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Jacques Barzun is dead
October 26, 2012 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Jacques Barzun, pioneering cultural historian and author of From Dawn to Decadence, has died at the age of 104.

In addition to scholarly works such as Darwin, Marx, Wagner: Critique of a Heritage and Berlioz and the Romantic Century, Barzun also wrote (with his friend Wendell Hertig Taylor) the delightful A Catalogue of Crime: Being a Reader's Guide to the Literature of Mystery, Detection, and Related Genres.

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posted by ubiquity (28 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Cash4Lead at 6:30 AM on October 26, 2012


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Dawn to Decadence is an awesome book.
posted by ocschwar at 6:37 AM on October 26, 2012


I remember writing a letter to some reporters for the San Antonio Express-News when I lived there, telling them Barzun's 100th was coming up and that, as one of San Antonio's cooler residents, they ought to do a story on him and his life's work.

Nothing.

RIP, sir.

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posted by resurrexit at 6:41 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by languagehat at 6:42 AM on October 26, 2012


That's good work, Jacques. Kudos.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:43 AM on October 26, 2012


Aw, man.

There's a collection of his writings (A Jacques Barzun Reader) which is also fantastic. One of my go-tos for travel reading.
posted by jquinby at 6:46 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by mfoight at 6:47 AM on October 26, 2012


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I owe much of my enthusiasm for French poetry to his book on that subject. Even when I disagreed with his aesthetics, I couldn't deny the vigor and intelligence with which he argued for them. My condolences go out to his survivors.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:02 AM on October 26, 2012


he was a titan
posted by the theory of revolution at 7:04 AM on October 26, 2012


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posted by Iridic at 7:06 AM on October 26, 2012


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posted by Egg Shen at 7:15 AM on October 26, 2012


Praised by Cynthia Ozick as among "the last of the thoroughgoing generalists,"

We need more like him in this age of valueing specificity.

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posted by incandissonance at 7:24 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


A magnificent intellect. An intellectual who would never have shirked from accepting that title.

Our world--where intellectual achievement and erudition are, sad to say, inexplicably disfavored--is immensely poorer for his passing.
posted by rdone at 7:26 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by anewnadir at 7:35 AM on October 26, 2012


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posted by cgc373 at 7:40 AM on October 26, 2012


I discovered he was still alive like 3 years ago. I sort of hoped he would always be alive, an eternal cultural critic.
posted by khaibit at 7:43 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


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Barzun's book on race (1937, revised ed. 1965) was one of the earliest works to argue that race was "socially constructed" (though he did not use that terminology):

"race-theories generally have a practical political purpose"
Jacques Barzun, Race: A Study in Superstition (New York et al.: Harper & Row, 1965), 17.
posted by dhens at 7:46 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are there no more Renaissance men (or women)?

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posted by jonp72 at 7:47 AM on October 26, 2012


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posted by Tsuga at 7:57 AM on October 26, 2012


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posted by fredzo718 at 8:03 AM on October 26, 2012


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posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:26 AM on October 26, 2012


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posted by Cocodrillo at 9:16 AM on October 26, 2012


The House of Intellect had a profound effect on how I came to see the world.

RIP, Jacques.
posted by sensate at 9:16 AM on October 26, 2012


I had assumed he'd been dead for years!

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posted by Obscure Reference at 10:12 AM on October 26, 2012


Barzun was a crank, but an amazing crank. Been fascinated with him since I first heard of him -- when he was 96 or so. "Dawn to Decadence" was a fantastic critique of 500 years of history, moreso since he had seen 20% of it.

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posted by zvs at 10:35 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and my favorite quote, from Columbia College Today in 2006:
In the 1960s, when Columbia’s tiny Monarchist Union called for the return of the University to the British crown, it insisted that Barzun be appointed royal governor “since he’s the last aristocrat left.”
posted by zvs at 10:58 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by putzface_dickman at 11:20 AM on October 26, 2012


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posted by snuffleupagus at 7:25 AM on October 27, 2012


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