Editing De Doctrina Christiana

Monday, September 24th, 2012 | MICHAEL COP | No Comments

John Hale writes…

The narrative of the editing of De Doctrina Christiana for Oxford’s new The Complete Works of John Milton is like that of the Muppet Movie, a “narrative of very heavy duty proportions”. Our task began back in 1993, when I joined a group researching the authorship of De Doctrina. Because Milton’s authorship had been questioned, this multidisciplinary group tested it by diverse means – statistical, bibliographical, stylistic and so on. With the authorship upheld, my task shifted around 2000 to transcribing the manuscript, before editing and translating it, for the new Oxford University Press Complete Works of John Milton. In 2003 I was joined by Donald Cullington. Ten years later, we are free men again, and looking forward to holding the two thick volumes in our hands. Publication day was 13 September in the UK, though the authorial copies haven’t arrived yet.

We are the fourth such collaborative edition. The first edition was in 1825 by Charles, later Bishop, Sumner. Miraculously he completed the work in only two years. He had some help, whose nature and limits are not clearly defined, from William Walker; also from green tea and a wet bandage for the forehead  to enable him to “sit up night after night until three or four o’clock in the morning.” He saved some time, and introduced distortions of Milton’s Latin bible, by using the English King James version for the teeming citations which comprise half of the whole huge text. The next collaboration, that of James Holly Hanford and Waldo H. Dunn for the Columbia collected Milton (1930s), has left no record of how their work was done. It derived much from Sumner’s. Third came volume VI of the Yale Prose Works edition. Yale is unsurpassed in its annotations and scholarship, both historical and theological. But it offers no Latin text. Milton’s own words are not to be found. John Carey’s brilliant translation, which rightly included his own fresh rendering of the thousands of biblical citations, is widely used nowadays, as if its lucid and concise self-consistency might replace Milton’s diverse and uneven Latin, which ranges from high to low to confused register.

Our own edition seeks fidelity, the fidelity of transcribing the manuscript afresh, warts and all, and only emending when it becomes nonsense; and correspondingly of translating with literal accuracy, and completeness, as aims we place ahead of elegance. We did it like this in order that the English might show more of Milton’s real style, which is often otiose, excessively periodic, turgid or partisan; soaring and sinking by turns; in a word, idiosyncratic. Computer applications have helped, naturally, and retirement is another advantage we have enjoyed. Our routine has been the opposite of Sumner’s. Not late nights, but early mornings. As the work neared its eventual completion, 3 or 4 a.m. became for each of us the time of starting not finishing for the day. No green tea nor wet bandages in sight.

In the intervals of copy-editing, and of four stages of proof-reading (OUP are marvellously thorough!), we have been writing notes, essays, talks and blogs, on some of the trains of thought which the requirements of time and of the edition precluded. A joint essay is appearing in December in Milton Studies. These by-products are continuing, in the form of an address to the recent International Milton Symposium in Tokyo (August), to the forthcoming British Milton Symposium meeting (October), and in a talk in Washington DC on my way home (November). Publication in America is later than in the UK, so this talk should serve to keep the pot boiling, as do the various blogs written for OUP and for the Otago research theme.


John K. Hale and J. Donald Cullington’s The Complete Works of John Milton: Volume VIII De Doctrina Christiana

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012 | MICHAEL COP | No Comments


We are very pleased to announce that John K. Hale and J. Donald Cullington’s The Complete Works of John Milton: Volume VIII De Doctrina Christiana has just appeared with Oxford University Press:

The second of eleven volumes of Milton’s Complete Works to be published contains his systematic theology, De Doctrina Christiana. It is his longest work and was, Milton said, his dearest possession. In it, he works out his religious beliefs from Scripture; what Scripture does not mention, such as the Trinity, he energetically refutes. The work exists in manuscript and was written in Latin for European as well as home consumption. Its chapters are conceived and arranged according to the binarizing logic devised by the Protestant martyr Ramus.

