Natural Philosophy and the 'New Science'
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CitationBlair, Ann. "Natural Philosophy and the 'New Science'" In The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism: Volume 3, The Renaissance, edited by Glyn P. Norton, 449-57. Vol. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
AbstractThe studies by Marjorie Hope Nicolson, and others, of the impact of the 'new science' on seventeenth-century English literature assumed an unproblematic demarcation between science and literature. Since the 1950s this notion has been challenged, both by new trends in 'literature and science' (from cyberspace to the rhetoric of science) and by recent historical scholarship. In particular, as this brief sketch will suggest, the historical complexity of the relations between natural philosophy and literature in the early modern period belies not only the traditional assumption of a separate science which 'influences' literature, but also the more recent intimations that science simply is literature. In the Renaissance proper (say, until 1630) the methods, goals and individuals involved in the two clusters of disciplines overlapped in a number of ways. During the seventeenth century new developments in both science and literary criticism tended, sometimes self-consciously, to define the two fields as separate and even opposed. Although one can see in these trends the foundations for our modern sense of a gulf between science and literature, at the time such a gap was not so readily apparent.
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