Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(10) Seventeenth Century Philosophy and Science

New Genres

Autobiography and Biography

- numerous diaries, memoirs, and journals kept by individuals newly emerge

- autobiographies were encouraged by Protestant and especially Puritan directives to keep an account of events of spiritual significance for each day and to meditate on them

> Margaret Cavendish's (1623 - 73) personal autobiography A True Relation of My Birth, Breeding, and Life (1656) introduces as a speaker a close version of the author

> Sir Thomas Browne's (1605 - 82) intellectual autobiography Religio Medici (1643) contains as a speaker a carefully constructed persona

- earlier biographies were constructed as spiritual works dealing with conversion or providential experiences

> Thomas More's (c. 1477 - 1535) The History of King Richard III (1557)

> Izaak Walton's (1593 - 1683) several Lives (e.g. The Life and Death of Dr Donne, 1640, revised 1658) introduced new sophistication and completeness, while still bearing the imprint of the old model of the saint's life

Essay and Treatise

- inspired by Michel de Montaigne (1533 - 92), a French author of the witty, intimate, and reflective familiar essay

> Francis Bacon's (1561 - 1626) final edition of Essays (1625) adjusts the French essay to present the society's accumulated practical wisdom from the point of the man trying to make his way in the world

> Robert Burton's (1577 - 1640) The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) introduces the genre of a massive, detailed, comprehensive treatise

- shorter essays and longer treatises democratized prose, using it not only to represent but also to radically reform the institutions of the social world, as the church, state, universities, family, etc.

Earlier Seventeenth Century

Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626)

- followed a brilliant public career, studied law, served as a member of Parliament, and was finally appointed lord chancellor, i.e. the highest judicial post

- towards the end of his life (1621) was convicted of corruption and accepting bribes in a partly politically motivated charge and was forced from office, but frankly admitted that he did take bribes, as everyone else did

- played a central role in developing the English essay and English prose styles, also inaugurated the genre of the scientific utopia in his fictional The New Atlantis (1626) and created the myth of science as pathway to utopia

> Essays (1597, 1612, 1625):

- contrasts with M. de Montaigne's candid first person essayistic style in rarely using the first person, presenting himself rather as a mouthpiece for society's accumulated practical wisdom, and retaining a cool objectivity in tone

- the first edition is highly aphoristic in structure, resembles a collection of maxims placed in sequence, but the later two edition are longer and looser, use more figurative language, and are more unified

- focuses on the issues of practical morality, politics, social theory, and the theory of knowledge

> The Advancement of Learning (1605 in English, 1623 expanded in Latin):

- believes in a progressive development of human learning, aims to advance it through experiment and induction

- names the obstacles to the advancement, which include rhetoric (a study of words rather than of things), medieval Scholastics (reliance on a barren rationalism), and the pseudo-sciences of astrology and alchemy

- attempts to separate theology and science as two equally valid truths, one based on faith, the other on reason

> Novum Organum (The New Instrument, 1620):

- written in Latin, the title challenges Aristotle's Organon, then still the basis of university education, with its heavy reliance on deduction, and suggests induction as the new instrument for the advancement of learning

- argues for a new method of scientific thinking, free of the prejudices of the past and the affections of the present

- defines four kinds of idols to which we give false worship: the tribe, the cave, the market place, and the theatre

Robert Burton (1577 - 1640)

> The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621):

- an encyclopaedic treatise in English on a psychological malady Burton thought universal

- stresses the lapsed state of humankind and the susceptibility of the human mind to the unbalancing melancholia

- the author styles himself as 'Democritus Junior' in the preface, adopting the role of the Greek satirist Democritus

- draws on a mass of ancient and modern authority, cites more than a thousand of named authors

- writes in a digressive, loose, and galloping style, intermixes science, philosophy, poetry, history, and divinity

Thomas Hobbes (1588 - 1679)

- an adherent of the materialist philosophy: everything is composed only of matter, spirit does not exist, and all knowledge is based on sensory impressions, which are but matter in motion

> Leviathan (1651):

- the most important work of English political theory to appear up to that time

- grounds its political vision on a comprehensive philosophy of nature and of knowledge

- claims that human beings seek self-preservation as a primary goal and seek power as the means to secure that goal

- the natural human condition is a continual state of war of every man against every man

- to avoid this war and to secure survival, humans covenant with each other to establish one absolute sovereign who keeps them all in awe and incorporates all the wills and persons below him in a single sovereign will

- the title refers to the primordial sea creature from the Book of Job who is analogous both to God and to Satan and whom Hobbes takes as figure for the sovereign power in the state

Sir Thomas Browne (1605 - 1682)

- his English prose style is polysyllabic and Latinate, mixes wit and rhetoric, rises often to a resonant poetry

> Religio Medici (The Religion of a Doctor, authorized version published in 1643):

- an intellectual autobiography: neither tells a story of conversion nor reports the facts of his life, rather gives an exercise in delighted self-analysis and self-portrayal

- constructs a curious and engaging persona of a genial, tolerant, and speculative doctor who offers his personal and sometimes eccentric views on a wide variety of topics pertaining to religious doctrine and practice

- his views are moulded by common sense, pragmatism, and an exemplary religious tolerance

- writes as a well-informed and experimental physician who finds his religious faith confirmed by his scientific awe

- presents himself as a model Anglican, setting his example against the efforts of the reforming Puritans eager to rid the church of its errors

> Pseudodoxia Epidemica (also known as Vulgar Errors, 1646):

- a Baconian treatise analysing the causes of popular errors in various fields and the authors who perpetuate them

> Hydrotaphia, or Urn-Burial (1658) and The Garden of Cyrus (1658):

- the latter is named after the Persian emperor who supposedly constructed the Hanging Gardens of Babylon

- both are loose archaeological studies which interrelate ancient custom, a fascination with form and development, and a pervasive awareness of mortality

- the phenomena of death and decay are closely related to the significance of religious rites and religious comfort

Later Seventeenth Century

John Locke (1632 - 1704)

- an adherent of Deism, i.e. a belief in the existence of God who created the world but does not intervene in its run

> An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690):

- explores the human mind in general by closely watching one particular mind

- finds out that ideas are clear when they are based on direct experience and adequate when they are clear, but highly problematic when they do not refer to anything determinate

- rejects innate ideas in favour of the notion of knowledge based on the experience of external sensation, describes the mind at birth as a tabula rasa, a 'white paper... without any ideas'

- claims that words are signs not of things, but of ideas, and language is a creation of society which consents to the fact that certain words stand for certain ideas

- concludes that people should discard from their minds any ideas that cannot be reduced to clear determinate form, and so banishes the mysteries of faith which are essential to religion

> Two Treatises of Government (1689, 1690):

- emphasizes that civil societies are bonded together by an enlightened self-interest, that government exists as a trust conferred upon it by the consent of citizens, and if that trust be abused, citizens have a right to overthrow it

Sir Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727)

- revolutionized the study of mechanics and physics with three basics laws of motion

- designed the first reflecting telescope and explained why the sky looks blue

- famously discovered the universal law of gravity

- presented his results in treatises written in Latin

> Principia (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, 1687):

- made possible the modern understanding of the cosmos

> Opticks (1704):

- presented his discoveries about light and colour

- discovered that light is not homogeneous, but a compound of heterogeneous rays

- explained that white is not the absence of colour but a composite of all sorts of colour

Základní údaje

  • Předmět

    Britská literatura 3.
  • Semestr

    Zimní semestr 2008/09.
  • Přednášející

    David Livingstone.
  • Status

    Povinná přednáška pro III. blok.


Abrams, M. H., ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 1999.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.


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