English Language and Literature ETDs

Publication Date

6-24-2010

Abstract

My dissertation examines Renaissance authors investment in the Hermetic tradition. This tradition is based on the Hellenistic Egyptian philosophical-theological writings ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, which emerged in parallel with early Christianity, Neoplatonism, and Gnosticism. The Hermetic tradition gained importance in the Renaissance with Marsilio Ficino's translations and soon became an alternative avenue for the exploration in the spiritual conception of the 'self' as divine, a conception previously closed off by medieval orthodox religious and secular traditions. I argue that principal figures in the Renaissance and Restoration—Shakespeare, Bacon, and Milton—were engaged in constructing this Hermetic mode of thinking to illustrate individuals' ability and responsibility for 'saving' themselves through the gnosis of self-discovery, the gnosis that emphasized living with and in the presence of God. The Hermetic discourse is well documented in the history discipline by such scholars as Lynn Thorndike, Frances Yates, and D. P. Walker. Yet, in the literary discipline, there have not been sufficient discussions for locating the influence of the Hermetism on Renaissance and Restoration literary authors. In this way, I fill the gap in Renaissance scholarship and classroom teaching by showing that these authors used rhetorical maneuvers and symbols to illustrate the Hermetic mode of thinking as a major defining feature in their arguments for a new epistemology.'

Degree Name

English

Level of Degree

Doctoral

Department Name

English

First Advisor

Gaines, Barry

First Committee Member (Chair)

Greenberg, Marissa

Second Committee Member

Kells, Michelle

Third Committee Member

Domski, Mary

Language

English

Keywords

Hermetism in literature, Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616--Criticism and interpretation, Bacon, Francis, 1561-1626--Criticiam and interpretation, Milton, John, 1608-1674--Criticism and interpretation

Document Type

Dissertation

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