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Labors of Innocence in Early Modern England

Overview

In seventeenth-century England, intellectuals of all kinds discovered their idealized self-image in the Adam who investigated, named, and commanded the creatures. Reinvented as the agent of innocent curiosity, Adam was central to the project of redefining contemplation as a productive and public labor. It was by identifying with creation’s original sovereign, Joanna Picciotto argues, that early modern scientists, poets, and pamphleteers claimed authority as both workers and ...

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Overview

In seventeenth-century England, intellectuals of all kinds discovered their idealized self-image in the Adam who investigated, named, and commanded the creatures. Reinvented as the agent of innocent curiosity, Adam was central to the project of redefining contemplation as a productive and public labor. It was by identifying with creation’s original sovereign, Joanna Picciotto argues, that early modern scientists, poets, and pamphleteers claimed authority as both workers and “public persons.”

Tracking an ethos of imitatio Adami across a wide range of disciplines and devotions, Picciotto reveals how practical efforts to restore paradise generated the modern concept of objectivity and a novel understanding of the author as an agent of estranged perception. Finally, she shows how the effort to restore Adam as a working collective transformed the corpus mysticum into a public. Offering new readings of key texts by writers such as Robert Hooke, John Locke, Andrew Marvell, Joseph Addison, and most of all John Milton, Labors of Innocence in Early Modern England advances a new account of the relationship between Protestantism, experimental science, the public sphere, and intellectual labor itself.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

[Picciotto] offers real insights into many literati from Abraham Cowley and Andrew Marvell at the beginning of the chosen period to Daniel Defoe, Joseph Addison, and Celia Fiennes at the end. Particularly valuable are her accounts of the rhetorical strategies of self-presentation employed by [Robert] Hooke, [Robert] Boyle, and Mr. Spectator...An important resource for philosophy of science as well as English literature.
— E. D. Hill

J. Paul Hunter
Labors of Innocence is an outstanding contribution to early modern studies: strikingly original in its rethinking of key issues in intellectual history, rich in its implications for reconsidering major literary texts of the period, and persuasive in its insistence that there is a far more coherent seventeenth century than traditional definitions that split it have insisted. The virtues of the book are legion: its power of argument, clarity, and importance of subject, its honest engagement with scholarship across relevant disciplines, its care and generosity in dealing with the work of others. The work is complex and creative, the scholarship impeccable, the writing a joy.
Eileen Reeves
Joanna Picciotto's Labors of Innocence in Early Modern England is a splendid study of the origins, development, and eventual decline of the Experimentalist tradition in seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century English letters. In tracing out the arc of this intellectual and professional trajectory, Picciotto engages productively with the crucial religious, socio-economic, philosophical, and literary movements associated with the ongoing labors of the "innocent eye."
Joseph Wittreich
Labors of Innocence is itself an example of what it is about: a field of vision awash with insights. The book is spectacular in its reach, searching in its observations, convincing in its arguments, compelling in its conclusions. The penultimate chapter on Milton presents critical exegesis at its loftiest--and its very best. It shows the poet participating fully in the process by which fallen vision is expanded as sight is refined into insight and insight incites action. Professor Picciotto follows Milton in transforming a howling wilderness into a paradise of the imagination. This is the most important contribution to Milton studies in years.
Cynthia Wall
Labors of Innocence has a breathtaking scope, thoroughly investigating a wide range of historical and cultural contexts--political, religious, medical, agricultural, sexual, and social. Joanna Picciotto's thesis follows from her topic, emerging gradually, inductively, and experientially from the material she so richly gathers.
Choice - E. D. Hill
[Picciotto] offers real insights into many literati from Abraham Cowley and Andrew Marvell at the beginning of the chosen period to Daniel Defoe, Joseph Addison, and Celia Fiennes at the end. Particularly valuable are her accounts of the rhetorical strategies of self-presentation employed by [Robert] Hooke, [Robert] Boyle, and Mr. Spectator...An important resource for philosophy of science as well as English literature.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674049062
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 6/30/2010
  • Pages: 880
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Joanna Picciotto is an Associate Professor of English at University of California, Berkeley.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Intellectual's Two Bodies 1

I Contexts

1 Digging up the Hortus Conclusus 31

The Sacrament of Production 40

The Working Sovereign 56

The Ingenious Gardener 66

The First and Second Adams 75

Festival and the Ground of True Religion 87

Purgation and Progress 104

The Invisible College 116

2 A Union of Eyes and Hands: The Royal Society of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge 129

Ironizing the Golden Age 133

Nourishing the Body Politic 147

The University of Eden 166

The Histories of Trades 178

3 The Productive Eye 188

The Monstrous Representative 193

The Natural Literatus 211

Keeping a Virgin Mind: The Temptation of the Visible 225

Losing Perspective: Anti-virtuoso Satire and An Essay Concerning Human Understanding 242

4 The Culture of Curiosity 255

The Laboratory of the Mind 259

Composing a Self: Shaftesbury's Regimen and Boyle's Occasional Reflections 267

The Theater of the World 283

"There's No Respect of Persons There": The Coffeehouse as a Paradise Restored 297

The Athenian Mercury and Discursive Experimental Space 307

II Texts

5 Instruments of Truth 323

Precursors: Donne and Burton 330

"A New Invention" 336

The Last Instructions to a Painter 344

Instrumentalizing the Garden 356

Dryden's Modest Inquisition 377

"Accus'd of Innovation": Davenant as Natural Philosopher 380

The Desperate Cure of Verse 389

6 Milton and the Paradizable Reader 400

The Making of an Experimentalist Author 405

"Every Joynt and Member": Molding the Body of Truth 420

Perfected in Weakness 432

Hell, Chaos, and the "Cleer Spring" 442

Growing up to Godhead 464

Floral Spectacles 476

Entering on the Work 493

7 The Professional Observer 508

"Well-Tun'd Instruments": Experimental Athleticism 513

"An Idea of England": The Journeys of Celia Fiennes 527

Traveling in a Critical Manner: Defoe's Tour thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain 541

Surveying the Gaping Throng: The Observer as Cultural Critic 561

"One of Another Species": The Construction of Mr. Spectator 566

Mr. Spectator's Postmortem Body 583

Notes 593

Bibliography 767

Acknowledgments 841

Index 843

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