Losing Touch with Nature: Literature and the New Science in Sixteenth-Century England

Losing Touch with Nature: Literature and the New Science in Sixteenth-Century England

by Mary Thomas Crane


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Losing Touch with Nature: Literature and the New Science in Sixteenth-Century England by Mary Thomas Crane

During the scientific revolution, the dominant Aristotelian picture of nature, which cohered closely with common sense and ordinary perceptual experience, was completely overthrown. Although we now take for granted the ideas that the earth revolves around the sun and that seemingly solid matter is composed of tiny particles, these concepts seemed equally counterintuitive, anxiety provoking, and at odds with our ancestors’ embodied experience of the world. In Losing Touch with Nature, Mary Thomas Crane examines the complex way that the new science’s threat to intuitive Aristotelian notions of the natural world was treated and reflected in the work of Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, and other early modern writers.

Crane breaks new ground by arguing that sixteenth-century ideas about the universe were actually much more sophisticated, rational, and observation-based than many literary critics have assumed. The earliest stages of the scientific revolution in England were most powerfully experienced as a divergence of intuitive science from official science, causing a schism between embodied human experience of the world and learned explanations of how the world works. This fascinating book traces the growing awareness of that epistemological gap through textbooks and natural philosophy treatises to canonical poetry and plays, presciently registering and exploring the magnitude of the human loss that accompanied the beginnings of modern science.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781421415314
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 11/24/2014
Pages: 248
Sales rank: 924,987
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Mary Thomas Crane is the Thomas F. Rattigan Professor of English at Boston College. She is the author of Framing Authority: Sayings, Self, and Society in Sixteenth-Century England and Shakespeare’s Brain: Reading with Cognitive Theory.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

1 Introduction 1

2 Aristotelian Naturalism and Its Discontents 19

3 Losing Touch with Nature 52

4 Spenser and the New Science 94

5 Shakespeare and New Forms of Nothing 123

6 Matter and Power 148

Epilogue: What about Bacon? 167

Notes 177

Index 219

What People are Saying About This

Shankar Raman

Losing Touch with Nature offers a lucid, well-argued account of the prehistory of the scientific revolution in England. Crane’s timely study provides a useful model for bridging the gap between literary and scientific production during a period in English thought that has been relatively neglected by historians of science and literary critics alike. Rich in its interdisciplinarity and refreshing in its convincing refutation of many preconceptions about the state of scientific thought in the sixteenth century, this book will appeal to a wide audience.

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