The Thomas Browne Seminar

Overview

Classical Philosophers in Seventeenth Century English Thought

28 May 2014, CREMS, University of York

A day symposium

Keynote speakers:

  • Professor Jessica Wolfe (North Carolina)
  • Professor Sarah Hutton (Aberystwyth)

This one day symposium will look at the reception of classical philosophers in seventeenth century English thought and culture, in philosophy, religion, natural philosophy, poetry and literature, the university, or other areas of early modern intellectual life. The focus will be on England, but not on English, and we encourage papers on the Latin reception of classical philosophy.

We will take the term ‘classical philosophy’ broadly speaking, and with a generic latitude, so that Homer or Hesiod might be considered, as they certainly were in the early modern period, as contributors to the philosophical outlook of the ancients, and so that while Aristotle, Plato, Epicurus, Seneca or Cicero are central and protean in their seventeenth century reception, so too Virgil, Ovid and Lucretius were seen as containing an important philosophical core.  Of interest also might be the collations and compendia of classical thought that served as a digest of ancient ideas, whether those of the ancients themselves, such as Diogenes Laertius, or of the early modern writers, such as Thomas Stanley’s History of Philosophy. How did early modern writers accommodate, transpose or circumvent the pagan elements in ancient philosophy? How concerned were early modern thinkers with the systematic and with completeness in their use of classical philosophers? How was the pagan religion transposed to a Christian era?

Abstracts by 15th December (c. 250 words)

Contact: Kevin Killeen, kevin.killeen@york.ac.uk

Overview

The Thomas Browne Seminar is a forum for exploring the intellectual history of the seventeenth century, the relations between its apparently incompatible disciplines and the social, scientific and political contexts in which they arose. It is not, by any means, restricted to Thomas Browne himself, but also examines more broadly the intellectual culture in the mid-seventeenth century.

Papers are invited on any aspect of mid-century culture, the history of science and scholarship, religious and antiquarian thought, natural history, politics and the history of trivia, in particular, but not restricted to, those related to Browne. As the seminar will involve an ongoing series of meetings, ideas for future seminars are also invited.

The TBS is run jointly by the Department of English and Related Literature and the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies. Thomas Browne was a significant figure in the scholarly and scientific community of the seventeenth century, who nevertheless defies categorisation and whose blend of humanism, scholasticism and natural philosophy is testament to the intellectual flux of the period.

News

News

AHRC award for Oxford Works of Sir Thomas Browne

The AHRC have awarded a grant of c. £946,000 to bring to completion a new 8 volume Oxford University Press edition of The Works of Sir Thomas Browne. The grant, which runs for 5 years, is a collaboration between Universities of Birmingham (Claire Preston, PI), York (Kevin Killeen) and Cambridge (Andrew Zurcher). The edition, under the general editorship of Claire Preston, will include authoritative editions of all Browne’s published works together with his correspondence and his voluminous notebooks. Critically and textually annotated, the edition will be available in print and in electronic formats. The grant includes provision for two postdoctoral research assistants and two Ph.D. studentships. This international collaboration involves a team of scholars, working on Thomas Browne. The editors are Reid Barbour (North Carolina), Brooke Conti (SUNY Brockport), Anne Dunan-Page (Aix), Felicity Henderson (Royal Society), Kevin Killeen (York), Antonia Moon (British Library), Kathryn Murphy (Oxford), Claire Preston (Cambridge), William West (Northwestern), Jessica Wolfe (North Carolina), and Andrew Zurcher (Cambridge).

The Complete Works project will be inaugurated with a single-volume Works of Browne, published in the new series, Oxford 21st Century Authors: Sir Thomas Browne (OUP, 2013) edited by Kevin Killeen (York). http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199640430.do

News on Browne and the project can be found on the website of the ‘Sir Thomas Browne Seminar’: http://www.york.ac.uk/english/news-events/browne/ 

 

The Oxford University Press Complete Works of Sir Thomas Brownegen. ed. Claire Preston

A major new edition of the complete works of Sir Thomas Browne has been commissioned by Oxford University Press, due to be published in 2017.

Publications

‌Recent publications

Kevin Killeen

Thomas Browne: 21st-Century Oxford Authors, ed. Kevin Killeen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014)

From the blurb

The Browne volume in the 21st-Century Oxford Authors series offers a comprehensive selection of the work of the author of some of the most brilliant and delirious prose in English Literature. Lauded by writers ranging from Coleridge to Virginia Woolf, from Borges to W.G. Sebal, Sir Thomas Browne's distinct style and the musicality of his phrasing have long been seen as a pinnacle of early modern prose. However, it is Browne's range of subject matter that makes him truly distinct. His writings include the hauntingly meditative Urn-Burial, in which the broken shards of urns found in a field lead him onto a history of mortality and oblivion, and the elaborate Escheresque architecture of The Garden of Cyrus, a work that borders on a madness of infinite pattern. Religio Medici, probably Browne's most enduringly famous work, is at once autobiography, intricate religious-scientific paradox, and a monument of tolerance in the era of the English civil war. This volume also includes his Pseudodoxia Epidemica, an encyclopaedia of error which contains within its vast remit the entire intellectual landscape of the seventeenth century - its science, its natural history, its painting, its history, its geography and its biblical oddities. Across this range of material, Browne brings his lucid, baroque and stylish prose to bear, together with a carefully poised wit. This volume contains almost all of the author's published work, as well as much of his posthumous writing, together with detailed endnotes and an expansive introduction to Browne's work and life.


