"This project uncovers the interface between imaginative literature and epistemology in its wider sense in early modern England (1500-1700). This period of intense literary production also saw the cultural forces of humanism and the Reformation collide; crucial shifts in the law; scientific advancement; and dramatic expansion in trade and travel. At stake across the board was knowledge: its theories and technologies, its excitements and anxieties. We examine intersections between literary forms and apparently disparate areas of thinking about ways of knowing:
• natural philosophy
• economic thinking
Subsequent disciplinary segregation has obscured the understood relations among these disciplines: epistemic transactions vital to the experiences of knowledge and belief which so deeply vexed and shaped the period’s thought.
Our quarry is the specific intervention of literary texts in this conversation. What does literature know, or tell us, that other discourses cannot, or do not, because of their disciplinary investments? What aspirations to objectivity or assurance will it not share with science, religion or the law? How does it complicate economic ideas of insurance by translating them to affective notions of risk and surety? And how do these cognate practices engage with literary constitutions of knowledge? To recover the multiple frame against which this culture articulates its conceptions of knowledge, we read these fields as coeval but distinct. Across the five years, we use two thematic foci to explore and institutionalise the blind spots of knowledge, thereby rewriting the story of early modern epistemology:
i) knowing and knowingness;
ii) doubt and unknowing
To grasp the dialogic relations, we must harness specialist expertise in each discipline. Research will be organised along the four disciplinary strands in the first four years, with literary engagement as a constant, the final year consolidating the project with specific events."
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