Book

The Seeds of Things

Jonathan Goldberg

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780823230662
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235827 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fso/9780823230662.001.0001
The Seeds of Things

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The title of this book translates one of the many ways in which Lucretius names the basic matter from which the world is made in De rerum natura. For Lucretius, and in the strain of thought following his study, matter is always in motion, always differing from itself and yet always also made of the same stuff. From the pious Lucy Hutchinson's all but complete translation of the Roman epic poem to Margaret Cavendish's repudiation of atomism (but not of its fundamental problematic of sameness and difference), a central concern of this book is how a thoroughgoing materialism can be read alongside other strains in the thought of the early modern period, particularly Christianity. The chapters move from Milton's monism to his angels and their insistent corporeality. Milton's angels have sex, and, throughout, this study emphasizes the consequences for thinking about sexuality offered by Lucretian materialism. Sameness of matter is not simply a question of same-sex copulation, and the relations of atoms in Cavendish and Hutchinson are replicated in the terms in which they imagine marriages of partners who are also their doubles. Likewise, Spenser's knights in the 1590 Faerie Queene pursue the virtues of Holiness, Temperance, and Chastity in quests that take the reader on a path of “askesis” of the kind that Lucretius recommends and that Foucault studied in the final volumes of his history of sexuality. Although English literature is the book's main concern, it first contemplates relations between Lucretian matter and Pauline flesh by way of Tintoretto's painting, The Conversion of St. Paul. Theoretical issues took place in the work of Agamben and Badiou, among others, leading to a chapter that takes up the role that Lucretius has played in theory, from Bergson and Marx to Foucault and Deleuze.

Keywords: Lucretius; De Rerum natura; matter; motion; Lucy Hutchinson; Margaret Cavendish; materialism; Christianity

Book.  256 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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Table of Contents

Introduction in The Seeds of Things

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Milton's Angels in The Seeds of Things

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