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Coming ToConsciousness and Natality in Early Modern England$
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Timothy M. Harrison

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226725093

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226725260.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 16 September 2021

From Creation to Birth

From Creation to Birth

(p.117) Chapter Three From Creation to Birth
Coming To

Timothy M. Harrison

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines Thomas Traherne’s relationship to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, showing how the younger poet repeatedly reworks Milton’s scenes of awakening in his poetry and prose. Importing his own, vastly different vision of human nature—inflected by his reading of René Descartes’ philosophy—into the phenomenological perspective Milton invented, Traherne developed a new account of consciousness by transferring the Edenic ability to remember beginnings into his own prenatal and infant experience. This chapter traces the development of Traherne’s thinking from Paradisal creation toward embryonic sensation in the womb, while also situating this trajectory amidst the history of epistemological accounts of knowledge acquisition, from Plato and Aristotle through to the seventeenth century. It also develops an account of Traherne’s understanding of the self as it relates to the category of enjoyment and, at the same time, begins to show the extent to which Traherne abandons the theoretical imperatives of Saint Augustine’s thought.

Keywords:   consciousness, Thomas Traherne, John Milton, René Descartes, Aristotle, Plato, Augustine, enjoyment, self, epistemology

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