Introduction: "Capturing Proteus".
--vt hymettia sole Cera remollescit, tractataque pollice, multas Vertitur in fades, ipsoquefit vtilis vsu. --Ovid, Metamorphoses, 10.284 As the best-Bees-waxe melteth by the Sunne, And handled, into many formes doth runne, And is made aptly fit For vse by vsing it. --Michel de Montaigne, "An Apologie of Raymond Sebond," trans. John Florio (1603) (1)
In the midst of the longest and most philosophical of his Essais, Montaigne grapples with an epistemological dilemma--are there limits to human knowledge?--with two parables of form derived from Ovid's Metamorphoses. The first alludes to the myth that mother bears lick their whelps into shape, an image quoted in the lecture of Pythagoras in the last book of Ovid's poem: "A cub that a she-bear has just brought forth is not a cub, but a scarce-living lump of flesh; but the mother licks it into shape, and in this way gives it a figure proportionate to its size" (15.379-81). (2) The second parable comes in the Latin fragment describing the "many formes" of melted wax which can be "made apdy fit / For vse by vsing it," a passage that derives from Ovid's tale of Pygmalion. Pygmalion is a sculptor who falls in love with his own statue and pleads with the goddess Venus to transform the simulacra into a living woman. His prayers are answered, and at the moment the statue comes to life Ovid's poem compares her softening ivory body to a lump of wax growing warm in the sun. The philosopher, Montaigne suggests, is like the mother bear and the great sculptor, licking, handling, kneading, and shaping the "Sciences and Artes" into forms that keep the material of knowledge malleable enough to be reshaped by those "that shall followe [him]."
These two Ovidian exempla, which represent the work of form in acts of knowledge production, are noteworthy for their divergence from the familiar Aristotelian view that form is a masculine principle as well as the conventional Platonic view that form is perfect and unchanging. More importantly for our purposes, this passage offers a highly literary vision of the work of the philosopher. Indeed, it heavily implies that the "new matter" of Montaigne's philosophy--that which he sounds, tries, handles, and kneads into shape--is comprised of linguistic figures. Lastly, these Ovidian fragments define form in terms of formation, a process that unfolds in time and space, "by little and little." In this account, philosophy does not produce anything solid, certain, or complete, but rather simply participates in the ongoing formation of new shapes. Working within the terms of Montaigne's epistemology, we might say that knowledge in the "Sciences and Artes" can only be produced when this continual process of formation is momentarily arrested. Only then will the "matter" of philosophy assume a particular shape, that is, a new form.
We begin with this passage from the "Apologie" because it underscores the central claim of this special issue: early modern science is shaped by imaginative engagements with the problem of form. The essays included in this double issue reveal how early modern natural philosophy requires the category of form in order to define itself and its objects of inquiry. At the same time, these essays also illustrate how the language arts and imaginative literature are sites of philosophically consequential formal innovation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. (3) Like Montaigne, we position form as a concept that straddles the intersection of early modern literature and science (or what Montaigne and Florio would call "poesie" and "natural philosophy" respectively), and we emulate Montaigne's description of knowledge production as the dynamic formation of lively shapes made fit for "vse."
The essays collected here demonstrate that the widely hailed "return to form" in the literary humanities need not be exclusively understood as a return to a purified idea of the aesthetic. Rather, as our contributors attest, this return also signals the emergence of a new methodological paradigm in literature/science studies. (4) The authors published in this special issue approach form as a literary-philosophical problem that is central to this field of literary studies. In so doing, they demonstrate that interplays of form and formation are vital to early modern theories of the concept. (5) When we study it in relation to early modern epistemology, it becomes evident that form operates as an ontological category that is simultaneously structural and temporal. Early modern thinkers often turned to the complex nature of the universe (including its physical content, its substance, and the organisms present in it) to reflect on such ontological features of form, and these formal aspects of being have long been apparent to historians of science. Our contributors expand the purview of such discussions, suggesting that when we approach literary form as an engine of knowledge production we discover that it too is a "category of ontology." (6) This special issue thus defines early modern form as a dynamic concept that concurrently encompasses being and becoming.
This special issue emerges out of a conversation begun in a seminar at the Shakespeare Association of America (SAA) in 2016. The SAA seminar was inspired by our conviction that scholarship on early modern literature and science could benefit from a sustained inquiry into the nature of form as a concept and an instrument shared--and cocreated--by scientific, philosophical, and poetic discourse. In a rich critical literature that spans the past two decades, scholarships in early modern literature/science studies has exposed the shared methods of knowledge discourses in the period and asserted that any analysis of these discourses requires a cooperative approach that crosses modern disciplinary divides. (7) This line of thinking has productively reshaped research in early modern literary studies. However, historians of science have been slower to recognize the philosophical texture of early modern theories of linguistic form, even as they have readily engaged with linguistic form in its narrower sense as a matter of genre, rhetoric, and style. (8) This reluctance gestures to a missed opportunity. As Henry S. Turner argues, one crucial thing that the history of science can "learn" from literary studies is a fuller accounting of "the problem of form." (9) In response to this provocation, our seminar invited participants to collectively develop--and recover--a lexicon and a set of methodologies that would enable attention to this "problem of form." We also asked, how might the specificity of early modern imaginative forms provide new avenues of connection and differentiation between humanistic and scientific methods? Lastly, how might the range of scholarly methods gathered under the umbrella of "new formalism" incorporate the philosophical thinking available in early modern discourses of literary form? (10)
We quickly discovered that one challenge of such an inquiry is that the early modern English vernacular does not have an available repertoire of technical philosophical terms that could designate and differentiate various concepts of form. (11) By contrast, as Eric Auerbach explains in his magisterial study of figura, the vocabulary of ancient Greek enabled philosophers and poets to make subtle distinctions between the form or idea that "informs" matter (morphe, eidos) and the purely perceptual shape of matter (schema, typos). Roman authors condense this rich technical vocabulary into the single term figura, resulting in the use of figura as the "imprint [typos] of the seal," the perceptible form of a body (rather than its structural principle). (12) Then, in the hands of Roman writers such as Lucretius, Cicero, and Ovid, figura expands in new directions, both absorbing the plastic meanings of forma (derived from the Greek morphe) and expanding in the direction of imago, effigies, species, and simulacrum (image, copy, statue, portrait). Indeed, as Auerbach notes, figura's propensity for semantic movement and transformation becomes part of its own meaning for Roman writers.
