Cover: Four Cultures of the West, from Harvard University PressCover: Four Cultures of the West in PAPERBACK

Four Cultures of the West

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$30.00 • £24.95 • €27.00

ISBN 9780674021037

Publication Date: 04/30/2006


272 pages

Belknap Press


O’Malley has given us a readable book with very wide learning in four cultures… This book will be of interest to and accessible to anyone interested in the cultural life of the West. At a time when the Christian origins of our culture, which in reality are so fundamental, are ignored, it offers a very valuable reminder and corrective.—Richard Harries, The Times Higher Education Supplement

This sweeping survey of Western cultural history, by John W. O’Malley, S.J., ought to be required reading for—among others—literary and philosophical [unbelievers]: postmodernists, New Agers, Generation-Xers and college students everywhere. It’s a clear cogent survey of the cultural roots we all have, willy-nilly, consciously or otherwise… In all this Father O’Malley makes an illuminating guide. His relaxed, agreeable prose (a blend of cultures two and three) should attract a wide spectrum of readers.—Peter Heinegg, America

O’Malley’s book is helpful in gaining a better understanding of the intellectual underpinnings of what we call the ‘student-centered’ approach. This is one reason why the book will be of interest to educators. Lucid, yet at the same time rich in history, it will be attractive to students and teachers of world cultures in many different disciplines.—Dr. Dovile Budryte, Bridges

This wise and elegant little survey of western Christian culture began life as the first Blessed Pope John XXIII lecture series at the University of Notre Dame, and it is a fine example of rhetoric in the best sense: an explicit exercise in epideictic, sorting out praise and blame.—Diarmaid MacCulloch, Ecclesiastical History

In this erudite work of cultural history, O’Malley extends ‘an invitation to consider and notice’ four distinctive paradigms or cultures that, taken together, handsomely help decode Western intellectual and cultural history. These four paradigms are the prophetic, the academic, the humanistic, and the culture of art and performance… O’Malley successfully showcases the affinities between historic cultures (e.g., the Greco-Roman) and persons (e.g., Aristotle, Aquinas, and Luther) and cultural realties in our own time (e.g., the contemplative rhetoric of Lincoln at Gettysburg prefiguring the rhetorical contemplation at Ground Zero).—Sandra Collins, Library Journal

Four Cultures of the West would make an excellent text for an interdisciplinary seminar on Western civilization, but the non-academic reader can enjoy and profit from it as well.—Darrell Turner, National Catholic Reporter

O’Malley…offers a warm and conversational invitation to reflect on four cultural configurations that feed into contemporary consciousness… What does human culture have to do with the culture of spiritual transcendence? His book, primarily concerned with the manifestations of these various cultures in the history of Christianity, spurs the reader on to meditate on the different streams that jostle, but sometimes converge, in an ‘ocean’ we all navigate.Publishers Weekly

John O’Malley’s Four Cultures of the West will delight scholars, students, general readers, specialists, young and old, the learned and the merely curious because of its combination of great learning with simplicity of language, elegance of style, and narrative gifts. Whatever our place in the culture wars of our troubled present we will learn to see ourselves differently from O’Malley’s analysis of styles of thought and expression flourishing side by side in what we call Western culture.—Jill Ker Conway, author of A Woman’s Education and True North

This is a bold tour de force.—Jaroslav Pelikan, author of Divine Rhetoric and Jesus through the Centuries

O’Malley’s succinct analysis of the Four Cultures of the West is one of those rare books that uses history to tell us as much about the intellectual conflicts of the present as it does about those of the past. I predict his categorical analysis will be widely cited and widely debated by commentators well beyond academic specialists.—Kenneth Woodward, contributing editor for Newsweek and author of Making Saints

Awards & Accolades

  • Honorable Mention, 2005 Catholic Press Association Book Awards, History Category
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