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Title: Irrational Actors: Literature and Logic in Early Modern England
Authors: Rutherford, James
Advisors: Smith, Nigel
Contributors: English Department
Subjects: Literature
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: In Irrational Actors: Literature, Logic, and Religious Experience I provide a new history of early modern logic, as seen through the work of authors--including Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, Thomas Middleton, and John Milton--who are not known for being logicians, and in many cases might have denied the appellation. I demonstrate, nevertheless, that only by examining logic through the lens of literature is it possible to explain the stakes of early modern innovations in logical method for phenomenal experience, for interpersonal communication and, ultimately, for salvation. The reception of logic by poets and playwrights is complex: they do not merely read logic texts in a vacuum, but interpret it within a climate of controversial opinion. In the early modern period, logic became a subject of unprecedented notoriety, due in large part to the controversial life and career of the logician Petrus Ramus, whose death in the purge of Protestants in Paris during the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre helped to link logical method with religious and political conviction. Observing the violent debates of their age, early modern authors could not help but realize that though logic had pretensions to rigorous objectivity, its conclusions tended to vary with its context. It is, I argue, this paradox that fascinated authors like Marlowe, Shakespeare, Middleton, and Milton. In works like Doctor Faustus, Hamlet, The Changeling, and Paradise Lost, these authors make constant use of logical forms, but they do so in order to arrive at a wide variety of results. In their hands, logic proves to be a surprisingly versatile, and aesthetically rich, instrument.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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