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Palgrave Macmillan

Lucretian Thought in Late Stuart England

Debates about the Nature of the Soul

ISBN 9781137398574
Publication Date November 2013
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Pivot

How did writers understand the soul in late seventeenth-century England? New discoveries in medicine and anatomy led Restoration writers to question the substance of the soul and its motions in literature written during the neo-Epicurean revival. Writers throughout Stuart England found Lucretius both liberating and disturbing and engaged Epicureanism in ways that cohered with their own philosophy, beliefs, values, or perceptions of the soul.

Lucretian Thought in Late Stuart England considers depictions of the soul in several representative literary texts from the period that engage with Lucretius's Epicurean philosophy in De rerum natura directly or through the writings of the most important natural philosopher, anatomist, and prolific medical writer to disseminate Epicurean atomism in Stuart England, Walter Charleton (1619-1707). Laura Linker thoughtfully recasts the Restoration literary imagination and offers close readings of the understudied texts 'P. M. Gent' 's The Cimmerian Matron, To which is added; THE MYSTERIES And MIRACLES OF LOVE (1668); George Etherege's The Man of Mode (1676); and Lady Mary Chudleigh's Poems (1703).

Laura Linker is Assistant Professor of English at High Point University, USA. She is the author of Dangerous Women, Libertine Epicures, and the Rise of Sensibility, 1670-1730. Her primary research interests include British literature and culture of the "long" eighteenth century, 1660-1830.

Introduction: Great Vibrations
1. Competing Motions
2. Outrageous Motions
3. Hysterical Motions
4. Contrary Motions
Conclusion: The Spirits of the Soul


"Lucretian Thought in Late Stuart England makes an original and perceptive contribution to a growing body of research on the treatment of the soul in the literature of the late seventeenth- and early-eighteenth centuries. Linker convincingly demonstrates that the Restoration literary imagination was significantly affected by Epicurean thought, as mediated by contemporary editions of Lucretius's De rerum natura and the neo-Epicurean works of the physician and natural philosopher Walter Charleton, among others. Given the dearth of books on this subject, it was a pleasure to read Linker's study on the soul in Restoration literature written by both women and men who chronicled or staged its stirrings." - Holly Faith Nelson, Professor and Chair of English, Trinity Western University, Canada
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