Seeming Knowledge: Shakespeare and Skeptical Faith

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Seeming Knowledge revisits the question of Shakespeare and religion by focusing on the conjunction of faith and skepticism in his writing. Cox argues that the relationship between faith and skepticism is not an invented conjunction. The recognition of the history of faith and skepticism in the sixteenth century illuminates a tradition that Shakespeare inherited and represented more subtly and effectively than any other writer of his generation.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"John Cox offers a compelling account of the Christian premises of Shakespeare's plays, one that seeks neither to revive the complacent politics of the Elizabethan World Picture nor to drum up old factions by treating drama as coded theological polemic. Instead, Seeming Knowledge makes apparent how fully the faith informing Shakespeare's plays registers the duplicities of false consciousness and the opacity of mortal suffering, and also how little it owes to the Reformation. This is an immensely provocative and immensely thoughtful book."
--Debora Shuger, Professor of English at University of California, Los Angeles

"[T]his is a thoughtfully argued, clearly written, and deeply informed essay which will appeal not only to Shakespeareans but to anyone interested in the intersection of drama, religion, and philosophy in Tudor-Stuart England."
--Sixteenth Century Journal, XL/3 (2009)

"This volume is a startling review of Renaissance English literature in a patient uncovering of the deep relationship between literature and religion - of religion in literature, that resituates Shakespeare in the history of Christian consciousness through his profound comedic sense of language and dramatic narrative at the heart of which may reside the hiddenness of God. This work deserves to be deeply pondered not only by students of Shakespeare, but by theologians and historians of the history of European ideas."
--David Jasper, Professor of Literature and Theology, University of Glasgow

"Engaging and incisive throughout, Seeming Knowledge is impressive not only for its vast, in-depth coverage of Shakespeare's works, but also for its compelling argumentation. John Cox is extremely well-read in early Tudor and Elizabethan theater and also in the works of Erasmus, More, Montaigne, Descartes, Pascal and others. His application of these works to Shakespeare is subtle and original. His book is in fact a powerful invitation to rethink our usual understanding of skepticism in the Renaissance and in Shakespeare. By being skeptical of skepticism, Cox profoundly redefines our view of Shakespeare's relation to faith and religion. This work is a major contribution to the field."
--Dr. Jean-Christophe Mayer, French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), author of Shakespeare's Hybrid Faith-History, Religion and the Stage

"This fine, even magisterial book is immensely broad-ranging, original and full of brave new insights on the entire Shakespeare canon. Cox's readings are so assured that he makes this look easy, but there is a wealth of thought and erudition behind each sentence and he is one of the few Shakespeareans who really seems to understand medieval drama. Here is a Shakespearean who understands both medieval drama and the Christian narrative of fall and redemption as a serious intellectual and affective resource. I found the book moving and exhilarating to read."
--Sarah Beckwith, Marcello Lotti Professor of English, Duke University

"In this book, John Cox exercises his broad learning and generous interpretive vision in order to deliver us a Shakespeare whose plays occupy a capacious middle ground between faith and skepticism, a territory measured by the divine comedy of the Christian story, yet kept flexible and responsive to other perspectives and possibilities by the morally and mentally quickening habits of suspicion. By providing thoughtful thematic readings of Shakespeare's major plays, this book will appeal not only to scholars interested in the religious and intellectual parameters of Shakespearean drama, but also to educated general readers in search of wisdom from as well as about Shakespeare."
--Julia Reinhard Lupton, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of California - Irvine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932792959
  • Publisher: Baylor University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2007
  • Series: Studies in Christianity and Literature
  • Pages: 355
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments     xi
Skepticism and Suspicion in Sixteenth-century England     1
Comic Faith     33
Tragic Grace     65
History and Guilt     97
Politics     131
Ethics     161
Esthetics, Epistemology, Ontology     195
Shakespeare and the French Epistemologists     227
Notes     251
Works Cited     317
Index     333
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