Possible Knowledge: Forms of Literary and Scientific Thought in Early Modern England


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation explores various speculative intellectual modes—the probable, the predictive, the prophetic, the hypothetical, the conditional, and the conjectural—as they are distributed across literary and scientific forms of writing in early modern England. The idea of possibility was crucial to the development of new methods of learning, such as induction, experiment, and theories of probability. Yet possible knowledge also drew extensively from elements of poetic writing, such as allegory, epic, and utopian discourse. By engaging with philosophy, social history, literary studies, and the history of science, this project maps the contours of possible knowledge across a broad historical span to trace its changing configurations into the modern disciplines of the humanities and sciences.