What We Are Reading Today: The Great Leveler

Updated 17 September 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: The Great Leveler

AUTHOR: Walter Scheidel

Are mass violence and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease economic inequality?

To judge by thousands of years of history, the answer is yes.

Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter Scheidel shows that inequality never dies peacefully, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

Inequality declines when carnage and disaster strike and increases when peace and stability return.

The Great Leveler is the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around the world.

Ever since humans began to farm, herd livestock, and pass on their assets to future generations, economic inequality has been a defining feature of civilization.

Over thousands of years, only violent events have significantly lessened inequality.

Today, the violence that reduced inequality in the past seems to have diminished, and that is a good thing. But it casts serious doubt on the prospects for a more equal future.


What We Are Reading Today: The Tale of Genji, A Visual Companion

Updated 17 October 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: The Tale of Genji, A Visual Companion

  • Melissa McCormick provides a unique companion to Murasaki’s tale with the oldest dated set of Genji illustrations known to exist

Book Title:  The Tale of Genji, A Visual Companion

Author: Melissa McCormick

 

Written in the 11th century by the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji is a masterpiece of prose and poetry that is widely considered the world’s first novel. Melissa McCormick provides a unique companion to Murasaki’s tale that combines discussions of all 54 of its chapters with paintings and calligraphy from the Genji Album (1510) in the Harvard Art Museums, the oldest dated set of Genji illustrations known to exist.

In this book, the album’s colorful painting and calligraphy leaves are fully reproduced for the first time, followed by McCormick’s insightful essays that analyze the Genji story and the album’s unique combinations of word and image. 

This stunning compendium also includes English translations and Japanese transcriptions of the album’s calligraphy, enabling a holistic experience of the work for readers today. In an introduction to the volume, McCormick tells the fascinating stories of the individuals who created the Genji Album in the sixteenth century, from the famous court painter who executed the paintings and the aristocrats who brushed the calligraphy to the work’s warrior patrons and the poet-scholars who acted as their intermediaries.

Beautifully illustrated, this book serves as an invaluable guide for readers interested in The Tale of Genji, Japanese literature, and the captivating visual world of Japan’s most celebrated work of fiction.