Robert Pogue Harrison's books, Juvenescence ranges brilliantly across cultures and history, tracing the ways that the spirits of youth and age have inflected each other from antiquity to the present. Drawing on the scientific concept of neotony, or the retention of juvenile characteristics through adulthood, and extending it into the cultural realm, Harrison argues that youth is essential for culture’s innovative drive and flashes of genius. At the same time, however, youth is a luxury that requires the stability and wisdom of our elders and the institutions.
Robert Pogue Harrison (Smirne, 1954) is a professor of literature at Stanford University, where he is Rosina Pierotti Professor of Italian Literature in the Department of French & Italian. He has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2007. Harrison began his academic career as a Dante scholar, in particular focused on the Vita Nova. His work quickly expanded to concern itself broadly with the Western literary and philosophical tradition, focusing on the human place in nature and what he calls "the humic foundations" of human culture. His studies of symbols and images in Western literature are expressed in Forests: The Shadow of Civilization, a wideranging history of the religious, mythological, literary, and philosophical role of forests in the Western imagination. This book that made him known globally was published by University of Chicago Press in 1992, then published in Italy by Garzanti in 1995 entitled Foreste. His other works are The Body of Beatrice and The Dominion of the Dead, Gardens: An Essay on the human condition, both published by the University of Chicago Press.