De Doctrina Christiana first appeared in print nearly two hundred years ago but the previous editions are now overdue for replacement. For this ground-breaking edition, the manuscript has been freshly transcribed, with fuller textual apparatus and commentary than in any of its few predecessors. The edition aims above all at accuracy, clarity, and completeness, presenting Latin and English on facing pages, amplifying the Biblical citations where necessary, and adding extensive annotations not only on the text and its transcription but also on the content and context of Milton’s ideas. The provenance and history of the work are expertly narrated, enabling readers to get closer than ever before to its composition. Milton’s Latin is examined in unprecedented detail, and the translation aims to reproduce the nuances and changes of register which characterize his Latin in all its individuality – from the high-flown rhetoric of his arguments in favour of divorce and polygamy, and against tithing, to the plainer style of those sections where he states his main points more dispassionately but bolsters them with strong and wide-ranging Biblical support. The structure of this massive edifice is clarified by the addition of charts which show the Ramist scheme he followed, whereby the primary division between faith (Book One) and worship (Book Two) is mirrored by smaller and smaller subdivisions whose relationship to the whole can be seen at a glance.


Re-Examining Light on the Early Modern Stage

Monday, August 27th, 2012 | MICHAEL COP | No Comments

Neil Vallelly writes…

Light was a prominent trope on the early modern stage. In fact, I challenge you to find any edition of an early modern play that does not use light conceptually in some shape or form. We can think of endless examples. Shakespeare in Love’s Labour’s Lost (ca.1595), for instance: “Light, seeking, light, doth light of light beguile” (1.1.77). Perhaps, Middleton in The Revenger’s Tragedy (ca.1607): “Yet still the maid like an unlighted taper / Was cold and chaste” (2.2.55-56). Or, John Marston in Antonio’s Revenge (ca.1599): “The bulk of man’s as dark as Erebus, / No branch of reason’s light hangs in his trunk” (1.4.25-26). All of these examples take light as a thing, something that we take to be real and that we experience in the world, and represent it through language.

Light was used in the early modern era to represent a broad range of concepts from divinity to race, from optics to chastity. I am interested less in the meanings of these tropes and more in the cognitive processes involved in how light came to represent such and such. Why and how did light come to represent such a broad range of concepts? What made light such an accessible material for conceptualization? Do modern representations of light differ from historical representations? If so, why?

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in their work on embodied cognition (Philosophy in the Flesh, 1999) suggest that “our categories of things in the world determine what we take to be real: trees, rocks, animals, people, buildings and so on” and they conclude that “our concepts must characterize the structure of our categories sufficiently well enough for us to function” (21). We can say that the ways in which we have come to conceptualize light in language characterize the ways in which we experience light in the world. That is not to say that this process is diagrammatic or lineal, but rather it is to suggest that the ways in which we represent “light” cannot be separated from the ways in which we categorize light. In effect, I am following Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s expression that “our effective involvement in the world is precisely what has to be understood and made amendable to conceptualisation” (Phenomenology of Perception, 1945: xvi).

So, what does this mean for the study of light on the early modern stage? Well, light was a radically different phenomenon in the early modern world. The stark contrast between day and night, the limited materials of artificial lighting, the lack of uniformed lighting in social spaces, and cosmological and ontological beliefs about light mean that the conditions of thought in the early modern world differ radically from the scientific and twenty-four hour world that we inhabit. Furthermore, the experience of early modern theatre was subjected to lighting conditions far removed from modern theatrical experiences. In modern theatre, light plays a directorial role by suggesting to us where our attention should be directed and has the ability to conveniently alter lighting states in order to indicate whether a scene takes place during the day or at night. In early modern theatre, however, light was less of a concern. Attention was directed more through sound and kinesics. Also, linguistic and material signifiers, such as an actor carrying a lantern, were used to denote the time of day that a scene took place.

What we come to realize is that the early modern individual conceptualized light against a vastly different world than we do. Thus, in order to truly understand what light represented on the stage we must firstly explore the ecologies and materials of light in the early modern world. Secondly, we must investigate how these ecologies and materials were experienced in everyday life. It is through this dynamic interaction of body and world that Shakespeare and his contemporaries conceptualized light.

