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Mr. Jefferson's University (National Geographic Directions)by Garry Wills
Synopses & Reviews
In the paperback edition of the critically acclaimed hardcover, bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize-winner Garry Wills explores Thomas Jefferson's final and favorite achievement, the University of Virginia.
The University of Virginia is one of America's greatest architectural treasures and one of Thomas Jefferson's proudest achievements. At his request his headstone says nothing of his service as America's first Secretary of State or its third President. It says simply: "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia." For this political genius was a supremely gifted artist as well, and of all Jefferson's stunning accomplishments, the school he built in Charlottesville is perhaps the most perfect expression of the man himself: as leader, as architect, and as philosopher.
In this engrossing, perceptive book, Garry Wills once again displays the keen intelligence and eloquent style that have won him great critical praise as he explores the creation of a masterpiece, tracing its evolution from Jefferson's idea of an "academical village" into a classically beautiful campus. Mr. Jefferson's University is at once a wonderful chronicle of the birth of a national institution and a deft portrait of the towering American who brought it to life.
"There is much auspicious history to explore here, and Wills does so with great narrative skills." —Richmond Times-Dispatch
"His command of the subject is formidable." —Los Angeles Times
From the Trade Paperback edition.
"Wills is far nimbler at describing the hurdles Thomas Jefferson faced while constructing the 'academical village' of his dreams, the University of Virginia, than he is at imparting any real sense of what a visit to the finished product is like." Publishers Weekly
In Charlottesville, Virginia, at the University of Virginia, there is today—beneath the irregular rhythms of modern student comings and goings—a severely rhythmic expression of the Enlightenment, a philosophy concretized in brick and timber. The play of one architectural element into another is meant to express the interconnectedness of all knowledge. It is Jeffersons last but not his least achievement, and one of the three things that he put on his own tombstone to be remembered by.
In important ways, this architectural complex is a better expression of Jeffersons mind than is his home on the hill overlooking the campus. Chance had a great deal to do with the way Monticello grew up over the years. But everything in the universitys structure was planned, to the last detail—a meticulous ordering that is both romantic and quixotic. It is a place of study that itself repays study, and makes on lost world of the 18th century only half lost after all.
About the Author
The Pulitzer Prize winning author, Garry Wills, is a professor of history at Northwestern University.
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