“Always,” wrote Philip Larkin, “it is by bridges that we live.” Bridges represent our aspirations to connect, to soar across divides. And it is the unfinished business of these aspirations that makes bridges such stirring sights, especially when they are marvels of ingenuity.
A rich compendium of myths, superstitions, literary and ideological figurations, as well as architectural and musical illustrations, Of Bridges organizes a poetic and philosophical history of bridges into nine thematic clusters. Leaping in lucid prose between seemingly unrelated times and places, Thomas Harrison gives a panoramic account of the diverse meanings and valences of human bridges, questioning why they are built and where they lead. He investigates bridges as flashpoints in war and the mega-bridges of our globalized world. He probes links forged by religion between life’s transience and eternity and the consolidating ties of music, illustrated in a case study of the blues. He illuminates the real and symbolic crossings facing migrants each day and the affective connections that make persons and societies cohere. In fine and intricate readings of literature, philosophy, art, and geography, Harrison engages in a profound reflection on how bridges form and transform cultural communities. Interdisciplinary and deeply lyrical, Of Bridges is a mesmerizing, vertiginous tale of bridges both visible and invisible, both lived and imagined.
Thomas Harrison, Of Bridges: A Poetic and Philosophical Account (University of Chicago Press, 2021)
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