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Coming To – Consciousness and Natality in Early Modern England - Chicago Scholarship Online
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Coming To: Consciousness and Natality in Early Modern England

Timothy M. Harrison


Coming To argues that poetry played a central but forgotten role in the seventeenth-century invention of the concept of consciousness. The story of consciousness’s emergence is usually told in a purely philosophical register: sometime between René Descartes’s Meditationes (1641) and the second edition of John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1694), philosophers developed the concept of consciousness to advance epistemological theories about the role of the subjective observer in the scene of knowledge production. Coming To revises this narrative by arguing that poetry—sensuous mim ... More

Keywords: consciousness, natality, René Descartes, John Locke, John Milton, Thomas Traherne, poetry, philosophy, embryology, theology

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2020 Print ISBN-13: 9780226725093
Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021 DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226725260.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Timothy M. Harrison, author
University of Chicago

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Front Matter

Part 1 Milton and the Birth of Consciousness

Part 2 Traherne and the Consciousness of Birth

Part 3 Locke and the Life of Consciousness