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Title:The problem of evil in early modern English literature
Author(s):Fadely, Jonathan Patrick
Director of Research:Perry, Curtis; Mohamed, Feisal G.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Perry, Curtis
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Gray, Catharine; Markley, Robert
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
problem of evil
evil in literature
Abstract:This dissertation argues that theodicy was a predominant concern of early modern English literary culture, and that response to the so-called “problem of evil” was one of its major leitmotifs. With chapters spanning from the Elizabethan to the Restoration eras, its interpretations of canonical poetic and dramatic texts (by Spenser, Shakespeare, Lucy Hutchinson, and John Milton) shed light on the avidity of interest and diversity of approach early modern writers brought to questions of evil. Bringing philological evidence from the literary archive to bear on existing historical-theoretical theses regarding the relationship between early modern theodicy and the constitution of modernity (theodicy drives secularization; theodicy motivates the development of German Idealism from Leibniz to Kant), I argue that these existing theories tend to oversimplify the complexity of seventeenth century thinking about the origin and persistence of evil in the world and in human experience. I attend to the hybridity of early modern literary discourse, which speaks at the thresholds dividing secular and sacred, private and public spheres, in order to restore this sense of complexity and open up new avenues of inquiry regarding the imagination of evil in the modern age. Much early modern theodicy, I find, contributed to the constitution of the modern in a negative way, comprising directions not taken, forms of thought excluded in pursuit of rationality, and legitimizing institutions superseded as modernity took shape.
Issue Date:2018-10-26
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Jonathan Fadely
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-02-08
Date Deposited:2018-12

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