Mortal Thoughts: Religion, Secularity, and Identity in Shakespeare and Early Modern Culture

Hardcover | October 28, 2013

byBrian Cummings

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Since the nineteenth century, it has been assumed that the concept of personal identity in the early modern period is bound up with secularization. Indeed, many explanations of the emergence of modernity have been based on this thesis, in which Shakespeare as a secular author has played acentral role. However, the idea of secularization is now everywhere under threat. The secularity of modern society is less apparent than it was a generation ago. Shakespeare, too, has come to be seen in a religious perspective. What happens to human identity in this different framework? Mortal Thoughts asks what selfhood looks like if we do not assume that an idea of the self could only come into being as a result of an emptying out of a religious framework. It does so by examining human mortality. What it is to be human, and how a life is framed by its ending, are issues thatcross religious confessions in early modernity, and interrogate the sacred and secular divide. A series of chapters examines literature and art in relation to concepts such as conscience, martyrdom, soliloquy, luck, suicide, and embodiment. Religious and philosophical creativity are revealed aspoised around anxieties about finitude and contingency, challenging conventional divisions between kinds of literary and artistic endeavour. Mortal Thoughts considers incipient genres of life writing (More, Foxe and Montaigne) and life drawing (Durer, Hans Baldung Grien) in relation to dramatic representation and literary narration (Shakespeare, Donne, Milton). In the process it asks whether the problem of human identity rewriteshistorical boundaries.

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Since the nineteenth century, it has been assumed that the concept of personal identity in the early modern period is bound up with secularization. Indeed, many explanations of the emergence of modernity have been based on this thesis, in which Shakespeare as a secular author has played acentral role. However, the idea of secularizatio...

Brian Cummings is Anniversary Professor at the University of York in the Department of English and Related Literature. He previously taught at Trinity College, Cambridge and the University of Sussex, and has held Visiting Fellowships in California, Munich, and Oxford. From 2009-2012 he held a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:384 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.01 inPublished:October 28, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199677719

ISBN - 13:9780199677719

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Secularization and IdentityThe Mortal Self: Durer and MontaigneThe Reformed Consicence: Thomas MoreThe Writer as Martyr: Cranmer and FoxePublic Oathes and Private Selves: More, Foxe, and ShakespeareSoliloquy and Secularisation: ShakespeareHamlet's Luck: Shakespeare and the Renaissance BibleFreedom, Suicide, and Selfhood: Montaigne, Shakespeare, DonneSoft Selves: Adam, Eve, and the Art of EmbodiementBibliography