Timothy Harrison - "Coming To: Consciousness and Natality in Early Modern England" - Virtual Event

Wednesday, December 2, 2020 - 5:00pm - 6:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Timothy Harrison

Timothy Harrison will discuss Coming To: Consciousness and Natality in Early Modern England. He will be joined in conversation by Joanna Piccioto.

Presented in partnership with the University of Chicago Press

Virtual event


About the book: In Coming To, Timothy M. Harrison uncovers the forgotten role of poetry in the history of the idea of consciousness. Drawing our attention to a sea change in the English seventeenth century, when, over the course of a half century, “conscience” made a sudden shift to “consciousness,” he traces a line that leads from the philosophy of René Descartes to the poetry of John Milton, from the prenatal memories of theologian Thomas Traherne to the unresolved perspective on natality, consciousness, and ethics in the philosophy of John Locke. Each of these figures responded to the first-person perspective by turning to the origins of how human thought began. Taken together, as Harrison shows, this unlikely group of thinkers sheds new light on the emergence of the concept of consciousness and the significance of human natality to central questions in the fields of literature, philosophy, and the history of science.

About the author: Timothy M. Harrison is the Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Assistant Professor of Renaissance and Early Modern English Literature in the Department of English Language and Literature and the College at the University of Chicago, where he also directs the undergraduate program in Renaissance Studies. He has published articles on Montaigne, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, and Traherne in publications including English Literary Renaissance, Modern Philology, and Milton Studies.

About the interlocutor: Joanna Picciotto is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century literature. She is the author of Labors of Innocence in Early Modern England

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