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Finally, Sloman's main thesis, that the collections of 1680, 1684, 1685, and 16<)3 were, like the Fables (1700), 'integrated' by thematic and other links, is never supported by any sensible argument. In Ovid's Epistles (1680) there were over a dozen contributors; Dryden provided only three pieces, which were not printed consecutively. The editing was probably Tonson's. Moreover, Sloman admits that there and in Miscellany Poems (1684) the links between Dryden's own pieces 'may have been evident to the author alone' (p 53). So what becomes of her argument? In the Sylvae (1685), of which less than half was written by Dryden, Sloman says 'there are few inner links outside of Dryden's work' (p 78). Yet 'the various poems provide a range ofEpicurean responses to the contemplation of the void' (p 78). An 'Epicurean' grid is then fitted over five of Dryden's translations with effects which can only be described as bizarre. Before the reader complains that these criticisms (drawn from dozens of examples) are rude and ill natured, perhaps he will first ask whether they are true, and then, if they are, ponder what they imply about the book's origins and its possible effects. Such a work would not have been published in Toronto in A.S.P. Woodhouse's day. Before that period it would not have been written. (NIALL RUDD) Patrick Grant. Lit",.t"re and the Discovery ofMethod in the English Renaissance University of Georgia Press. 188. $22.50 The relation of poetry to both science and faith has been a major concern of writers and critics since the Scientific Revolution, and never more so than in our century. In Literature and the Discovery of Method in the English Renaissance, Patrick Grant examines five writers who, between 1500 and 1750, struggled with the effects of the new scientific method on older views of God and of man's nature. All of these writers, in varying ways, feltthe threatto the whole human being and to the knowledge that a man could have ofhimself that arose from the determinisms implied by science and by Calvinist Christianity. The discovery of method, which Grant defines as 'a certain efficient organisation of knowledge, based on the assumption of responsibility for a mathematico-empirical investigation of nature, espousing a corpuscular theory of matter and, for practical purposes, depicting the universe in terms of geometrical configurations of lI\iiSS in space' (p 11), led to a view of the world as mechanism and man as machine. The second determinism, which came 'from above: made man dependent on unmerited grace for salvation. Nature could now be known completely, while God became the completely unknowable. Many writers of the seventeenth century joined the attack on the HUMANITIES 97 metaphysics of the Middle Ages and earlier that was so common a rallying point during the age of 'method: but they nevertheless needed some metaphysical structure to order their sense of the mystery of being. The poetry of Donne, for example, expresses the agony of a man who cannot find a metaphysical structure that will allow him to know both God and the world. During this period, says Grant, literature becomes aware of a restricted scope, because it can no longer deal confidently with either God or nature, but also of a new responsibility to explore man's'middle state: the doubtful area that lies between what Grant calls'that tWofold tyranny of grace and of mechanism' (p 17). To develop his thesis, Grant examines five writers who are particularly concerned with the tension between method and metaphysics. He begins with More, whose Richard III, he argues, combines simplicity, in the narrator's explicit moral instruction, and complexity, in the vivid presentation of Richard's hypocritical and theatrical manipulation of language and symbolic action. He then discusses the meaning of puppets and vapours in Jonson's Bartholomew Fair; Jonson's fierce comedy derives from the determinism of the body machine, but his play nevertheless affirms the possibility of judgment. Grant then turns, in a particularly subtle chapter, to the imagery ofthe heart in Donne's Anniversaries. In his chapter on Browne's Religio Medici, he considers 'Baconian Method and the Metaphysical Cross'; and his chapter on Law's Spirit ofLove he entitles 'Rationalist Argument and Behemist Myth.' Each of these succinct and closely argued chapters can stand alone, but I am convinced by Grant's claim that his five writers have in common a faith in human imagination as the 'monitor' and 'index' of man's existence as spirit-in-body. Early in his book, Grant comments that More, in Richard III, discovers a way to combine simplicity and complexity and thereby creates a 'new thing for English letters' (p 42). This surprising statement - surprising because one assumes that literature has always combined the simple and the complex - points to a claim which Grant never makes explicitly but which his whole book expresses: that 'literature' itself is a new product of the age that he describes. It is significant that, except for Donne, Grant does not deal with the great poets of the Renaissance. His examples of 'literature' are, in the cases of More, Browne, and Law, at least, works that would often be considered as lying at the edges of literature proper. Obviously, for Grant, literature involves a certain quality of experience and sensibility, rather than a certain form. This quality belongs to works that combine a sense of man's bound condition with a sense of 'all that is whole and unconfined in human experience' (p 147). Literature, in short, is the realril of the imaginative and the problematical. Grant provides an eloquent, solid and unsentirnentaliy humane apologia for this provocative view of literature. (DOUGLAS FREAI

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 96-97
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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