Date: May 2014
Creator: Kellogg, Amanda O.
Description: In this dissertation, I examine the influence of Pyrrhonist skepticism over Shakespeare’s sonnets. Unlike academic skepticism, which begins from a position of doubt, Pyrrhonist skepticism encourages an embrace of multiple perspectives that, according to Sextus Empiricus, leads first to a suspension of judgment and ultimately to a state of tranquility. The Pyrrhonian inflection of Shakespeare’s sonnets accounts for the pleasure and uncertainty they cultivate in readers. By offering readers multiple perspectives on a given issue, such as love or infidelity, Shakespeare’s sonnets demonstrate the instability of information, suggesting that such instability can be a source for pleasure. One essential tool for the uncertainty in the sonnets, I argue, is the figurative language they draw from a variety of fields and discourses. When these metaphors contradict one another, creating fragmented images in the minds of readers, they generate a unique aesthetic experience, which creates meaning that transcends the significance of any of the individual metaphors. In the first two chapters, I identify important contexts for Shakespeare’s sensitivity to the pliability of figurative language: Reformation-era religious tracts and pamphleteers’ debates about the value and function of the theater. In Chapter 3, I examine Shakespeare’s response to the Petrarchan tradition, arguing that he ...
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