While Roman authors were dilating figura's meanings until it might encompass both ideal and perceptible form, Cicero, Quintilian, and the anonymous author of the Rhetorica ad Herennium also began to use figura as a technical term within the art of rhetoric in order to designate forms of discourse that deviate from normal or ordinary usage. This application had the effect of likening linguistic expression to the human body; as Quintilian explains, figura means "any shape in which a thought is expressed--just as our bodies, in whatever pose they are placed, are inevitably in some sort of attitude." Noting that such shapes may be purposefully constructed by the rhetor, Quintilian concludes that we should "take a Figure to be an innovative form of expression produced by some artistic means." (13) Thus, even as figura expanded to absorb the diverse Greek senses of form, it also condensed into a narrowly technical term within the discourse of rhetoric, as a means of classifying artistic forms of speech. Early modern English writers inherit this simultaneously expansive and constricted sense of figura as both phenomenal form and ornamented language. For this reason, the anglicized Latinate terms "figure" and "form" can mean wildly disparate things in early modern writing, from the abstract and ideal to the concrete and material, and from the rhetorical to the physical. (14)
As this collection of essays demonstrates, sixteenth- and seventeenth-century poets and philosophers generate a variety of expressions to delineate concepts of form that aspire to a technicity akin to what one finds in the ancient Greek terminology. Crucially, these early modern conceptions of form were shaped by humanist interactions with the classical language arts as well as by the emergence of new venues of intellectual and social engagement such as the public theater and the laboratory of experiments. Writers embrace ancient and medieval understandings of the terms "figure" and "form" even as they revise, reconfigure, and invent what we might term their own "new formalisms"--ranging from Sir Philip Sidneys "fore-conceit" (The Defense of Poesy, ca. 1579) to Edmund Spenser's "outward fashion" (Faerie Queene, 1590) to what Ben Jonson terms "Marlowe's mighty line" ("To the Memory of my Beloved the Author, William Shakespeare," 1623) to William Scott's "model" (The Model of Poesy, ca. 1599) to Francis Bacon's "laws of action" (Novum Organum, 1620) to John Milton's "external signs" (Of Reformation, 1641) to Margaret Cavendish's "figure" (Observations upon Experimental Philosophy and The Blazing World, 1666) to Locke's "primary" and "secondary" "Qualities" (An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding, 1689). (15)
When we first conceived of this collaborative project, we adopted the anachronistic phrase "scientific forms" to designate an intentionally capacious set of philosophical concepts, theories, and practices in operation from the classical to the medieval and early modern periods. We imagined that this phrase might refer to definitions of form elaborated in ancient philosophy (such as the Platonic theory of Forms, Aristotelian hylomorphism, and Lucretian materialism), as well as medieval and early modern natural history and natural philosophy (including but not limited to mathematics, medicine, experimental practice, and practical knowledge).
In following up on our invitation to examine the technical meanings of form within the context of early modern literature/science studies, our contributors pursue the varied connotations of the term prevalent in early modern writing itself: as a principle of organization, as a marker of innate qualities, as an indicator of external structure, and as a way of describing active procedures rather than static products. In the process, they develop a diverse lexicon that attempts to account for the range of "early modern scientific forms." They are ecumenical in their selection of texts, turning to the imaginative genres of comic and tragic drama, metaphysical poetry, romance, and epic, as well as the nonaction genres of the prose essay and public oratory. The essays in this special issue also consider a wide range of what we identify today as scientific works, including herbals, recipe books, treatises on method, printed instruction manuals, and works of microscopy and experimentation. They follow early modern thinkers from the space of the public theater to the Inns of Court to the experiment house. In so doing, the essays engage with premodern physics, natural history, natural philosophy, and mathematics, as well as the practical arts and the occult discourses of the preternatural. The essays in this collection feature works by Aristotle, Lucretius, Ovid, Montaigne, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Cavendish, and Donne, as well as Bacon, Gerard, Power, and Hooke.
As this summary suggests, the contributors follow the concept of "scientific forms" into a variety of topics and themes, but certain intriguing commonalities and convergences have emerged. Though this was not by design, the majority of the essays in this collection approach "form" in terms of praxis, that is, in terms of processes that are epistemic, social, material, and discursive. At the same time, there remains a thread of interest in the "subvisible" or "hidden" nature of form, even if that "hidden" nature is often resolutely de-idealized. Many of the essays also push against the familiar alignment of "form" with conceptions of aesthetic harmony or unity, attending instead to confusion, incoherence, and error. They thus capture the power of iteration and error to transmit knowledge as well as the power of imagination to shape reality. The contributors' shared investment in tracing change over time, rather than treating form as a static entity, ensures that together these essays show that early modern scientific forms are concepts in the process of becoming technical.
This emphasis on process is crucial: we would argue that the ability to signify both continuous formation and arrested shapes is one of the key elements that marks form as an instrument of knowledge production in the period. Such "imagined scientific forms," as our special issue terms them, exceed the binaries often brought to bear on the term form (including substance/figure, order/unruliness, shaping principle/outward shape, abstract theory/dynamic practice, and language/world). Our contributors have discovered instead that the tension between form as a fixed shape and form as the act of giving shape--or, to put it another way, between form as a noun and form as a verb--is widespread in early modern literature and science. The essays thus point towards a conception of "scientific form" as the ongoing interaction of becoming and being.
In the remaining space of our introduction, we would like to pay closer attention to the complex interactions of form and formation in early modern thought by focusing on the Proteus myth, which is a touchstone of Renaissance discussions of form. Allusions to the capture and chaining of Proteus suggest that form is a mode of being and a process of becoming that is arrested in moments of knowledge production. And although the capture of Proteus is more violent than Montaigne's depiction of knowledge production as the warming and softening of "supple" and "pliable" wax, it results in a parallel insight: the natural philosopher's pursuit of truth will require that they grapple with the forms and figures of language.
An irascible sea god with the gift of prophecy who can change his own shape at will, Proteus is an ancient archetype of multiformity (Ovid refers to him as "Proteaque ambiguum," that is, changeful, and thus uncertain, wavering, and perhaps even treacherous). (16) According to Greek poetry and legend, Proteus is shepherd of Poseidon's flocks, and he becomes a key figure in both the Homeric and Virgilian canon. Proteus is said to have knowledge of all things past, present, and future, but he will only reveal that knowledge when caught and compelled. In book 4 of The Odyssey, the Greek hero Menelaus becomes stranded on an island on his route home after the Trojan War. Seeking a way to escape and continue his journey to Greece, Menelaus traps a sleeping Proteus in his arms, grappling with him as the old god turns into a variety of creatures--lion, snake, leopard, boar, water, and tree--in a struggle to escape. When Proteus is compelled at last to resume his human form, he tells Menelaus how to pacify the angry gods and return home safely.
The capture of Proteus also features prominently in book 4 of Virgil's Georgics, in which the nymph Cyrene counsels her son Aristaeus to seek out Proteus in order to learn why Aristaeus's bees are sickening and dying. The mother warns her desperate son that Proteus's imprisonment will require the use of strong chains, or vincula, (quoted in a prose translation):
Him, my son, you must first take in fetters [vinclis capiendus], that he may unfold to you all the cause of the sickness, and bless the issue. For without force he will give you no counsel, nor shall you bend him by prayer. With stern force and fetters make fast the captive [vim duram et vincula captol tende]; thereon alone his wiles will shatter themselves in vain.... when you hold him in the grasp of hands and fetters [manibus vinclisque tenebis], then will manifold forms [species] baffle you, and figures of wild beasts. For of a sudden he will become a bristly boar, a deadly tiger, scaly serpent, or a lioness with tawny neck; or he will give forth the fierce roar of flame, and thus slip from his fetters [vinclis], or he will melt into fleeting water and be gone. But the more he turns himself into all shapes [formas], the more, my son, should you tighten his fetters [vincla], until after his last changes of body he becomes such as you saw when he closed his eyes at the beginning of slumber. (17)
Aristaeus does as his mother instructs, seizing and binding Proteus, who uses his craft (artis) to change himself into flames, water, and beasts, but all in vain. The chains hold, and Proteus eventually returns to human form and tells Aristaeus that his bees are dying because of a grave offense against Orpheus. Aristaeus had tried to abduct (Virgil uses the term rapta) Eurydice on her wedding day, provoking her untimely death by snakebite (4.456). Thus the fettering of Proteus creates the opportunity for Virgil to tell the tragic tale of the greatest of poets.
