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Poetry in a World of ThingsAesthetics and Empiricism in Renaissance Ekphrasis$
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Rachel Eisendrath

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226516585

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226516752.001.0001

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(p.1) Chapter One Introduction
Poetry in a World of Things

Rachel Eisendrath

University of Chicago Press

The introduction provides an overview of the central issue of this book: namely, how poetry in the early modern period responded to an emerging empiricist worldview. This empiricist worldview entailed a turn away from the study of authoritative texts and toward the study of physical objects. A new “art of describing” emerged that tried to grasp “things in themselves,” stripped of all subjective projections. However, while late sixteenth-century empiricist historians and scientists were producing factual descriptions of things, poets of the period were crafting elaborate literary descriptions of things (ekphrases). In so doing, these poets were reflecting critically on the emergence of objectivity and on the renunciation of subjectivity that the new empiricist worldview involved. The chapter ends by exploring how modern scholarship has tended to overlook this history, conflating aesthetic objects with mere objects.

Keywords:   ekphrasis, empiricism, Francis Bacon, description, things, John Milton, aesthetics, subjectivity, objectivity, Theodor W. Adorno

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