Passions Triumph over Reason: A History of the Moral Imagination from Spenser to Rochester

Paperback | December 11, 2010

byChristopher Tilmouth

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Passion's Triumph over Reason presents a comprehensive survey of ideas of emotion, appetite, and self-control in English literature and moral thought of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In a narrative which draws on tragedy, epic poetry, and moral philosophy, Christopher Tilmouthexplores how Renaissance writers transformed their understanding of the passions, re-evaluating emotion so as to make it an important constituent of ethical life rather than the enemy within which allegory had traditionally cast it as being. This interdisciplinary study departs from current emphasesin intellectual history, arguing that literature should be explored alongside the moral rather than political thought of its time. The book also develops a new approach to understanding the relationship between literature and philosophy. Consciously or not, moral thinkers tend to ground theirphilosophising in certain images of human nature. Their work is premissed on imagined models of the mind and presumed estimates of man's moral potential. In other words, the thinking of philosophical authors (as much as that of literary ones) is shaped by the pre-rational assumptions of the 'moralimagination'. Because that is so, poets and dramatists in their turn, in speaking to this material, typically do more than just versify the abstract ideas of ethics. They reflect, directly and critically, upon those same core assumptions which are integral to the writings of their philosophicalcounterparts. Authors examined here include Aristotle, Augustine, Hobbes, and an array of lyric poets; but there are new readings, too, of The Faerie Queene and Paradise Lost, Hamlet and Julius Caesar, Dryden's 'Lucretius', and Etherege's Man of Mode. Tilmouth's study concludes with a revisionist interpretationof the works of the Earl of Rochester, presenting this libertine poet as a challenging, intellectually serious figure. Written in a lucid, accessible style, this book will appeal to a wide range of readers.

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Passion's Triumph over Reason presents a comprehensive survey of ideas of emotion, appetite, and self-control in English literature and moral thought of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In a narrative which draws on tragedy, epic poetry, and moral philosophy, Christopher Tilmouthexplores how Renaissance writers transformed thei...

Dr. Christopher Tilmouth is University Lecturer in English at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Peterhouse.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.01 inPublished:December 11, 2010Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199593043

ISBN - 13:9780199593040

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Table of Contents

IntroductionPart One: Governance and the Passions1. Positions in early modern moral thought2. Spenser, psychomachia, and the limits of governance3. Hamlet 'lapsed in passion'4. Renaissance tragedy and the fracturing of familiar terms5. Augustinian and Aristotelian influences from Herbert to MiltonPart Two: The Rise and Fall of Libertinism6. Hobbes: fear, power, and the passions7. The Restoration ethos of libertinism8. Rochester: the disappointments of Hobbism and libertinismCodaBibliography of references

Editorial Reviews

"a lucid, thorough account of changing attitudes toward the passions in England from the late sixteenth through the seventeenth centuries...Tilmouth's historical narrative is comprehensive, and he treats a usefully broad range of literary and moral psychological texts...Tilmouth's work willhelp bolster a line of scholarship that is truly interdisciplinary in its treatment of moral philosophy and (what we now call) literature." --Amelia A. Zurcher, The Review of English Studies 05/12/2007