Together, Homer's and Virgil's poetry transmit the key features of the Proteus myth for early modern poets and philosophers: first, the god's ability to take any form, and, second, his compulsion to prophesy the future when this change of shape is arrested by force and he is placed in binds. As this schematization emphasizes, the myth of Proteus emblematizes both multiformity and changeableness and fixity and truth, inviting its readers to think about how these binaries interact and inform one another. (18) Virgil's version of the story also suggests that attempts to make the Proteus myth poetically or philosophically productive may require a forceful grappling with a recalcitrant mythic figure. To make Proteus an instrument of truth requires a firm grip and strong chains.
Early modern thinkers use this story of Proteus to figure a wide range of topics and practices. Proteus is approvingly cited by European humanists as a figure of human plenitude (Ficino, Pico) as well as of the multiformity of language (Erasmus). Because he can assume any shape he pleases, Proteus is adopted as a symbol of first matter by natural philosophers (Bacon, Browne). And since the myth features a character with a single body capable of adopting myriad shapes, it is not surprising that Proteus also becomes a figure of the actor par excellence (Lucian, Jonson). (19) Many allusions to Proteus attempt to reconcile the god's multiple shapes with an underlying unity of some kind. For example, Erasmus, in his influential rhetorical handbook De Copia (1512), uses Proteus to gesture approvingly at the linguistic variety produced through rhetorical figuration. He writes that "Nature herself especially rejoices in variety," and thus the skilled rhetor should be able "to turn the same thought into many forms, as the famous Proteus is said to have changed his form" (cui promptum erit sententiam eandem in plures formas vertere, quam Proteus ipse se transformasse dicitur). (20) For Erasmus, the "turning" of the god into many forms (he uses the Latin verb vertere, "to turn," or "revolve") becomes synonymous with figuration itself (as in tropus, "a turn"). Erasmus uses Proteus to assert that the myriad turns of rhetorical figuration (verba) are anchored by the presence of a stable and consistent meaning (res). Thus rhetoric operates by turning one "thought into many forms," just as Proteus possesses only one true shape.
We might treat Erasmus's gloss on the Proteus myth in De Copia as an indicator of that myth's explanatory force in the language arts. In Francis Bacon's hands, by contrast, the Proteus myth incarnates a far different theory of the relationship between form and matter and, as we will see, between changing shapes and captured states of being. Significantly, Bacon does not understand those terms as properly belonging to the language arts, but rather assigns them to the domain of natural philosophy. (21) This conceptual transfer proves to be a remarkably influential innovation: after Bacon, things, or matter, that is, what the rhetorical manuals of Cicero, Quintilian, and Erasmus term res, steadily lose their rhetorical sense as "things to be discussed" or "subject matter" and begin to refer instead to "empirical things" or "physical matter" (see Cicero's De inventione [84 BCE], Quintilian's IO, and Erasmus's De Copia). This redefinition of Renaissance rhetoric's fundamental categories enables Bacon's famous critique in The Advancement of Learning (1605), which charges that rhetoric misleadingly causes knowledge makers "to hunt more after words than matter," that is, verba rather than res. (22)
For scholars of rhetoric and the history of science, this is an oft-told story; however, if we attend to some of Bacon's allusions to Proteus, the familiar and schematic narrative of conflict between rhetoric and natural philosophy begins to falter. Most obviously, the ubiquity of Bacon's allusions to Proteus suggests that classical learning is indeed the "matter" of Bacon's philosophy, as it is for Montaigne. (21) With that said, Bacon's reading of the myth greatly differs from that contained in Erasmus's De Copia. Erasmus emphasizes Proteus's multiformity and shape shifting; by contrast, whenever Bacon evokes the Proteus myth, he fixates on the capture and enchaining of the old god. Bacon's allusions to the binding of Proteus help us discern that a fable which is often used to distinguish between form and matter can also be understood as embodying the tension between formation and form. The chains of Proteus mark the transition from formation to form and facilitate his emergence as an instrument of truth; this instrumentality is crucial for Bacon. (24)
The chain, or vinculum, recurs again and again in Bacon's writings as a figure for the relationship between form and matter more generally and the activity of the arts in particular. (25) The most infamous instances of the latter come in Bacon's discussions of the myth of Proteus. In De sapientia veterum (The Wisdom of the Ancients) (1609), Bacon defines Proteus as a figure of "matter," and explains that "if any one wanted his [Proteus's] help in any matter, the only way was first to secure his hands with handcuffs, and then to bind him with chains [vinculis]. Whereupon he on his part, in order to get free, would turn himself into all manner of strange shapes--fire, water, wild beasts, &c, till at last he returned again to his original shape." (26) Only when in bonds will Proteus, or "matter," reveal his true shape.