Reid Barbour

Sir Thomas Browne: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013)

From the blurb

Sir Thomas Browne: A Life is the first full-scale biography of the extraordinary prose artist, physician, and polymath. With the help of recent archival discoveries, the biography recasts each phase of Browne's life (1605-82) and situates his incomparable writings within the diverse intellectual and social contexts in which he lived, including London, Winchester, Oxford, Montpellier, Padua, Leiden, Halifax, and Norwich. The book makes the case that, as his contemporaries fervently believed, Browne influenced the intellectual and religious direction of seventeenth-century England in singularly rich and dynamic ways.

Special attention is paid in the biography to Browne's medical vocation but also to his place within the scientific revolution. New information is offered regarding his childhood in London, his European travels and medical studies, the setting in which he first wrote Religio Medici, his impact on readers during the English civil wars, and the contemporary view of his medical practice. Overall, the image of Browne that emerges is far bolder and more cosmopolitan, less complacent and provincial, than biographers have assumed ever since Samuel Johnson doubted Browne's claim that his life up to age thirty resembled a romantic fiction filled withmiracles and fables.

 


Kevin Killeen

Biblical Scholarship, Science and Politics in Early Modern England: Thomas Browne and the Thorny Place of Knowledge (Ashgate, 2009)

Winner, Council for College and University English Book Award, 2010
Shortlisted for the History of Science Society Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize 2010

From the blurb:

This book addresses one of the most enigmatic of seventeenth century writers, Thomas Browne (1605-1682), whose voracious intellectual pursuits provide an unparalleled insight into how early modern scholarly culture understood the relations between its disciplines. Browne's work encompasses biblical commentary, historiography, natural history, classical philology, artistic propriety and an encyclopaedic coverage of natural philosophy. This book traces the intellectual climate in which such disparate interests could cohere, locating Browne within the cultural and political matrices of his time. While Browne is most frequently remembered for the magnificence of his prose and his temperamental poise, qualities that knit well with the picture of a detached, apolitical figure, this work argues that Browne's significance emerges most fully in the context of contemporary battles over interpretative authority, within the intricately linked fields of biblical exegesis, scientific thought, and politics. Killeen's work centres on a reassessment of the scope and importance of Browne's most elaborate text, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, his vast encyclopaedia of error with its mazy series of investigations and through this explores the multivalent nature of early-modern enquiry.

‘The judges were impressed not only by the intellectual breadth and depth of this study, but also by the evident respect and affection for its subject that informs the book throughout. Sir Thomas Browne’s Pseudodoxia Epidemica (or Vulgar Errors) (1642-72) is an extraordinary dense and eclectic work that spans the fields of biblical scholarship, philology, history, politics and science. Kevin Killeen explores each of these fields in impressive depth and detail to make sense of Browne’s work for modern readers. His book is both a remarkable intellectual achievement and also a labour of love which illuminates the learning and passion that underpin Browne’s enquiries, but makes intelligible the intimate connections that Browne and his contemporaries understood to exist between different forms of knowledge.'

Judges citation from the Council for College and University English Book Award, 2010


Reid Barbour and Claire Preston (eds)

Sir Thomas Browne: The World Proposed (Oxford University Press, 2008)

From the blurb:

Doctor, linguist, scientist, natural historian, and writer of what is probably the most stunning prose in the English language, Sir Thomas Browne was a virtuoso in learning whose many interests form a representative portrait of his age. To understand the period which we more usually refer to as the Civil War, the Restoration, or the Scientific Revolution, we need to understand parts of the intellectual and spiritual background that are often neglected and which Browne magnificently figures forth.

This collection of essays about all aspects of Thomas Browne's work and thought is the first such volume to appear in 25 years. It offers the specialist and the student a wide-ranging array of essays by an international team of leading scholars in seventeenth-century literary studies who extend our understanding of this extremely influential and representative early-modern polymath by embracing recent developments in the field, including literary-scientific relations, the development of Anglican spirituality, civil networks of intellectual exchange, the rise of antiquarianism, and Browne's own legacy in modern literature.

For the Contents, please see the Browne bibliography under Resources.


