This chapter offers a philologically orientated analysis of Samuel Beckett's engagement with the nothing as conceived ontologically and ethically. It provides an analysis that focuses principally on his deployment of the words 'nothing', 'naught', 'nihil' and 'void'. The chapter presents consideration of some of the sources by way of which these words entered his literary vocabulary and came to serve as markers for an aporetic experience. These words might themselves be thought of as among Beckett's most important 'unwords'; words that work against what in the letter to Axel Kaun he terms the 'veil' of language in order to disclose that which lies beyond language. In opting for the words 'naught' and 'nihil' in his letter to Sighle Kennedy, Beckett indicates not only the precise textual nature of his encounters with philosophical writings on the nothing over three decades earlier but also the order in which these encounters took place.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book examines the role of the senses in the reception of art and the experience of intense emotion. It addresses the ways in which the passions, humours and senses merge within the complex physiology of the human body. The book shows us to what extent theories of vision were in flux and how the eyes were seen both as the "most noble, perfect and admirable" of the senses, while being burdened with the notion of 'visual deception'. As a result of this dichotomy, the ability of sense perception to enlighten or harm an individual meant that people were constantly reminded to be vigilant, guarded and to regulate their sensory activities. In addition to hierarchies and dichotomies, the senses are beset by conflict, vulnerable to deception and held hostage to the emotions.
John Donne, George Chapman and the senses of night in the 1590s
This chapter investigates the place of the senses in understandings of light, dark and shadow in the post-Reformation period, using the evidence of the writings of two contrasting poets, John Donne and George Chapman. It discusses Donne's will, where he disposes of his personal time keeping technology. The specificity of Donne's use of light, dark and shadow can be seen more clearly in comparison with Chapman's 'The Shadow of Night'. In 'A Nocturnall Upon St. Lucie's Day', the senses are interwoven with alchemical language and an elaboration, even multiplication, of the absence of light, the world of dark. The 'Hymnus in Noctem' explores night in terms of the senses, but also derives substantial sections from Natale Comes's allegorical fables. The Skeptick circulating in the 1590s is an indication of vernacular debate on the role of the senses, and sensory experience, in producing knowledge.
This chapter explores conflicting philosophical and early scientific attitudes to visual clues, before examining the moral judgements of seeing in late Elizabethan drama. Examples from late Elizabethan plays show appearance as a practical means of fulfilling courtly aspiration, but also suggest the moral concern surrounding such ambitions. These issues were of personal interest to the ambitious, playgoing young gentlemen of the Inns of Court. Suggesting the irony of such a debate in a medium which itself relies so much upon appearance and deception, the chapter considers the ways in which writers for the 'new technology' of the playhouse were engaged in guiding their audiences both in how to see, and how to interpret the validity of the visual. It concludes with information on Thomas, Lord Cromwell, which stages the existence of evil men unpunished in the world, 'for that they are not reputed evil'.
An examination of touching moments in dance of court and courtship
This chapter considers what level of contact occurred during the activity of dancing in social situations in early modern England. It examines how the private sensations produced were then recorded and commented upon in different written, visual and theatrical forms. The chapter also considers the importance given to the tactile in developing a communication skill which had to be mastered by those courtiers wanting to excel in courtly dance. 'Unclean handling' is not only occurring in the dance, but by all those involved at the court seen to be sharing the touching moments. To puritan moralists the image of holding hands in dance may have signified illicit fornication, but there are examples where the same dancing image is used as a symbol of chaste concord. The French Basse Dance repertoire comprised different choreographies, each with variable combinations of basic step units, following specific structural metrical rules.
This chapter explores the problems that mirrors presented for women, at whom they were often directed, and discusses the potential for women to circumvent some of the mirror's negative associations. It presents various self-portraits by Sofonisba Anguissola and Artemisia Gentileschi which reveal the different approaches of these women to the problem of representing themselves. Female artists who represent themselves are hampered by the mirror's classic, symbolic associations with women which regularly portrays them in an unfavourable light. The images of Anguissola and Gentileschi, combined with the discussion of James Shirley's 'To A Lady Upon a Looking-Glass Sent', illustrate that the mirror is used in its traditional context of sin, pride and vanity. The mirror appears as a tool of self-improvement, as a means of gazing into the truth of the soul, or what the soul ought to be, and as a motif for true self worth.
Antony and Cleopatra and visual musical experience
Sources describing visual musical experience range from works of music theory and the paratexts of printed music books, through to dramatic texts and the prefaces of popular psalm settings. This chapter considers early modern accounts of the importance of visual musical experience, before examining accounts of musical response when music is hidden and unavailable for such engagement. These sources offer a clear picture of the reactions expected from contemporary subjects when faced either with visible or with unseen music. The chapter also considers responses to unseen music that were invited from playgoers at early performances of Antony and Cleopatra. Early modern sources are clear about responses to unseen music, and it is through these responses that visual musical experience took on a particular significance for playgoers. Hidden music is used with precise dramaturgical intentions in Act 4, Scene 3 of Antony and Cleopatra in a supernatural context.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book explores both works of art and wider culture in early modern England. The book is divided into three sections, each focusing on a different question about the senses. The first section explores how individual senses appear in particular artworks, considering each of the five senses in turn. The second section explains how the senses were understood in particular early modern contexts explored in works of art, including contexts of night, of sexual pleasure, and of love melancholy. The final section also explores what sensory experiences might have been enacted when early modern subjects actually engaged with works of art, considering practical encounters with playhouse performance, painting and printed drama.
Robert Burton indicates that love, just like melancholy, can be detected through a number of symptoms, which are similar to the symptoms of melancholy that are consistently identified in the medical literature of the period. This chapter examines the effects of love melancholy over the senses in the works of an early modern woman writer, Mary Wroth. Wroth's works deal with love melancholy, and consistently evoke its effects over the characters in terms of an opposition between the 'external' and the 'internal senses'. The chapter demonstrates that this distinction was formulated by Thomas Aquinas in the Middle Ages and had an important influence on Renaissance medicine. It examines several examples taken first from Countess of Montgomery's Urania, then from Love's Victory, and finally from Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, which best illustrate Wroth's understanding of love melancholy as a disruption of the division between the 'external' and the 'internal senses'.
Robert Herrick's early modern English verse explores the surfaces of bodies, their sensing orifices and the liquefying experiences of sensation. Herrick, however, does imagine all five senses to enable 'physical invasion of the body'. This chapter argues that Herrick's poetics reveal that all objects act like fluids when they are seen, tasted, touched, heard or smelled, or, rather, when they are textualized or poeticized as sensible things. It is Francis Bacon's sixth sense that finally helps to explain Herrick's liquefying depictions of the five traditional senses. In Hesperides, the desire for sexual pleasure defines the experience of sensation. Herrick's poetry is both about sensation and a demonstration of the experience of sensation. Herrick's liquefying senses might make the most sense when we remember that the language of poetry is always the language of bodily sensation.