Bacon uses this image of Proteus bound throughout his philosophical works, likening the idea of nature vexed by human art to this emblem of Proteus in chains. For example, Bacon employs the image when describing the arts in general as "the bonds of nature" in the Descriptio globi intellectual (1612):
Therefore natural history deals with either the liberty of nature, or its errors or bonds [Vincula]. But if anyone gets annoyed because I call the arts the bonds of nature [Naturae Vincula] when they ought rather to be considered its liberators and champions in that in some cases they allow nature to achieve its ends by reducing obstacles to order, then I reply that I do not much care for such fancy ideas and pretty words; I intend and mean only that nature, like Proteus, is forced by art to do what would not have been done without it: and it does not matter whether you call this forcing and enchaining, or assisting and perfecting [sive illud vis vocetur & vincula, sive Auxilium & perfectio]. (27)
The thrice-repeated vincula indicates the importance of the figure of the chain or bond for Bacons conception of natural philosophy: it expresses Bacon's understanding of the dynamic relationship between art and nature. The chain or bond (vinculum) is thus a paradigmatic figure of Bacon's operative theory of knowledge, giving that theory a perceptible form (which is the ancient meaning of figura). These descriptions closely align with Bacon's work on induction (he will declare in Novum Organum  that "the secrets of nature reveal themselves more readily under the vexations of art than when they go their own way"), suggesting that his articulations of a scientific method are inseparable from his wrestlings with the problem of form. (28)
The emblem of Proteus in chains is a "charged image," to quote the historian of science Peter Pesic, and our analysis of the myth focuses on how certain images and rhetorical devices become "charged" (that is, laden, or replete) with meaning. (29) The example of Proteus perfectly illustrates how the charge provided by such figures vitalizes early modern scientific thought. As readers might recall, this image of Proteus bound is at the crux of a heated debate prompted by feminist historians of science such as Carolyn Merchant, who examine the extent to which Bacon's methodology advocates the rape and torture of nature. (30) We align ourselves with this feminist historiography of science, which has emphasized how gender shapes the figuration of the naturalist's interactions with the physical world in Bacon's writing and elsewhere. This gendered language habitually identifies the secrets of nature with the secrets of women, secrets that must be penetrated, uncovered, and extracted by the natural philosopher. (31) Such metaphorics are widespread in early modern writing, as integral to the history of natural philosophy as they are to the history of rhetoric and poetics. (32)
With that said, it is important to note that despite sharp disagreements about the extent to which Bacon's method is metaphorized as the "rape" of nature, participants on both sides of the debate about the import of Bacon's allusions to Proteus's chains tend to assume that the figure of Proteus represents "nature" or "matter," while the chains are a figure of "art." (33) With this assumption in place, they debate the nature of the "vexing," "forcing," and "enchaining" of the natural philosopher, arguing about whether such images are toxic or benign. However, Virgil's myth of Proteus and Bacon's own mythographic and philosophical project in De sapientia veterum give us cause to think of Proteus not only as a figure for nature, but also as a self-reflexive figure for myth itself, one that is interrogated--and bound-by succeeding generations of myfhographers. From this point of view, the bonds of Proteus represent art as an activity that proceeds by enchaining itself and its expositors. (34) According to this reading, mythic figures are not only the formal vehicle or instrument of Baconian thought, but also its object. And in attempting to capture Proteus as the figure for a reformed natural philosophy rather than a humanist rhetorical practice, Bacon conjoins the domains of words and things. In this way, we might say that he becomes a formalist. (35)
The capture of Proteus is thus both a theory of form and a formal feature of early modern epistemology. Its self-reflexive ability to simultaneously figure an object of study (form) and the theory of that object (formalism) makes it an ideal case through which to frame discussions of early modern scientific forms. Our reading of the capture of Proteus aims to show how the formalist approaches of the literary scholar should be fundamental to the historiography and philosophy of science. But what, after all, do we mean by "formalist"?
Critical frameworks that take form as their object of study--formalisms old and new--have long been at the heart of literary scholarship. Our field has generated complex theories of form as both an aesthetic and linguistic concept and a term for various nontextual modes of social organization (such as kinship, race, gender, class, and so forth). (36) However, by placing form at the center of discussions in literature and science, this special issue aims to complicate and thereby enhance the so-called return to form that has marked recent scholarship. (37) In particular, we propose a kind of formalist work that signals not only the return of the aesthetic, or even a revision of the historicist, but an exploration of the "scientific."
In early modern studies, the phrase "return to form" refers to what some scholars hail as a renewed focus on linguistic form, a topic that had purportedly been de-emphasized in New Historicist scholarship. The practice of New Historicism favored a close consideration of the interactions of ideology and culture, and its proponents constructed an expansive notion of the cultural "texts" that could be the objects of study for the literary scholar. Although "new formalists" often critique the characteristic topics and methods of New Historicism, the current "return" to form is clearly influenced by New Historicist investments in ideological and cultural contexts. That is to say, studies that are part of the movement broadly known as the "new formalism" distinguish themselves from older formalisms by situating literary form in larger social, cultural, institutional, and historical frameworks. For this reason, the phrase "historical formalism" has sometimes been used to describe these newer modes of formalist scholarship. (38) With that said, while "historical formalism" aims to show "how form is implicated in culture," it places the "literary" (rather than the "cultural" or "ideological") resolutely at the center of its analyses. (39)
Even as we rehearse these distinctions, it is our sense that this familiar critical positioning can be misleading. For example, although New Historicism and the "new" or "historical formalism" are often placed in opposition to one other, participants in these scholarly conversations all tend to think of their work as engaging with problems of form on some level. Indeed, what at first seem like sharply divergent critical positions in early modern literary and cultural studies often hinge on the variable ways in which scholars chart the relationship between form and content, or what Erasmus would term verba (words/style) and res (subject matter). As already discussed, it is only in the seventeenth century that things, or matter, that is, what the rhetorical manuals of Cicero, Quintilian, and Erasmus term res, lose their rhetorical sense and begin to refer instead to "physical matter." The mobility of this terminology in the early modern period gestures towards a long-standing-and cross-disciplinary--dilemma: the discourses of poetics, rhetoric, and natural philosophy all wrestle with the vexing theoretical problem of how to locate and sustain any distinction between verba and res. We can thus say that the conceptualization of form (and its relationship to matter) is a philosophical conundrum shared equally by early modern poets and natural philosophers as well as contemporary literary critics. For this reason, the new formalist scholarship in early modern studies has in fact already been engaging with a conceptual problem that also animates studies of Renaissance literature and science: the interactions of form and matter. (40)
By accepting the provocation to imagine early modern scientific forms, the authors in this special issue move beyond the form/matter dyad that has so dominated conversations in early modern literary formalisms. (41) They do so by describing form as an ongoing praxis in Renaissance poetics and epistemology, one that produces knowledge as it is arrested in distinct shapes. By refusing to approach "form" primarily as a feature of the res-verba binary, these essays are able to foreground a range of previously unexplored conceptual, material, and practical interconnections. As a result, our return to form via attention to science moves in a different direction from the scholarly trends currently privileging matter and materialism. (42) Again, Proteus is useful for imagining this new critical modality of form: if we accept form as an ontological principle, a method of change, and a mode of writing, reading, and interpretation, it becomes easier to theorize the connections between the productions of the language arts and those of natural philosophy.
Despite the centrality of form to methodological debates in early modern literary studies, the most prominent attempts to theorize form within the discipline have primarily been grounded in later historical periods. The most capacious of such studies are especially useful for those of us looking to expand our definitions of "form" beyond the textual in order to include "scientific" forms. (43) For instance, we could turn to Caroline Levine's expansive definition, which extends beyond forms "ordinary usage in literary studies" and refers to "all shapes and configurations, all ordering principles, all patterns of repetition and difference." (44) Levine's description of form as an indicator of "an arrangement of elements--an ordering, patterning, or shaping" signals how "each shape or pattern, social or literary," has certain limited "affordances," that is, both literary and non-literary forms have the capacity to "la[y] claim to a limited range of potentialities." (45) In another vein, W. J. T. Mitchell suggests how we can include activities or processes within our definitions of form, thereby linking components of space and time: "form--or, better, structure--is the manner in which something is done, a way of getting from here to there, a spatial or temporal pattern that has value only in relation to the end it serves." (46) Such a focus is especially valuable in asking how the patterns that often define scientific practice--or what, in technical terms, is referred to as scientific "method"--can promote distinct kinds of formalisms that are rooted in temporal, as well as spatial, notions of order. (47) At the same time, if we wish to think further about form as "shape," we might turn to Seymour Chatman's classic work, which draws attention to issues of scale as fundamental to the question of form. (48) We could orient such scalar notions to research problems in natural philosophy, to ask, for instance: what are the formal relations between elemental particles and the cosmological systems that are comprised of them?
