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Skepticism in Early Modern English Literature
The Problems and Pleasures of Doubt

£75.00

  • Date Published: April 2021
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108842662

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  • This ambitious account of skepticism's effects on major authors of England's Golden Age shows how key philosophical problems inspired literary innovations in poetry and prose. When figures like Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, Herbert of Cherbury, Cavendish, Marvell and Milton question theories of language, degrees of knowledge and belief, and dwell on the uncertainties of perception, they forever change English literature, ushering it into a secular mode. While tracing a narrative arc from medieval nominalism to late seventeenth-century taste, the book explores the aesthetic pleasures and political quandaries induced by skeptical doubt. It also incorporates modern philosophical views of skepticism: those of Stanley Cavell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Roland Barthes, and Hans Blumenberg, among others. The book thus contributes to interdisciplinary studies of philosophy and literature as well as to current debates about skepticism as a secularizing force, fostering civil liberties and religious freedoms.

    • Provides a more holistic view of early modern skepticism, showing how it influences conditions of human possibility represented in literature
    • Organized around key topics on skepticism, including nominalism, fantasies of private language, illusions of neutrality, parodies of sovereignty, and exercises in aesthetic discrimination
    • Offers an extended chronological account, allowing readers to see the varied effects and shaping influence of skepticism in history and literature over time
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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2021
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108842662
    • length: 300 pages
    • dimensions: 150 x 230 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.56kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction. Secularizing Skepticism?
    1. Visionary Interrupted: Spenser's Skeptical Artwork, 2. Fantasies of Private Language: Shakespeare's 'The Phoenix and Turtle' and Donne's 'The Ecstasy'
    3. Conformity/Neutrality in Lord Herbert of Cherbury
    4. The Skeptical Fancies of Margaret Cavendish: Reoccupation
    5. The Enchantments of Andrew Marvell: Skepticism and Taste
    Afterword. Experience in Crisis: Milton's Samson Agonistes.

  • Author

    Anita Gilman Sherman, American University, Washington DC
    Anita Gilman Sherman is Associate Professor of Literature at American University, Washington, DC. She is the author of Skepticism and Memory in Shakespeare and Donne (2007) and has published articles on Montaigne, Garcilaso de la Vega, Thomas Heywood, W. G. Sebald, and others.

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