Actions and Objects from Hobbes to Richardson (Paperback)

Actions and Objects from Hobbes to Richardson By Jonathan Kramnick Cover Image

Actions and Objects from Hobbes to Richardson (Paperback)


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How do minds cause events in the world? How does wanting to write a letter cause a person's hands to move across the page, or believing something to be true cause a person to make a promise? In Actions and Objects, Jonathan Kramnick examines the literature and philosophy of action during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, when philosophers and novelists, poets and scientists were all concerned with the place of the mind in the world. These writers asked whether belief, desire, and emotion were part of nature--and thus subject to laws of cause and effect--or in a special place outside the natural order. Kramnick puts particular emphasis on those who tried to make actions compatible with external determination and to blur the boundary between mind and matter. He follows a long tradition of examining the close relation between literary and philosophical writing during the period, but fundamentally revises the terrain. Rather than emphasizing psychological depth and interiority or asking how literary works were understood as true or fictional, he situates literature alongside philosophy as jointly interested in discovering how minds work.

Jonathan Kramnick is Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University and author of Making the English Canon: Print Capitalism and the Cultural Past 1700-1770 (1999).
Product Details ISBN: 9780804770521
ISBN-10: 0804770522
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Publication Date: August 30th, 2010
Pages: 320
Language: English

"Jonathan Kramnick's Actions and Objects from Hobbes to Richardson is a nuanced and wide-reaching account of consciousness, materialism, and agency in eighteenth-century literature and philosophy. . . While Kramnick focuses on certain mainstays of literary criticism—character, personhood, consciousness—he nevertheless offers novel accounts of these subjects. . . Kramnick makes a compelling case for reading Restoration and eighteenth-century texts alongside contemporary philosophy and the science of mind."—Keiser, Configurations

"Excellent close readings. . . unassuming and understated prose. . . fresh approach. . . Its full contents will be picked over for some time."—Heather Zias, Scriblerian

"Kramnick synthesizes key Enlightenment philosophical debates with an admirable clarity and lively style that make Actions and Objects both enjoyable to read and eminently teachable . . . [E]xcellent."—Sara Landreth, Eighteenth-Century Fiction

"[F]ine and informative . . . [Kramnick] succeeds in his major ambition to qualify, in important and interesting ways, the widely held view that during the long eighteenth century, selfhood and consciousness were conceived as immaterial things that existed within an interior space and that were untouched by the material, force and necessity of the world."—William Walker, Eighteenth-Century Life

"[L]ucid . . . Actions and Objects is compelling and gracefully written . . . [This is not] a mere study of how writers reflect their contemporaries' theories of mind. Rather, Actions and Objects considers how literature and literary studies alike can put hard problems into practice, test them out, add to their complexities, and refashion them in new and intriguing ways."—Crystal B. Lake, Eighteenth-Century Studies