We can combine this literary-theoretical work with scholarship in science studies, which has also reframed the "problem of form" in fruitful ways. (49) For example, Bruno Latour describes form in terms of the recurring "translation" that occurs when scientists move from concrete sites in the natural world towards "inscription" (in the abstractions of paperwork and theorization): at every stage of abstraction from a physical site an act of translation converts matter into form. (30) Crucially, this "form" is not static. Instead, it functions as the "matter," or concrete entity, for the next stage of the scientific method. Form and matter are thus not oppositions in a dyad, but fluid descriptors of the transformations that occur as elements of the natural world morph into abstract concepts and theories of scientific research. "Form" is an active ingredient whose status is dependent on its location in the stages of the scientific method. Latour's description triangulates the familiar form-matter dyad through the introduction of the process of translation, emphasizing change over structure, order, totality, or stability. Because early modern writers were deeply attuned to the active nature of formal changes, scholars have found this account of translation useful to link literary and scientific methodologies.
This special issue demonstrates that early modernists have much to contribute to these theoretical discussions about the nature and function of form. The essays collected here generate a variety of fresh critical and theoretical approaches to the problem of form, from Vin Nardizzi's "speculative natural history" to Adhaar Noor Desai's "experiential literacy" to Jessica Rosenberg's "practical address" to Travis Williams's "accommodation." They also proffer new conceptual categories, including Lauren Weindling's "illegible form" and Wendy Beth Hyman's "idea of the subvisible." These essays also foreground the vital role the imagination plays in staging the formal interplays of literature and natural philosophy. This focus is clearest in Suparna Roychoudhury's essay, which demonstrates how the imagination as a topic allows us to trace interactions of discursive form and epistemic practice even as the imagination was itself the vehicle of such interactions. Moreover, we witness how classical theories of form are subject to profound innovation in the hands of different writers. For example, as Mary Thomas Crane illustrates in a comprehensive survey of the denotations of "form" in the sixteenth century, dramatists like Shakespeare draw on a range of ancient philosophical definitions of the term while also adapting them in accordance with shifts in contemporary natural philosophy.
Having situated the work of this special issue in relation to such theoretical discussions, we can now anticipate several new lines of inquiry that might further engage the complexity of early modern scientific forms. First and most importantly, we hope scholars interested in questions of form will continue to expand the archive of texts considered under the rubric of literature/science studies. While our study attends to a range of genres, it tilts towards Shakespearean drama (in part because of this collection's gestation at the SAA). It would be useful for our field to explore how attention to other writers and genres would push the boundaries of these topics even further. Similarly, there is no question that the insights gleaned from a study of primarily English sources would be productively enhanced by scholarship with a greater comparative, international focus. Moreover, we have only just begun to explore whether the writings of women philosophers can offer even more distinctive insights into inquiries about form (as Hyman's essay begins to suggest by turning to the works of Cavendish), not to mention the extent to which the gendering of knowledge practices shapes early modern scientific form (as Rosenberg highlights in her discussion of the transmission of instruction manuals and books of secrets into the public theater).
In many of these essays the point of entry into the topic of early modern scientific form has been through Baconian philosophy, which often marginalizes or sidesteps the mathematical and focuses on the "unruliness of nature," as Desai and Weindling demonstrate. Williams's essay is an exception: it examines mathematical writing as a scribal activity shared in common with poetry and directed at the representation of the unspeakable. Further attention along these lines to the mathematical forms of astronomy and geometry would surely enable a more complete picture of the imagination of early modern scientific form. In a related vein, we wonder whether greater attention to the life sciences and the history of medicine would significantly alter the account of scientific forms we provide; Roychoudhury invites such connections when she discusses the "narrative texture of medical writing" in Montaigne's works, as does Hyman in offering a micro-poetic-history of the flea. Finally, how might we account for notions of form embedded in knowledge practices (such as the "preternatural," which is explored in Crane's essay) that no longer count as "scientific," but were constitutive to early modern epistemology? Such questions both signal the intricacies of the networks we have just begun to recover and, we hope, serve as a call for further research into the ways in which consideration of form alters how we study the interactions of poetics and philosophy. For instance, can we incorporate Nardizzi's dramatization of a "speculative" method of criticism--with its attention to counterfactual, potential, or hypothetical modes of thinking--into our own scholarly practices? Speculating on possible avenues of new research, we invite readers to engage in the imagination of scientific forms and to reflect further upon the philosophical and critical constitution of their own formalisms.
In defining early modern scientific form as the ongoing tussle between becoming and being, we have discovered that our most exciting methodological dicta are themselves further enactments of our Protean object of study. Our introduction has characterized early modern scientific form in terms of the interactions of form and formation, a continuous process that is arrested at moments of knowledge production. And this is, in fact, the most apt description of our own critical practice in this special issue: we have momentarily captured a variety of poetic and philosophical conceptions of form, allowing them to achieve a kind of critical technicity in literary studies despite the propensity of such concepts to keep changing shape. The notion that literary analysis operates so as to capture form at various stages of life strikes us as a crucial methodological insight, one borne out of the historical particularities of the early modern period. By continually adjusting our frames of reference we can articulate a formalist methodology that mutates to accommodate its object of study, rather than being defined in strict relation to a particular intellectual stance (such as historicism or materialism or idealism). In this final description of our project we intentionally recall Montaigne's somewhat perverse depiction of knowledge production, in that we do not assert a poetic concept of scientific form that is solid, immutable, or perfect. Rather, we offer one that is "made aptly fit / For vse."
University of Connecticut, Avery Point
This Introduction has benefitted from the careful advice of a number of readers. We offer particular thanks to Eric Gidal, the editor of Philological Quarterly. In addition, we thank Wendy Beth Hyman, Rayna Kalas, Caroline Levine, Kathleen Long, Annika Mann, Corey McEleney, Guy Ortolano, Simone Pinet, Lyn Tribble, Suman Seth, Vin Nardizzi, and participants in the Global Early Modern Studies Colloquium at Cornell University. We also thank the participants in the seminar "Imagining Scientific Form" at the Shakespeare Association of America meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana in March 2016.
(1) Michel de Montaigne, The Essayes, trans. John Florio (London: Val. Sims for Edward Blount, 1603), 325.
(2) "nec catulus, partu quern reddidit ursa recenti, / sed male viva cam est; lambendo mater in artus / fingit et in formam, quantam capit ipse, reducit" Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. Frank Justus Miller, rev. and trans. G. P. Goold (Harvard U. Press, 1977), X.379-81.
(3) Recent literary scholarship has been productively exploring the relations between forms of rhetoric and natural philosophy. See, for instance, Jenny C. Mann, "The Mingle-Mangle: The Hodgepodge of Fancy and Philosophy in Cavendish's Blazing World," in Outlaw Rhetoric: Figuring Vernacular Eloquence in Shakespeare's England (Cornell U. Press, 2012), 171-200. For other works that highlight the epistemological, philosophical, or pedagogical aspects of early modern rhetoric, see Catherine Nicholson, Uncommon Tongues: Eloquence and Eccentricity in the English Renaissance (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), and Colleen Ruth Rosenfeld, Indecorous Thinking: Figures of Speech in Early Modern Poetics (Fordham U. Press, 2018).
