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Title: "Shall I say 'tis so?' : Elizabethan fictions and the poetics of inquiry
Author: Harmer, J. K.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis concerns emergent representations of psychological epistemology in Elizabethan fictions. For Elizabethan writers, does self-consciousness exist as consciousness of an actual something that makes meaning out of experience? The thesis explores how an Elizabethan poetics of inquiry develops this question on its own terms, seeking to represent and question the reality of an originary dialogic inner voice – a voice in the head – as the heuristic moment-to-moment experience of the self as a thinking thing. I argue that the problem of the reality, the actualité of such an inner voice, fundamental to the history of the philosophy of mind, emerges as such for a range of major authors in fictions composed c.1580-97. My thesis aims accordingly to recover an understanding of how imaginative literature in this period conceptualised fundamental questions about the experience of consciousness itself. Literary writing is seen to address poetically, developmentally and variously central questions about the experience of human inquiry in ways that do not accrue to separate philosophical speculation during this period. Part 1 discusses the confusing and confusedly related idioms for self-perception – of the mind’s eye and the ‘talk which the soul has with itself’ – that are epistemologically troublesome for Plato and the Platonic tradition but less so for Aristotle and post-Aristotelian traditions. This part of the thesis traces how these Platonic idioms are shared and altered by Ovid’s highly inventive and influential epistolary poems, the Heroides, and theorises how a strange and powerful coupling of Platonic and Ovidian texts creates the core intertextual features of an Elizabethan poetics of inquiry. The latter stages of part 1 historically and critically contextualise this intertextual framework for handling the phenomenon of the voice in the head. In part 2, five detailed case studies consider works by Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, George Chapman and John Donne.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available