on Aug. 6, 2013 :
In Our Experience, Ourselves, Lyn Relph explores one of the central questions about human knowledge, which he describes as follows: “To what extent can we let experience be our guide through this world, even if that means ignoring or defying outside sources of authority commanding us to hear and obey?”
In considering this question, Relph makes a grand tour of Western thought, starting with the ancient Greeks and Romans, continuing on through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, taking us all the way to the present day. He draws from a great variety of primary sources, from the writings of ancients like Democritus, Plato, Homer, and St. Paul, to Ibn Tufayl, Boccaccio, and Chaucer in the Middle Ages, onward to Cervantes, Montaigne, Bacon, Swift, and many others. The central theme of man’s relationship to his experience is pursued across many cultures and historical times, and the overall effect is to give the reader a broad and inspiring view of the sweep of the history of thought.
This is anything but dry history; instead, the book is a very enjoyable read. The tone is conversational, and Relph includes many amusing anecdotes and fascinating historical details. On every page the reader learns something new, whether the story of how Mondino, da Vinci, and Vesalius developed our understanding of human anatomy, or the story of Harriet Martineau, a celebrated English writer of the nineteenth century who is often called the first female sociologist. Any reader with an active curiosity will find hundreds of gems in these pages.
Hats off to Lyn Relph, who has demonstrated the value of his personal experience as a professor of literature by writing this book, which is certain to inform and entertain any discriminating reader.
(reviewed 16 days after purchase)
on Oct. 5, 2012 :
This book is a must for all those who missed a classical education. It is a wonderful trip through time. It will certainly register and raise issues in places you least thought of, and as Tom Mulleague said in his review, gives you a new insight into your own experiences.
(reviewed 3 days after purchase)
on Sep. 9, 2012 :
I finally got a chance to spend some time with your book today. I’m enjoying the heck out of it, it reads great and keeps moving right along. Can’t wait to see where you’re taking me. It has a tendancy to give me insight into my own experiences and how they shape my own writing, and life. Great work Lyn!
(reviewed 13 days after purchase)
on Sep. 8, 2012 :
This is a fascinating book that made me view my own experiences in new ways and to think more about how others are shaped by theirs. The examples Relph uses are varied and thought-provoking, from the ancient Greeks and the journey of Odysseus, to the author's tale of his uncle's return from World War II broken by the experience of war, I was engaged and able to connect intellectually and emotionally with this book.
I was pleased to see his inclusion of so many women's experiences from Chaucer's Wife of Bath to the riviting modern biography of writer, Mary Karr. I find that I'm now thinking about my own experiences in new ways. I've always known that we're made up of the sum of our experiences, but I don't think I was ever so aware of how others, too, are shaped and limited by theirs. So beware! This book may change you in ways you do not expect.
(reviewed 3 days after purchase)