Early Modern Thought Colloquium Schedule

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 | MICHAEL COP | No Comments

We have finalized the schedule for our Early Modern Thought Research Theme’s colloquium on 27-28 August held at Otago University.  The full abstracts are available on our conference page. Everyone is welcome; for registration details please contact Michael Cop (michael.cop@otago.ac.nz):

Monday 27 August Otago Museum Kakapo Room

9:15 Registration

9: 30 Peter Anstey, University of Otago: Introduction and remarks: Practical and Speculative Knowledge

10:00 Peter Harrison, University of Queensland: “Contemplation and Creation: Some Theological Motivations for the Pursuit of an Experimental Natural Philosophy“

11:00  Morning tea

11: 30 Sorana Corneanu, University of Bucharest: “The Parts of Prudence and the Virtues of Experimental Knowledge”

12:30 – 2:00 Lunch

2:00 Peter Marshall, Warwick University: “How to Recognize a Heretic in Sixteenth-Century England”

3:00 Afternoon tea

3:30 – 4:30 Terry Doyle, University of Otago: “Pharmaceutice Rationalis: Patterns of Medical Treatment in the Seventeenth Century”


Tuesday 28 August Otago Museum Hutton Theatre

9:30 Evelyn Tribble, University of Otago & John Sutton, Macquarie University: Introduction and Remarks: The Historical Study of Skill

10:00 Paul Menzer, Mary Baldwin College: “Sophistication”

11:00 Morning Tea

11:30 Michael Neill, University of Auckland: “‘A book where one may read strange matters’: Envisaging Character on the Shakespearean Stage.”

12:00 Tom Bishop, University of Auckland, “Work and Play”

Lunch 12:30 – 2:00

2:00-4:30 Roundtable: Theatrical Skills, then and now
Brief remarks from Paul Menzer, John Sutton, Ros Knutson, David Carnegie, Evelyn Tribble, and Lisa Warrington; followed by open discussion

Special Issue: Women, Philosophy and Literature in the Early Modern Period

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012 | MICHAEL COP | No Comments

We are pleased to announce that Professor Peter Anstey and Emeritus Professor Jocelyn Harris of our Early Modern Thought Research Theme have edited a new special issue of Intellectual History Review with Routledge:

Over the last two decades, a burgeoning interest in women intellectuals from the early modern period has resulted in outstanding surveys, anthologies and a robust secondary literature. The consequence is that we now have a clearer, richer understanding of the range and quality of many women authors, together with an enhanced appreciation of their philosophical depth.

This special issue is the fruit of a conference exploring the intersection of women, philosophy and literature in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, held in September 2009 at the University of Otago. Speakers both built on and extended recent scholarship in papers about women writers from Margaret Cavendish to Jane Austen, the representation of women by Nicolas Malebranche and mid-eighteenth-century playwrights, and the impact of a woman philosopher on Samuel Richardson. Their inter-connections highlight the thematic continuity of the whole.

This collection includes at least four common threads. First, the question of influence, or rather the extent to which contemporary philosophers influenced women thinkers and the extent to which they influenced one another. Second, the question of the gendered nature of mind, especially the epistemic status of women’s reason. That debate cannot be uncoupled from a third early modern preoccupation variously touched on in these essays, that is, the relation between humans and animals. And fourth, the decidedly Christian character of many of the writings under discussion.


Abstracts of the papers:

Jacqueline Broad, “Impressions in the Brain: Malebranche on Women, and Women on Malebranche”

In his De la recherche de la vérité (The Search after Truth) of 1674-75, Nicolas Malebranche makes a number of apparently contradictory remarks about women and their capacity for pure intellectual thought. On the one hand, he seems to espouse a negative biological determinism about women’s minds, and on the other, he suggests that women have the free capacity to attain truth and happiness, regardless of their physiology.  In the early eighteenth-century, four English women thinkers – Anne Docwra (c. 1624-1710), Mary Astell (1666-1731), Damaris Masham (1659-1708), and Mary Chudleigh (1656-1710) – engaged with Malebranche’s ideas. Their writings reveal how we might dispel the apparent contradictions in Malebranche’s thinking about women, and reaffirm the liberating potential of Cartesian philosophy for women in the early modern period.

Jennifer Clement, “Elizabeth I, Patriotism, and the Imagined Nation in Three Eighteenth-Century Plays”

The cult of Elizabeth I shaped three eighteenth-century plays: James Ralph’s The Fall of the Earl of Essex in 1731; Henry Jones’s The Earl of Essex: A Tragedy, first performed in 1753; and Henry Brooke’s play, also called The Earl of Essex, first performed in London in the 1760-61 season. This article explores the specific historical circumstances of each play to show how they produce significantly different readings of Elizabeth. While Ralph depicts a queen unable to control her passions, Jones intensifies Elizabeth’s patriotism, and Brooke not only makes Elizabeth a full-fledged Patriot Queen but also portrays Essex as much to blame for his own tragic fate. Examining these plays together thus shows Elizabeth’s significance in the development of British patriot discourse. Moreover, in spite of their differences, all three plays emphasize the importance of a loving bond between sovereign and people, and suggest that only such a bond can resist faction and reach out beyond court corruption to unify the nation in its advance towards an imperial future.

