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Title: Feeling Faint: Exposing Consciousness in the Renaissance
Authors: Pertile, Giulio
Advisors: Barkan, Leonard
Contributors: Comparative Literature Department
Keywords: Affect
Subjects: Comparative literature
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: A study of swooning in theatrical and narrative works from the Renaissance, "Feeling Faint: Exposing Consciousness in the Renaissance" situates the Renaissance swoon in the context of the history of consciousness. On the one hand it reads the Renaissance swoon against medieval and neo-Platonic trances, in which loss of consciousness is a portal to divine vision. On the other, it sees the swoon as a proleptic challenge to the conception of consciousness in terms of clear and distinct awareness which emerges from Protestant notions of interiority and inner conviction to become a pillar of the modern rational and ethical self. The swoon opens up a vista onto a different mode of feeling--a self-experience identifiable with consciousness only in the measure that the latter can turn away from the world of objects and intuit nothing but itself. Such self-intuition is shown to be inseparable from threshold experiences where consciousness is disrupted or lost; consciousness itself is thereby revealed to be a form of vulnerability and exposure. The first chapter considers several moments of intense stupefaction in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso and argues that, in a world where sensation invariably gives rise to error, knowledge is available only when sensation is suspended. The second chapter turns to Spenser's Faerie Queene, and in particular to the recurrent motif of the "stound," a state of intensified temporality in which the senses apprehend nothing but their own activity; the chapter unfolds both the physiological and the theological ramifications of this state. The third chapter discusses Montaigne's description of his swoon on falling from a horse in Book II of the Essais; it argues that this moment at once facilitates and undercuts the encounter with death which lies at the heart of Montaigne's concept of expĂ©rience. The fourth chapter argues for a convergence of radical skepticism and reflexive affectivity in Othello's swoon at the beginning of Act 4 of Othello. The final chapter traces "specters of insentience" throughout the Winter's Tale, showing how those specters always emerge in situations where one character's surplus of sensory power leads to another's loss of it.
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:Comparative Literature

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