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Stephen Greenblatt Awarded Pulitzer For Nonfiction 09:31
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Author Stephen Greenblatt in Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Monday, April 16, 2012. (AP)
Author Stephen Greenblatt in Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Monday, April 16, 2012. (AP)

Harvard literary critic Stephen Greenblatt was awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction for his book, "The Swerve: How The World Became Modern."

The book examines the discovery and significance of a once-lost epic poem written by the Roman philosopher Lucretius in 50 B.C.

The poem, titled "On the Nature of Things," contains some thrilling and controversial ideas. Ideas well ahead of their time. Greenblatt says the poem helped to shape the course of human thought and influenced the world's greatest thinkers — from Galileo to Einstein and Shakespeare to Thomas Jefferson.

Ideas Lucretius explores in the poem include that there is no creator or grand plan; all organized religions are superstitious delusions; we are all made of minute particles — like atoms — the very same matter as the stars and oceans; there's no after life; and we should live not in fear of the gods or of death, but in pursuit of pleasure.

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This segment aired on April 19, 2012.

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