Cover for DELUMEAU: History of Paradise: The Garden of Eden in Myth and Tradition

History of Paradise

The Garden of Eden in Myth and Tradition

A fascinating and delightful voyage that shows us how Paradise-on-Earth was a reality for some and how those early pilgrimages have shaped our literature and our lives today

With erudition and wit, Jean Delumeau explores the medieval conviction that paradise existed in a precise although unreachable earthly location. Delving into the writings of dozens of medieval and Renaissance thinkers, from Augustine to Dante, Delumeau presents a luminous study of the meaning of Original Sin and the human yearning for paradise. The finest minds of the Middle Ages wrote about where paradise was to be found, what it was like, and who dwelt in it. Explorers sailed into the unknown in search of paradisal gardens of wealth and delight that were thought to be near the original Garden. Cartographers drew Eden into their maps, often indicating the wilderness into which Adam and Eve were cast, along with the magical kingdom of Prester John, Jerusalem, Babel, the Happy Isles, Ophir, and other places described in biblical narrative or borrowed from other cultures. Later, Renaissance thinkers and writers meticulously reconstructed the details of the original Eden, even providing schedules of the Creation and physical descriptions of Adam and Eve.

Even when the Enlightenment, with its discovery of fossils and pre-Darwinian theories of evolution, gradually banished the dream of paradise on earth, a nostalgia for Eden shaped elements of culture from literature to gardening. In our own time, Eden's hold on the Western imagination continues to fuel questions such as whether land should be conserved or exploited and whether a return to innocence is possible.

"A revealing and often fascinating history of Western man's conception of a primitive paradise."--Robert Bireley, Times Literary Supplement

Jean Delumeau, a professor at the College de France, is the author of Sin and Fear: The Emergence of a Western Guilt Culture and many other books.

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