What Katherine Eggert means by disknowledge is “knowing something isn’t true but believing it anyway” (jacket copy). The subtitle of her book, Literature, Alchemy, and the End of Humanism in Renaissance England, gives a good indication of its scope and Eggert’s intention. An important companion to the book is her Shakespeare Quarterly article “Hamlet’s Alchemy: Transubstantiation, Modernity, Belief” (Eggert 2013). She starts from positions taken by Stephen Greenblatt and Sarah Beckwith, who agree that modern skepticism was born when Christians began to question Roman Catholicism on the sacraments. If a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, it poses the dilemma of trusting one’s own eyes: how can water confer salvation, or a piece of bread Christ’s sacrifice? As the Anglican Book of Common Prayer has it: “Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the...
Disknowledge: Literature, Alchemy, and the End of Humanism in Renaissance England
Alan Rudrum, professor emeritus of English at Simon Fraser University, is editor, with two others, of the three-volume Complete Works of Henry Vaughan (forthcoming). A Festschrift volume, Of Paradise and Light: Essays on Henry Vaughan and John Milton in Honor of Alan Rudrum, was published in 2004.
Alan Rudrum; Disknowledge: Literature, Alchemy, and the End of Humanism in Renaissance England. Modern Language Quarterly 1 December 2017; 78 (4): 543–547. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-4198275
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