of Robert Pogue Harrison's books, Juvenescence ranges brilliantly across cultures and history, tracing the ways that the spirits of youth and age have inflected each other from antiquity to the present. Drawing on the scientific concept of neotony, or the retention of juvenile characteristics through adulthood, and extending it into the cultural realm, Harrison argues that youth is essential for culture s innovative drive and flashes of genius. At the same time, however, youthwhich Harrison sees as more protracted than everis a luxury that requires the stability and wisdom of our elders and the institutions. While genius liberates the novelties of the future, Harrison writes, wisdom inherits the legacies of the past, renewing them in the process of handing them down.
A heady, deeply learned excursion, rich with ideas and insights, Juvenescence could only have been written by Robert Pogue Harrison. No reader who has wondered at our culture's obsession with youth should miss it."
- ISBN-13: 9780226171999
- ISBN-10: 022617199X
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press
- Publish Date: November 2014
- Page Count: 224
- Dimensions: 8.56 x 6.47 x 0.81 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.95 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-09-08
- Reviewer: Staff
In this study, Harrison (The Dominion of the Dead) explores our culture’s understanding of age, youth, and aging. Why, Harrison wants to know, do middle-aged adults in the West seem so physically and culturally youthful? Harrison offers some insight into the subject with this set of reflections, which are informed by Plato, the Bible, Shakespeare, and Nietzsche. At times, the book feels impenetrable, with observations that read like academic koans: “All we know for sure is that we are at once strangely young and immensely old, thanks to the extreme heterochrony of our present age, where the puer exists alongside the senex.” Hidden inside that cryptic sentence is one of Harrison’s main concerns: that the “puer” and “senex” (Latin for “boy” and “old man,” respectively) do not just coexist in the same society, but are also mutually alienated. In particular, Harrison asserts, old people are alienated by younger generations’ obsession with “neoteric novelties”—newness for its own sake. Perhaps no nation is as invested in the energy of youth as America; furthermore, the extent to which the world has changed so much over the past few decades means the old can no longer guide the young into maturity. For those readers, young or old, willing to press through the denser patches of Harrison’s prose, his book will provide mature wisdom indeed. (Nov.)