(4) These issues are at the heart of several recently published works: Wendy Beth Hyman, Impossible Desire and the Limits of Knowledge in Renaissance Poetry (Oxford U. Press, 2019) and Suparna Roychoudhury, Phantasmatic Shakespeare: Imagination in the Age of Early Modern Science (Cornell U. Press, 2018). Several in-progress monographs, including those by Pavneet Avlakh, Liz Blake, Adhaar Noor Desai, Timothy M. Harrison, Jessie Hock, Debapriya Sarkar, Stephanie Shirlian, and Jacob Tootalian, also take up these questions in varried ways.
(5) This notion of form as the interplay of form and formation accords with the conceptions of the term that are found in medieval poetry. For example, in a discussion of form in Middle English literature, Chris Cannon notes that for writers such as Chaucer, processes of "formation" allow writers to make a bridge between Plato's view of form as external to the material world and Aristotle's view of form as integral to the material world. Cannon writes, "at the border between the view that form is the idea that precedes the thing and the view that form is the attribute that gives things their distinctive being is a way of conceiving of the process of creation or making as a movement from one of these states to the other, as the informing of raw materials according to the script of some idea, as the forming of an object guided by some thought." Cannon, "Form," in Middle English, ed. Paul Strohm (Oxford U. Press, 2007), 177-91, 177.
(6) In "Lessons from Literature for the Historian of Science (and Vice Versa): Reflections on 'Form,'" Isis 101.3 (2010): 578-89, Henry S. Turner suggests that research in the history of science should remind literary critics "that form is never simply a tool of knowledge: it is an attribute of being, a category of ontology" (584).
(7) Some key works that have set the terms of conversation include John Rogers, The Matter of Revolution: Science, Poetry, and Politics in the Age of Milton (Cornell U. Press, 1996); Mary Baine Campbell, Wonder & Science: Imagining Worlds in Early Modern Europe (Cornell U. Press, 1999); Elizabeth Spiller, Science, Reading, and Renaissance Literature: The Art of Making Knowledge, 1580-1670 (Cambridge U. Press, 2004); Henry S. Turner, The English Renaissance Stage: Geometry, Poetics, and the Practical Spatial Arts 1580-1630 (Oxford U. Press, 2006); Carla Mazzio, ed., Shakespeare and Science: South Central Review 26.1-2 (2009); Joanna Picciotto, Labors of Innocence in Early Modern England (Harvard U. Press, 2010); Howard Marchitello, The Machine in the Text: Science and Literature in the Age of Shakespeare and Galileo (Oxford U. Press, 2011); Frederique Ait-Touati, Fictions of the Cosmos: Science and Literature in the Seventeenth Century, trans. Susan Emanuel (U. of Chicago Press, 2011). For more recent work on these topics, see Mary Floyd-Wilson, Occult Knowledge, Science and Gender on the Shakespearean Stage (Cambridge U. Press, 2013); Mary Thomas Crane, Losing Touch with Nature: Literature and the New Science in Sixteenth-Century England (Johns Hopkins U. Press, 2014); Claire Preston, The Poetics of Scientific Investigation in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford U. Press, 2015); Katherine Eggert, Disknowledge: Literature, Alchemy, and the End of Humanism in Renaissance England (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 2015); and Howard Marchitello and Evelyn Tribble, eds., The Palgrave Handbook of Early Modern Literature and Science (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).
(8) This is a long-standing complaint of early modern literary critics, detailed in the introduction to Spiller's field-defining Science, Reading, and Renaissance Literature. This is not to say that historians of early modern science have completely neglected rhetoric and the imagination in their examinations of the "scientific revolution." In 1984 the premiere history-of-science journal Isis published a linked series of essays by Katharine Park, Lorraine Daston, and Peter Galison that discussed the role of analogy and the imagination in the writings of Bacon, Galileo, and Descartes (vol. 75, no. 2). These essays collectively argued for the importance of rhetorical technique to early modern science, drawing attention to what Steven Shapin subsequently termed the "literary technologies of knowledge." Shapin, "Pump and Circumstances: Robert Boyle's Literary Technology," Social Studies of Science 14 (Nov. 1984): 481-520. See also Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life (Princeton U. Press, 1985); Peter Dear, ed., The Literary Structure of Scientific Argument: Historical Studies (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 1991); and the essays collected in David Burchell and Juliet Cummins, eds., Science, Literature, and Rhetoric in Early Modern England (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007).
(9) Turner, "Lessons from Literature," 578.
(10) For an overview of the "movement" we term new formalism, see Marjorie Levinson, "What Is New Formalism?" PMLA 122.2 (2007). For influential examples of scholarship on early modern literature and formalist methodologies, see Heather Dubrow, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? Reinterpreting Formalism and the Country House Poem," Modern Language Quarterly: A Journal of Literary History 61.1 (2000): 59-77; and Heather Dubrow, "I Would I Were at Home': Representations of Dwelling Places and Havens in Cymbeline," in Shakespeare and Historical Formalism, ed. Stephen Cohen (Burlington: Ashgate, 2007), 69-93.
(11) As the entry on "form" in the Dictionary of Untranslatables explains, "the term comes from the Latin forma, itself possibly borrowed, by way of Etruscan, from the Greek morphe ([phrase omitted]), which means 'form, beautiful form' and concretely refers both to the mold and to the shape of the resulting object, whether the word concerns arts and techniques (the form of a shoe, the plan of a house, the frame of a painting), norms (a legal formula, the imprint on a coin), or speech (a grammatical form, a stylistic device). The term is especially plastic in French, as in Latin, since it was able to serve to translate the Greek words eidos ([phrase omitted]), "idea" (in contrast to eidolon [[phrase omitted]], "image") or "form" (in contrast to hule [[phrase omitted]], "matter"); morphe ([phrase omitted]), "aspect, contour"; schema ([phrase omitted]), "shape, manner of being"; ousia ([phrase omitted]), "essence"; to ti esti ([phrase omitted]) and even to ti in einai ([phrase omitted]), quiddity"; paradeigma ([phrase omitted]), "model"; or charakter ([phrase omitted]), "mark, distinctive sign." Barbara Cassin, ed., Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon, trans, ed. Emily Apter, Jacques Lezra, and Michael Wood (Princeton U. Press 2017).
(12) Eric Auerbach, "Figura," Scenes from the Drama of European Literature (U. of Minnesota Press, 1984), 11-78, 15,16, 23.
(13) Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, ed. and trans. Donald A. Russell (Harvard U. Press, 2001), 9.1.10, 14.
(14) In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, natural philosophers were also working with these connotations of form. Norma E. Emerton begins The Scientific Reinterpretation of Form (Cornell U. Press, 1984) by drawing attention to some of the complexities we discuss above, when she states that a natural object's "outward shape" and 'inward nature" are related because these natural philosophical concepts are linked by the terms "eidos in Greek and forma in Latin, to signify both the outer shape of a thing and also its inner nature or essence" (19).
