Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age by Robert Pogue Harrison

By Robert Pogue Harrison

How outdated are you?

The extra suggestion you convey to endure at the query, the tougher it's to reply to. For we age concurrently in numerous methods: biologically, psychologically, socially. And we age in the greater framework of a tradition, in the middle of a heritage that predates us and may out live us. checked out via that lens, many features of past due modernity might recommend that we're older than ever, yet Robert Pogue Harrison argues that we're additionally getting startlingly younger—in appears to be like, mentality, and behaviour. we are living, he says, in an age of juvenescence.

Like all of Robert Pogue Harrison's books, Juvenescence levels brilliantly throughout cultures and heritage, tracing the ways in which the spirits of teenage and age have inflected one another from antiquity to the current. Drawing at the clinical proposal of neotony, or the retention of minor features via maturity, and increasing it into the cultural realm, Harrison argues that early life is vital for culture’s cutting edge force and flashes of genius. whilst, besides the fact that, youth—which Harrison sees as extra protracted than ever—is a luxurious that calls for the soundness and knowledge of our elders and the associations. “While genius liberates the novelties of the future,” Harrison writes, “wisdom inherits the legacies of the prior, renewing them within the means of handing them down.”

A heady, deeply discovered expedition, wealthy with rules and insights, Juvenescence may perhaps basically were written via Robert Pogue Harrison. No reader who has puzzled at our culture's obsession with early life should still pass over it.

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I intend this to mean that the gender divide, however deep it may run, is not in itself primordial. What is primordial is our human capacity to feel alienated, bewildered, and cut off from others, as if one were an anomic aberration among one’s kind. This sense of inner albinism does not afflict one gender more than another. It belongs to the distinctly human experience of A n t h r o p o s * 29 estrangement, especially during youth, when one is apt to feel as freakish as Frankenstein’s male monster, who vents his loneliness and incomprehension in words lent him by a woman.

It is with questions about the anatomy of that age difference that I propose to proceed. We who have become the awesome creature described by Sophocles’s Ode on Man—­we who, with our intelligence, have practically evolved beyond the animal kingdom—­did we become the most “advanced” species on earth by advancing beyond the adult stages reached by the ancestors in our remote phylogenetic past? Certainly many people thought so after the German biologist Ernst Haeckel first proposed his famous theory of recapitulation in the nineteenth century.

Recapitulation offered a powerful theory of human evolu‑ tion—­and in modified form is making a strong comeback to‑ day—­yet the morphological evidence worked against its main premise. In 1920 the Dutch anatomist Louis Bolk pointed to over twenty features that human adults share in common with juvenile primates and various mammalian embryos. For example, our round, bulbous cranium resembles the craniums of fetal and infant apes more than those of mature apes (see chapter notes for elaboration).

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