Romantic Science: Science and Romance as Literary Modes in Sir Kenelm Digby's Loose Fantasies and Two Treatises
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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This thesis argues that 17th century polymath Sir Kenelm Digby treats his scientific discourses as psychological romances in his works Loose Fantasies and Two Treatises, with his use of courtly romantic tropes, and that a contemporary audience would have read Digby's scientific treatises as literary. I first argue that science and romance in Digby's narrative romance Loose Fantasies are literary modes of the text's narrative form and that these modes are not mutually exclusive, since science is a "pyschodrama" to Digby, who is both the audience and author of these putative "private memoirs." I then relate Digby's "romantic science" in Loose Fantasies to his "poetike Idea of science" in Digby's Two Treatises in order to argue that while the treatise is traditionally received as a philosophical discourse, it is also a work of literary criticism. I conclude that Digby's "poetike Idea of science" is always unstable, because Digby cannot choose between the primacy of language and ideas in human cognition, due to the rapid rationalistic developments in epistemology during his time
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