science and language


When was the last time you couldn’t put down a book of literary criticism or didn’t want it to end? Ever? In Time, Space, and Motion in the Age of Shakespeare, Angus Fletcher, a magically gifted teacher in whose presence we hear what thinking feels like, has given us not only a brilliant study of the early modern period but a handbook for our time as well, a meditation on the extended moment when the “mind . . . discovers the psyche to be an integral part of the world out there.” While Fletcher’s frame is the 110 years between the births of Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Galileo in 1564 and the death of Milton in 1674, the consequences of the change in habit of mind necessitated by the New Science of that period continue today to disturb the peace of all of us who wish to be settled in knowing who and where we are. Fletcher’s aim is “to catch the intellectual feel of this transforming scene,” when “a scientific revolution occurred that rivals the Copernican revolution in scope of physical and metaphysical meaning,” the revolution contained in Galileo’s “Eppur si muove”— “And yet it moves”—the realization that there is no center in the universe we inhabit, that all is what Galileo called, interchangeably, “locomotion” or “local motion,” with motion being “the most important [subject] in nature.” From this observation, it was only one step (though a giant one) to Einstein and to the cosmological and ethical problems that so engage our attention in the present, still under pressure as we are “to think of human life and its context in terms, precisely, of its instability.”

more from Bookforum here.