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Greed: The Seven Deadly Sins (New York Public Library Lectures in Humanities)

Greed: The Seven Deadly Sins (New York Public Library Lectures in Humanities)
Author: Phyllis A. Tickle
ISBN 13: 9780195156607
ISBN 10: 195156609
Edition: 1
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2004-04-15
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 120
List Price: $23.95

Grasping. Avarice. Covetousness. Miserliness. Insatiable cupidity. Overreaching ambition. Desire spun out of control. The deadly sin of Greed goes by many names, appears in many guises, and wreaks havoc on individuals and nations alike. In this lively and generous book, Phyllis A. Tickle argues that Greed is "the Matriarch of the Deadly Clan," the ultimate source of Pride, Envy, Sloth, Gluttony, Lust, and Anger. She shows that the major faiths, from Hinduism and Taoism to Buddhism and Christianity regard Greed as the greatest calamity humans can indulge in, engendering further sins and eviscerating all virtues. As the Sikh holy book Adi Granth asks: "Where there is greed, what love can there be?" Tickle takes a long view of Greed, from St. Paul to the present, focusing particularly on changing imaginative representations of Greed in Western literature and art. Looking at such works as the Psychomachia, or "Soul Battle" of the fifth-century poet Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, the paintings of Peter Bruegel and Hieronymous Bosch, the 1987 film Wall Street, and the contemporary Italian artist Mario Donizetti, Tickle shows how our perceptions have evolved from the medieval understanding of Greed as a spiritual enemy to a nineteenth-century sociological construct to an early twentieth-century psychological deficiency, and finally to a new view, powerfully articulated in Donizetti's mystical paintings, of Greed as both tragic and beautiful.

Engaging, witty, brilliantly insightful, Greed explores the full range of this deadly sin's subtle, chameleon-like qualities, and the enormous destructive power it wields, evidenced all too clearly in the world today.

Publishers Weekly

The most insidious and least obvious of offenses is addressed in a specifically religious context in this latest entry to Oxford's Seven Deadly Sins series. After a brief survey of the status of greed in non-Western religions, the meat of this essay from former PW religion editor Tickle is devoted to a sequence of (mostly visual) representations of greed that track the shift from what she terms the physical imagination of pre-Reformation Christianity to the modern "intellectual imagination" of religious thought. There is an inspired essay lurking in these pages, about how the transformation of greed from a specific offense against godliness to a brutal but amoral force of society is a potent indicator of how the essence of religion has changed in the modern era. Compelling, too, is Tickle's intuition that in our own epoch the transformation of greed into a kind of mass hysteria heralds a similarly huge shift. Her readings of very apt images by Bosch, Brueghel the Elder and the modern Italian painter Donizetti can get obscured by asides and qualifications (particularly on the evolution of religious sensibility in the West), however, and Erich von Stroheim's great film doesn't get the discussion it deserves. But Tickle's thoughtfulness and scholarship will make readers avaricious and leave them wanting more. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.