Description: This dissertation argues that early modern writers such as William Shakespeare, Thomas Middleton, George Herbert, John Milton, and Andrew Marvell played a critical role in the transition from the Neoplatonic philosophy of beauty to Enlightenment aesthetics. I demonstrate how the Protestant Reformation, with its special emphasis on the depravity of human nature, prompted writers to critique models of aesthetic judgment and experience that depended on high faith in human goodness and rationality. These writers in turn used their literary works to popularize skepticism about the human mind's ability to perceive and appreciate beauty accurately. In doing so, early modern writers helped create an intellectual culture in which aesthetics would emerge as a distinct branch of philosophy.
Date: December 2017
Creator: Jeffrey, Anthony Cole