(15) Philip Sidney, A Defence of Poetry, ed. Jan Van Dorsten (Oxford U. Press, 1966), 24; Edmund Spenser, the Faerie Queene, ed. A. C. Hamilton with Hiroshi Yamashita and Toshiyuki Suzuki (Harlow: Longman, 2001), 3.6.38; Ben Jonson, "To the Memory of My Beloved the Author, William Shakespeare," Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies: A Facsimile of the First Folio, 1623 (New York: Routledge, 1998); William Scott, The Model of Poesy, ed. Gavin Alexander (Cambridge U. Press, 2013); Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, in The Works of Francis Bacon, 14 vols. ed. James Spedding, Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath (London, 1861-79), 4:51; John Milton, Of Reformation, in The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton, ed. William Kerrigan, John Rumrich, and Stephen M. Fallon (New York: Modern Library, 2007), 808; Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World and Other Writings, ed. Kate Lilley (London: Penguin, 1992), 146; John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. Peter H. Nidditch, chap. 23, "Of Our Complex Ideas of Substances" (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 295-317. Our thanks to Corey McEleney for the Milton reference and to Liza Blake for the Cavendish reference.
(16) Ovid, Metamorphoses, 2.11.
(17) Virgil, Eclogues, Georgics, Aeneid I-VI, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough, rev. G. P. Goold (Harvard U. Press 1999), 4.396-414.
(18) One such reader of the Proteus myth, John Milton, writes in Areopagitica, "Give [Truth] but room and do not bind her when she sleeps, for then she speaks not true as the old Proteus did, who spake oracles not only he was caught and bound, but then she rather she turns herself into all shapes, except her own, and perhaps tunes her voice according to the time, as Micaiah did before Ahab, until she be abjured into her own likeness. Milton, Areopagitica, in The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton, 962.
(19) For a detailed catalog of these allusions to Proteus, see A. Bartlett Giamatti, "Proteus Unbound: Some Versions of the Sea God in the Renaissance," The Discipline of Criticism, ed. Peter Demetz, Thomas Greene, and Lowry Nelson Jr. (Yale U. Press, 1961).
(20) Desiderius Erasmus, On Copia of Words and Ideas (De utraque verborem ac rerum copia), trans. Donald B. King and H. David Rix, (Marquette U. Press, 1963), 16; Erasmus, De utraque verborem ac rerum copia (Francofvrti, Georgivm Mullervm: 1658), 13.
(21) On the appropriation of technical terms from the language arts within the discourse of natural philosophy, see Margreta de Grazia, "Words as Things," Shakespeare Studies 28 (2000): 231-35.
(22) Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning in The Major Works, ed. Brian Vickers (Oxford U. Press, 1996), 139.
(23) On Bacon's engagement with ancient learning, see Lisa Jardine, Francis Bacon and the Discovery of Discourse (Cambridge U. Press, 1974); Ronald Levao, "Francis Bacon and the Mobility of Science," Representations 40 (1992): 1-32; and Rhodri Lewis, "Francis Bacon, Allegory, and the Uses of Myth," Review of English Studies 61.250 (June 2010): 360-89.
(24) As note 18 demonstrates, this stance does not necessarily become the norm after Bacon. Milton's use of the Proteus myth intimates his skepticism about the instrumentality of the chains.
(25) Sophie Weeks, "Francis Bacon and the Art-Nature Distinction," Ambix 54.2 (July 2007): 117-45. In the Thema Coeli (1612) the vinculum constitutes what Bacon terms the "common bond of the System [commune vinculum Systematis]" that allows matter to assume relatively stable form. Thema Coeli, ed. Spedding et al., vol. 7, 358, 558.
(26) Bacon, De sapientia veterum and The Wisdom of the Ancients, in The Works, ed. Spedding et al., 6:725.
(27) The Oxford Francis Bacon, vol. 6, ed. Graham Rees (Oxford U. Press, 1996), 101.
(28) Bacon, Novum Organum, in The Works, ed. Spedding et al., 1:95.
(29) Peter Pesic, "Wrestling with Proteus: Francis Bacon and the 'Torture' of Nature," Isis 90.1 (March 1999): 81.
(30) See Pesic, "Wrestling with Proteus"; Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980); Evelyn Fox Keller, Reflections on Gender and Science (Yale U. Press, 1985); Carolyn Merchant, "'The Violence of Impediments': Francis Bacon and the Origins of Experimentation," Isis, 99.4 (2008): 731-60; Peter Pesic, "Proteus Rebound: Reconsidering the 'Torture of Nature,'" Isis 99.2 (2008): 304-317. For a debate that captures the central tensions in this strain of scholarship, see Brian Vickers, "Francis Bacon, Feminist Historiography, and the Dominion of Nature," Journal of the History of Ideas 69.1 (2008): 117-41; and Katharine Park, "Response to Brian Vickers, 'Francis Bacon, Feminist Historiography, and the Dominion of Nature,'" Journal of the History of Ideas 69.1 (2008): 143-46.
(31) Carolyn Merchant, "Secrets of Nature: The Bacon Debates Revisited," Journal of the History of Ideas 69.1 (January 2008): 147-62; see also Katharine Park, Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection (Brooklyn, NY: Zone Books, 2006).
(32) The identification of eloquence, ravishment, and rape is omnipresent in the classical rhetorical tradition, which shapes early modern conceptions of poesy. As Wayne Rebhorn writes, rhetoric resembles rape because "it is a verbal act of violence, an invasion of others involving the forcible penetration, possession, and binding of their spirits." The Emperor of Men's Minds: Literature and the Renaissance Discourse of Rhetoric (Cornell U. Press, 1995), 159-60.
(33) See Pesic, "Wrestling with Proteus"; Weeks, "Francis Bacon and the Art-Nature Distinction."
(34) We can see this very clearly in Henry Chapman's signed dedication of his Crowne of all Homers Worckes (1624), which instructs that "if at first sight he [Homer] seme darcke or too fierie," the reader must "hold him fast (like Proteus) till he appears in his proper similitude and he will then shewe himself." Qtd. in Jessica Wolfe, Homer and the Question of Strife from Erasmus to Hobbes (U. of Toronto Press, 2015), 275.
(35) As Jonathan Kramnick and Anahid Nersessian write in an essay titled "Form and Explanation," "there is no form without formalism, no object without the method that names it"; Kramnick, Paper Minds: Literature and the Ecology of Consciousness (University of Chicago Press, 2018), 49. For Bacon, figures such as the vinculum are different from other linguistic representations because they cannot be disentangled from the world that they materialize. Bacon writes, "the truth is that in some of these fables, as well in the very frame and texture of the story as in the propriety of the names by which the persons that figure in it are distinguished, I find a conformity and connexion with the thing signified" (Wisdom of the Ancients, 696). Bacon's exemplary fables and figures are not simply illustrative examples or allegories of certain philosophical ideas or natural principles; they are emblematic hieroglyphics whose truest meaning is informed by the very shape of the fable itself. See Pavneet Aulakh, "Seeing Things Through 'Images Sensible': Emblematic Similitudes and Sensuous Words in Francis Bacon's Natural Philosophy," ELH 81.4 (2014): 1149-72.
