English 245 with Dr. G @ SUNY TC3
2. Beowulf 1
3. Beowulf 2
4. Middle Ages
6. Sir Gawain
9. Wife of Bath
11. Biblical Drama
12. Play of Mankind
14. Thomas More
15. Philip Sidney
16. Print Culture
17. Walter Raleigh
18. Twelfth Night 1
19. Twelfth Night 2
20. Civil War
22. Aphra Behn
23. Reading Papers
25. Rape of the Lock
27. New God
** 27. New appearances of God **
ASSIGNMENTS FOR THIS LESSON
The lesson includes both a quiz and a journal writing assignment to be submitted on the interactive course site at SUNY Learning Network. See General instructions on Journaling for this course. For a sample journal, see Dr. G's 2007 Brit Lit 1 Journal.
Write for an hour (or more if you have time). Summarize the readings or make notes you will find useful on the final essay. Some other journaling ideas for today include:
The readings for this lesson raise questions parallel to those we asked earlier in connection with “The Royal Society and the New Science” (Lesson 21). The interest in observation and speculation begun at the Restoration led to Newtonian physics and Lockean psychology, charting the outer world of nature and inner universe of human experience. What spirituality and other traditional ideology did the new science and rationalism of the Enlightenment displace? The answer seems to be: as little displacement as possible occurred.
The church had fractured into many parts; few people wanted to continue the religious wars that had torn the Tudor-Stuart era. Yet religious beliefs and dogmas remained and flourished alongside freethinking and skepticism.
The writers in this "Mind and God" perspectives section of our anthology establish positions resistant to empirical approach. They are all, in their various ways, doing the opposite of what Sprat declares the Fellows of the Royal Society are up to. The Fellows’ “purpose was to heap up a mixed mass of experiments, without digesting them into any perfect model,” but authors in these "Mind and God" perspectives assert order, completion and wholeness, either in the mechanical workings of the universe, the epistemological workings of the mind, or other asserted "divine works." The argument from design that we know today as "Creationism" and "Intelligent Design" arose in this period.
Alexander Pope revisited
The Essay is not only poetic but informal, taking the form
of an epistle (letter) to one of his friends,
Henry St. John. The title
also suggests informality, an "essay" (meaning "trial" as
Bacon had used the
term). Does this choice of poetic and conversational form allow
Pope to dispense with science, logic and reasoning, even formal
Is Pope accusing Hooke of looking too close at things?
Left: Alexander Pope.
Newton (1643-1727) explains his beliefs in the form
of a letter.
Of course, his choice of genre is largely
predetermined: he’s responding by letter to Bentley’s letter asking for
help in understanding the relationships between Newtonian science and
religious faith. But what does the letter form permit Newton to say?
He can, and does of course, essentially write a small essay, but that
essay takes on the qualities of a private conversation in which doubts,
implicit or explicit, can be answered directly.
The letter creates a supernatural
universe beyond the natural one. The supernatural exists
by inference. Nature is not “explicable by mere natural causes,”
so its origin must be ascribed “to
the counsel and contrivance of a voluntary agent.” The Creator is
premised on the basis of physical laws which appear to
be universal throughout nature. Order is established.
However, Newton's sense of being “forced to ascribe” to
conclusion will not be shared by
David Hume. The
Deist or Creationist conclusion may be plausible, but
it is not inevitable. As the introduction
to this "Mind and God" section points out, “for Newton, Locke, and countless other
inquirers, empiricism promised to explain the ways of God; but they had
begun a process which, in other hands, might threaten to explain God
Left: Isaac Newton.
Locke argues that when
an English person sees or thinks of a swan, she sees or thinks of a
“white color, long neck, red beak, black legs, and web feet, and all
these of a certain size, with a power of swimming in the water, and
making a certain kind of noise.” The mind puts these things
together to construct a whole swan. The “whole” comes second to the parts.
In this same way Locke concludes we put together the idea of God, composed of
bits of what we know magnified to an imagined perfection. This is not to
say that Locke does not believe in God, or that he believes only in a
humanly constructed God. He says that the human organism is capable
of understanding God only in this limited human way. He is no less Deist
Left: John Locke.
“Against Idleness and Mischief” and "Man Frail, and God Eternal" return to smooth sorting. The hymns are addressed to God; they call God to hear with the biggest most pleasing sound that people can produce. The whole idea of form is crucial in Watts: when to bolster with meter and rhyme and music and a general sense of congregational chorus to support an idea, and when to let the idea bleed itself out in more tense, private or disunified ways.
Joseph Addison ("Adam's son")
Note Addison’s switch from prose to poetry: the difference in typesetting on the page is something to consider. Does it call the readers to a different mode of thinking? We are forcibly moved from the engulfing prose of the page to the spatially isolated ode; the large margins of page-space itself give room for reflective thought?
Left: journalist, poet and playwright Joseph Addison, but that's not his hair.
Some great minds of the eighteenth century never felt fully satisfied with Berkeley’s system. Boswell recounts Samuel Johnson’s distinctive form of refutation: “After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I shall never forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, ‘I refute it thus’” (Life of Johnson [Oxford UP, 1980] 333). How would Philonous answer Johnson?
Left: Bishop Berkeley as seen in the National Portrait Gallery, London. If you kicked this small painting, it might not hurt your foot too much (although you would probably be arrested).
The question "who am I?" had been easier
to answer in the Middle Ages and the early modern
period. Britain had entered a century of new genres based on
exploration of the self: biography, autobiography, familiar letters, travel
narratives, and the novel.
Left: Scottish skeptical philosopher David Hume (shorter hair), a chief member of the Scottish Enlightenment.
Left: mad poet William Cowper.
In Oxford in the 1740s, Robert Lowth (1710–87) delivered lectures in which he demonstrated the differences between Old Testament prose, marked by regular word order (“correct, chaste, and temperate”), and poetry, in which “the free spirit is hurried along, and has neither leisure nor inclination to descend to those minute and rigid attentions. Frequently, instead of disguising the secret feelings of the author, it lays them quite open to public view; and the veil being as it were suddenly removed, all the affections and emotions of the soul, its sudden impulses, its hasty sallies and irregularities, are conspicuously displayed” (Lowth, The Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, trans. by G. Gregory , lecture 14; quoted in Sambrook, 188).
similar notion of poetry as "feelings" informs "Jubilate
Christopher Smart (1722-1771). Smart constructs a
God-warmed universe with strategies utterly unlike mathematical or philosophical
discourse—without argument, without formulas, without deduction, without
induction, but instead with bits of religious history, with linguistic puns,
with Hebraic parallelism, with public emotion, with sudden impulses,
with moving irregularities.
What are the
linguistic, historic, emotional, religious, and imaginative connections
that sustain this all-encompassing prayer?
Left: poet Christopher Smart. Affecting madness was expected of poets in the age of reason, the age of mad George III.
OTHER RESOURCES & AMUSEMENTS
George Berkeley at Bartleby.
John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education at Bartleby
Isaac Newton at St Andrews
Know of an excellent website that would wonderfully complement this lesson? Please send it to Dr. G.
Copyright 2008 by Gary Homer Gutchess