Jocelyn Harris, “Philosophy and Sexual Politics in Mary Astell and Samuel Richardson”

When the novelist Samuel Richardson dramatised in his heroine Clarissa the character, life and sexual politics of the celebrated Mary Astell, neo-Platonic philosopher and advocate for women’s education, then appropriated her more satiric tone for her friend Anne Howe, he spread Astell’s arguments more widely than she ever could. Richardson printed for Astell in 1730, and his intellectual circle intersected with hers through Sarah Chapone, who tried to bring him together with Astell’s biographer George Ballard. Similarities between Richardson’s first and third editions and Ballard’s memoir suggest that he read it in manuscript. As Astell and Richardson both point out, Locke’s concept of freedom through the social contract does not apply to women. Astell’s submission to authority on political and religious grounds made heaven her only recourse. In Richardson’s masterpiece, too, Clarissa only finds freedom in death.

Charles Pigden, “A Sensible Knave? Hume, Jane Austen and Mr Elliot”

My paper deals with one woman’s literary response to a philosophical problem. The woman is Jane Austen, the problem is the rationality of Hume’s ‘sensible knave’, and Austen’s response is to deepen the problem. Despite his enthusiasm for virtue, Hume reluctantly concedes that injustice can be a rational strategy for ‘sensible knaves’, who feel no aversion towards thoughts of villainy or baseness. Austen agrees, but adds that absent considerations of a future state there are other vices besides injustice that can be rationally indulged with tolerable prospects of worldly happiness. Austen’s creation Mr Elliot is just such an agent – sensible and knavish but not technically ‘unjust’.

L. E. Semler, “Margaret Cavendish’s Early Engagement with Descartes and Hobbes: Philosophical Revisitation and Poetic Selection”

This essay explores Margaret Cavendish’s early engagement with the works and ideas of Thomas Hobbes and René Descartes. In the process it presents a chronology of her early works and the hypotheses of poetic selection and philosophical revisitation. The essay argues that Cavendish had extensive philosophical knowledge by the early 1650s, was interested in poetically exploring the philosophical ideas of her male contemporaries, and revisited in the 1660s philosophical ideas that she had already considered in the early period. It concludes that despite her covert use of sources and denials of extensive philosophical knowledge in the early period, her early works reveal her to be deeply and intelligently engaged in current trends of thought.

Jane Spencer, “The link which unites man with brutes’: Enlightenment Feminism, Woman and Animals”

This essay argues that eighteenth-century natural historians’ accounts of the relationship between animals and humanity had a complex influence on the development of Enlightenment feminism. On the basis of analogies between human and animal behaviour, human female subordination and feminine qualities such as modesty were naturalised. Focusing on Mary Wollstonecraft, the essay shows how her argument with William Smellie’s Philosophy of Natural History was instrumental in her development of a social constructivist position which she used to counter Edmund Burke’s conservatism on social and gender hierarchies. In developing this position, she reaffirmed a dualist understanding of a firm boundary between human (spiritual) and animal (physical) nature. While earlier feminist thinkers had considered human affinities to animals in a more positive light, Wollstonecraft, though advocating kindness to animals, was conservative on the human-animal hierarchy. For her, woman’s place in a rational humanity radically distinguished from animal life was the necessary foundation of  feminist argument.

Sophie Tomlinson, “A Woman’s Reason: Aphra Behn Reads Lucretius”

Critics have conflicting views about Aphra Behn and libertinism, some seeing her as embracing it, others seeing her as ambivalent towards it, and others still feeling that she employs it strategically for marketing her literature. This essay explores all three approaches, arguing that Behn’s ‘libertinism’, like all libertinism, is more difficult to define than is sometimes thought. The essay shows that Behn dallied with alternative forms of libertinism depending on occasion; it explores Behn as a revising author, analyzing the changes that she made to some of her most crucial libertine texts. Behn’s libertinism is hard to pin down, because Behn herself defines it differently each time she revises her work.