(36) In the latter case this has resulted from literary studies' absorption and adaptation of theories of social form generated by scholarship in the disciplines of history, anthropology, and sociology. For some influential examples of such works in early modern studies, see Patricia Parker, Literary Fat Ladies: Rhetoric, Gender, Property (London: Methuen, 1987); Kim F. Hall, Things of Darkness: Economies of Race and Gender in Early Modern England (Cornell U. Press, 1995); Jonathan Burton, Traffic and Turning: Islam and English Drama, 1579-1624 (U. of Delaware Press, 2005); and Ian Smith, Race and Rhetoric in the Renaissance: Barbarian Errors (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2009). For a recent study that foregrounds issues of kinship and links them to critical race theory and queer studies, see Urvashi Chakravarty, "More Than Kin, Less Than Kind: Similitude, Strangeness, and Early Modern English Homonationalisms," Shakespeare Quarterly 67.1 (2016): 14-29.
(37) For representative works that consider whether or not this "return" represents a coherent methodological or theoretical program that might be designated by the label "New Formalism," in addition to Levinson, see Mark David Rasmussen, ed., Renaissance Literature and Its Formal Engagements (New York: Palgrave, 2002); Stephen Cohen, ed., Shakespeare and Historical Formalism (Burlington: Ashgate, 2007) Verena Theile and Linda Tredennick, eds., New Formalisms and Literary Theory (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013); Fredric Bogel, New Formalist Criticism: Theory and Practice (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). For a recent discussion of "aesthetic form" that places the New Critics in conversation with contemporary philosophers and traces their diverging objects and methods of inquiry, see Nicholas Gaskill, The Close and the Concrete: Aesthetic Formalism in Context," New Literary History 47. 4 (2016): 505-24.
(38) In "How Formalism Became a Dirty Word, and Why We Can't Do Without It," in Rasmussen, Renaissance Literature and Its Formal Engagements, 207-16, Richard Strier offers one definition for this kind of formalism, terming it "indexical" rather than "aesthetic": it captures the "belief" that "formal features of a text, matters of style, can be indices to large intellectual and cultural matters" (211).
(39) Rasmussen, "Introduction: New Formalisms" in Renaissance Literature and Its Formal Engagements 5.
(40) Attempts to designate the materialist basis of formalist practices, for example, or to show the materiality of form, resonate with the simultaneous rise of the field of "New Materialisms." See for instance, Douglas Bruster, "The New Materialism in Renaissance Studies," Material Culture and Cultural Materialisms in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ed. Curtis Perry (Turnhout: Brepols, 2001), 225-38, The Work of Form, Ben Burton and Elizabeth Bruster, eds., Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture (Oxford U. Press, 2014); and Rasmussen, "Introduction: New Formalisms." Meanwhile, new materialist work, which calls for scholars to remain attuned to the nonhuman as sources of action and world-making, draws particular attention to the complicated inter- and intra-actions of the discursive and the material in the constitution of phenomena. See, for example, Karen Barad, "Getting Real: Technoscientific Practices and the Materialization of Reality," Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Duke U. Press, 2007).
(41) For an exploration of how '"new formalist'" and "historical formalist" criticism interacts not only with matter as content, but also with "matter" as material text--where the "matter of literature" is "what literature is made of"--see Allison K. Deutermann and Andras Kisery, "Introduction" to Formal Matters: Reading the Materials of English Renaissance Literature, ed. Deutermann and Kisery (Manchester U. Press, 2013), 1, 5. And while she does not discuss it under the rubric of "formalist" criticism, Judith H. Anderson's Words That Matter: Linguistic Perception in Renaissance English (Stanford U. Press, 1996) takes up the problem of form via the res/verba dyad directly. See esp. 9, 37, 215, 221.
(42) In scholarship on early modern science and philosophy, this turn towards matter often occurs via attention to the work of Lucretius, who repeatedly tropes material substances as textual substances, insisting that the atomic order is composed of elements (elementa), which is the same word in Latin for the letters that make up words. Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, trans. W. H. D. Rouse, rev. trans. Martin Ferguson Smith (Harvard U. Press, 1992), 1:817-22. See for instance, Gerard Passannante, The Lucretian Renaissance: Philology and the Afterlife of Tradition (U. of Chicago Press, 2011); Ayesha Ramachandran, "Edmund Spenser, Lucretian Neoplatonist: Cosmology in the Fowre Hymnes," Spenser and Platonism: An Expanded Special Volume, ed. Kenneth Borris, Carol Kaske, and Jon Quitslund, Spenser Studies 24 (2009): 373-411; Jonathan Goldberg, The Seeds of Things: Theorizing Sexuality and Materiality in Renaissance Representations (Fordham U. Press, 2009); Jessie Hock, "The Mind Is Its Own Place: Lucretian Moral Philosophy in Paradise Lost" in Milton's Modernities: Essays on the Poet and His Influence, ed. Feisal G. Mohammed and Patrick Fadely (Northwestern U. Press, 2017), 67-83.
(43) For an example of transhistorical work that aims at such theorization but also includes studies of early modern literature, see Susan J. Wolfson and Marshall Brown, eds., Reading for Form (U. of Washington Press, 2007). More recently, Kramnick's Paper Minds, though focused primarily on eighteenth- and twentieth-century novels, includes a more broadly applicable methodological chap, titled "Form and Explanation."
(44) Caroline Levine, Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network (Princeton U. Press, 2015), 3.
(45) Levine, Forms, 3, 6. Levine draws on this concept from design theory: affordance refers to "potential uses or actions latent in materials or designs" (6, emphasis added). For a recent study that engages with Levine's formulation in the context of early modern literature, see Julia Reinhard Lupton, Shakespeare Dwelling: Designs for the Theater of Life (U. of Chicago Press, 2018), esp. 31-39.
(46) W. J. T. Mitchell, "The Commitment to Form; or, Still Crazy After All These Years," PMLA 118.2 (2003): 322.
(47) This kind of approach aligns well with Turners ("Lessons from Literature") and Bruster's ("The Materiality of Shakespearean Form") identical claim--one that emerges from their different methodologies and objects of study--that form "does things" (586 and 42 respectively). For an account of how literary scholars may explore the "dependence of form on temporality" rather than taking the usual approach that places them in opposition in studies of narrative, see Catherine Gallagher, Formalism and Time," MLQ 61.1 (2000): 232.
(48) See Seymour Chatman, "On Defining 'Form,'" New Literary History 2.2 (1971): 217-28.
(49) In a less theoretical vein, Norma E. Emerton's important study turns to the disciplines of crystallography and mineralogy in order to trace how ancient definitions of form were reinterpreted by natural philosophers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
(50) Bruno Latour, "Circulating Reference," in Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies (Harvard U. Press, 1999), 24-79. Latour glosses "translation" as a term that in "its linguistic and material connotations... refers to all the displacements through other actors whose mediation is indispensable for any action to occur. In place of a rigid opposition between context and content, chains of translation refer to the work through which actors modify, displace, and translate their various and contradictory interests" (311). He terms "inscription" the "types of transformation through which an entity becomes materialized into a sign, an archive, a document, a piece of paper, a trace... They are always mobile, that is, they allow new translations and articulations while keeping some types of relations intact. Hence they are also called 'immutable mobiles,' a term that focuses on the movement of displacement and the contradictory requirements of the task" (307).
[Please note: Some non-Latin characters were omitted from this article]
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|Author:||Mann, Jenny C.; Sarkar, Debapriya|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2019|
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