After the Great Instauration (seminar)

For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a spring 2018 semester seminar led by Reid Barbour

In 1620 Sir Francis Bacon announced his six-part plan, the Great Instauration, for reforming human learning. Nothing less than everything was at stake: the study of nature; the stocktaking and reconstitution of human habits of thought; the beliefs and practices of Protestantism; the desiderata of social and political institutions; and the apocalyptic transformation of the world. How was this project assessed and reinvented by English poets, theologians, natural philosophers, physicians, and political theorists? How did the mid-century English civil war and its extraordinary aftermath shape or inflect the conception and implications of Bacon’s project? Did the Great Instauration bear significance for women in particular? Topics include: religion and natural philosophy; science, poetics, and myth; notions of heroism; Lucretius, atomism, and women; the infinite universe; alchemy and magic; corpuscularian physics; language reform and the search for a universal language; epistemology; optical technologies; social institutions of the new philosophy; civil war appropriations; and rival etiologies of disease.

Director: Reid Barbour is Roy C. Moose Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has published extensively on early modern natural philosophy, including major work on Sir Thomas Browne and Lucy Hutchinson. With Brooke Conti, he is currently editing Browne’s Religio Medici for Oxford University Press. He is the editor of Studies in Philology.