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Phantasmatic ShakespeareImagination in the Age of Early Modern Science$
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Suparna Roychoudhury

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781501726552

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501726552.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Theseus, Phantasia, and the Scientific Renaissance

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Phantasmatic Shakespeare
Author(s):

Suparna Roychoudhury

Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9781501726552.003.0001

This chapter offers a reading of the most famous Shakespearean lines on imagination, a speech by Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, arguing that this speech presents not a unified but a pluralistic idea of what imagination is—a story; a section of the brain; a shape; a substance. To account for this variegation, the chapter summarizes the long intellectual history of imagination, emphasizing the cognitive or psychological tradition founded by Aristotle. The chapter then examines the complex and often confused early modern discourse of imagination, arguing that these confusions indicate the ways in which proto-scientific fields were destabilizing faculty psychology. To understand Theseus’ polysemic idea of imagination, and Shakespeare’s more generally, we must explore the various contexts in which imagination’s earlier philosophy was tested or recast by the early modern history of science; these contexts will be explored in subsequent chapters.

Keywords:   William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus, imagination, faculty psychology, Aristotle, history of science

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