Mr. Jefferson's University

Mr. Jefferson's University

by Garry Wills


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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 Jefferson's 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 Jefferson's 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 university's 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780792255604
Publisher: National Geographic Society
Publication date: 08/15/2006
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 805,335
Product dimensions: 5.52(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

Garry Wills, adjunct professor of history at Northwestern University, is the author of many books, including Lincoln at Gettysburg, Papal Sin, Venice: Lion City, Saint Augustine, and James Madison. He has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Date of Birth:

May 22, 1934

Place of Birth:

Atlanta, GA


St. Louis University, B.A., 1957; Xavier University, M.A., 1958; Yale University, Ph.D., 1961

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Mr. Jefferson's University 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
johnxlibris on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book just before I left Charlottesville in May. As prose goes, this is not a well written book. The fact-forward, clunky style is more appropriate to journalism final exams... and in dire need of an editor. His word choice is puzzling at times and sentences often end (and begin) abruptly, unconscious of narrative finesse.Yet in spite of its stylistic shortcomings, the book is easy to follow: that is, if you are familiar with UVA. I've been reading it on the bus to and from work, picking it up for 20-45 minutes at a time and setting it aside for the rest of the day. Wills attempts to reconstruct the building of UVA's "academical village" through Jefferson's perspective (his sources and citations primarily come from the letters of TJ and Joseph Cabell). I would stress the word "reconstruct" because Wills sees with the eyes of an architect. Furthermore, I should note that if you haven't been to UVA and familiarized yourself with the grounds, you may have trouble following his sinewy, structural descriptions. (Here is what I suggest. If you live in Charlottesville, or are planning to visit, take this book and read it as you walk around central grounds. There's little point in trying to read this unless you can easily visualize what Wills illustrates.)There is little in the way of elaboration, comment, or speculation. With the exception of a concise summary or platitude to serve as a segue, Wills rarely adds his own voice. The "whys" are most often supplied by Jefferson's words. If there is a particular aesthetic beauty in one of Jefferson's architectural choices, we know it through comparison, contemporary criticism, or justification, but rarely by way of Wills own voice.Which is a shame because he obviously loves C'ville and TJ. His specificity in regards to the masonry of each building of the Lawn & Range is enough to show his admiration. But I'm half-way through the book; I don't expect the status quo to change.
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