English Literature and the Disciplines of Knowledge, Early Modern to Eighteenth Century

A Trade for Light


This volume highlights the connections that link both literary discourse and the discourse about literature to the conceptual or representational frameworks, practices, and cognitive results (the ‘truths’) of disciplines such as psychology, medicine, epistemology, anthropology, cartography, chemistry, and rhetoric. Literature and the sciences, embedded as they are in specific historical circumstances, thus emerge as fields of inquiry and representation which share a number of assumptions and are determined or constructed by several modes of cross-fertilization. The range of authors examined includes Richard Brome, Margaret Cavendish, Aphra Behn, Shaftesbury, Defoe, Swift, Richardson and Smollett, while emphasis is placed on how authors of literature regard the practices, practitioners and findings of science, as well as on how ‘mimesis’ intersects with scientific discourse.

Contributors are Bernhard Klein, Daniel Essig García, George Rousseau, Jorge Bastos da Silva, Kate De Rycker, Maria Avxentevskaya, Miguel Ramalhete Gomes, Mihaela Irimia, Richard Nate, and Wojciech Nowicki.


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Jorge Bastos da Silva (University of Porto) has published on topics of literary and intellectual history such as the traditions of utopianism, the history of translation, and the relationship between English literature and philosophy between the Augustan Age and Romanticism.

Miguel Ramalhete Gomes is a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Porto. He recently published Texts Waiting for History: William Shakespeare Re-Imagined by Heiner Müller (Rodopi, 2014). His research interests include Early Modern Drama, Irish Studies, and Utopian Studies.


List of Figures
Jorge Bastos da Silva and Miguel Ramalhete Gomes
Forethought: A Trade for Light and the State of the Art
George Rousseau

Part 1: Engendering Space, Creating Meaning

1 Oroonoko and the Mapping of Africa
Bernhard Klein
2 The Early Modern Couch: Richard Brome’s The Antipodes as Freudian Material
Miguel Ramalhete Gomes
3 A World of One’s Own: Margaret Cavendish and the Science of Self-fashioning
Kate De Rycker
4 The Arts Meet the Sciences in Exploring the Continent: Some Grand Tour Imagology
Mihaela Irimia

Part 2: Forms of Discourse and Sociability

5 From Inventio to Invention: John Wilkins’ Mathematical Magick
Maria Avxentevskaya
6 “Quitting Now the Flowers of Rhetoric”: Anti-rhetorical Continuities in English Science and Literature
Richard Nate
7 Reconnoitring and Recognizing: Modes of Knowledge in Shaftesbury’s Characteristicks
Jorge Bastos da Silva
8 Readers of Nerves and Tears: From Plague to Pamela
Daniel Essig García
9 Quackery, “Chymistry” and Politics in Eighteenth-Century English Fiction
Wojciech Nowicki



Scholars and postgraduate students interested in the interconnections of literature and science between c. 1500 and c. 1800, and in approaches to these practices fuelled by epistemological and sociological concerns.