Kathryn Murphy and Richard Todd (eds)

"A man very well studyed": New Contexts for Thomas Browne (Brill, 2008)

From the blurb:

For many years, scholarship on Thomas Browne (1605-1682) saw him as tangential to his period’s thought and writing: an obscure and quaint stylist, detached from the turbulence of mid-17th century England. This volume contributes to the current reevalution of Browne’s involvement in his times: identifying his political commitments, milieu, reading, and readers. The essays collected in this volume place Browne’s works in unexpected contexts - in Holland, Poland and Germany, in Restoration politics, in publishing history and medical theory. It presents new research into his reputation in the later 17th century, his manuscripts, medical dissertation, association with the Hartlib circle and habits of revision. Essays on familiar works place them in new light, while readings of his letters, notebooks, and lesser works broaden our understanding of Browne as a writer. The result is a fuller picture of Browne’s significance in 17th-century European culture.

Contributors include: Eric Achermann, Hugh Adlington, Reid Barbour, Harm Beukers, Siobhán Collins, Louise Denmead, Karen Edwards, Doris Einsiedel, Kevin Killeen, Mary Ann Lund, Philip Major, Antonia Moon, Kathryn Murphy, Brent Nelson, and Claire Preston.

For the Contents , please see the Browne bibliography under Resources .


Claire Preston

Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)

Winner of the 2005 British Academy Crawshay Prize

From the British Academy citation:

Behind Claire Preston’s Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science, and informing it throughout, lies a rich background of reading and research, some of it – as with her investigation of the Renaissance obsession with collections (so-called 'cabinets of curiosities') - published previously in their own right as articles. Browne is of course, one of the great English prose stylists. That has long been recognized. Dr. Preston pays due and discriminating attention to the way Browne writes, and those characteristics of his prose that make him so strikingly individual and memorable in a period (after all) of other great prose writers. But she has been able as well and with consummate skill to establish and clarify his position as a man striving for encyclopaedic knowledge while simultaneously despairing of ever being able to attain it.

Central to her book is the concept of 'civility', in the sense of 'civil behaviour', as a key to Browne’s work and thinking: an ideal that extends far beyond its ordinary social sense to encompass intellectual collaboration and exchange, selfless investigation, and the bringing to bear upon all the varied spheres of human enquiry, whether scientific or otherwise, of such fundamental values as courtesy, modesty, honesty and generosity.

Refreshingly, Dr. Preston focuses less upon Browne’s early book Religio Medici (although she writes excellently about it) as upon the later and more important but less well-known Pseudodoxia Epidemica (or, Vulgar Errors), Urn-Burial, and the magnificent Garden of Cyrus. Andrew Hadfield, reviewing Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science recently in the TLS described it there as an 'engaging, intelligent and often Brownian study', 'learned and witty', 'a fitting tribute to its subject'. It is certainly a book eminently deserving of the Academy’s Crawshay prize.

Bibliography

Browne bibliography

This bibliography consists of scholarly works on Browne, although it is by no means complete and will be updated at intervals. Titles may appear in more than one category. News of publications or notable omissions gratefully received: kevin.killeen@york.ac.uk.

Resources

Resources

About Browne

Browne's work online

Useful editions of Browne’s work are available online at James Eason’s University of Chicago site. However he does warn that the texts have only been partially proof-read. It also includes contemporary responses to Religio Medici and Pseudodoxia Epidemica and much else besides.

Also of use are the following:

Related links

Legal statements disclaimer

The Thomas Browne Seminar makes every practical effort to ensure that the information it provides on this website is accurate and up-to-date. This website contains hypertext links to external websites controlled or maintained by parties other than the Thomas Browne Seminar, for which it is not responsible.

Copyright

Copyright of the contents of these web pages is controlled by the Thomas Browne Seminar, except where noted (such as Book announcements). Please feel free to view, copy and print documents within this website, but we would appreciate it if you would acknowledge the source of the material. Please contact Dr Kevin Killeen in case of any query.

Event Archive

 

Archive

The Thomas Browne Seminar 2013

Poetics and Prose theory in Early Modern English

29 May 2013, CREMS, University of York

 Gavin Alexander (Cambridge): The proportions of early modern poetics

  • Hannah Leah Crummé (Kings College London): Theorizing English Rhetoric (Abraham Fraunce’s Arcadian Rhetorike and Fernando de Herrera)
  • Michael Hetherington (Cambridge): Remembering Lysias: The Coherence of the Text in Early Modern England
  • Micha Lazarus (Oxford): Sidney and Vettori’s Aristotle
  • John Roe (York): ''Besely seeking with a continuell chaunge': the poetics of indeterminacy in Petrarch and Wyatt'.
  • Louise Wilson (St Andrews): Theories of pleasure in early modern literary criticism
  • Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (King's College, London): A pause for thought?: Critical writing by women and men 1610-1660
  • Katherine Acheson (University of Waterloo in Ontario): The 'Way of Dichotomy': Visual Rhetoric, Dichotomous Tables, and Paradise Lost
  • Kevin Killeen (York): The Prose of the Physics of Resurrection
  • Florence Hazrat (Cambridge): Poesy, Plot and Parenthesis: Rhetorical Figures as Structural and Narrative Strategy in Early Modern Prose Writing
  • Stuart Farley (St Andrews): The Extemporary Method in Early Modern English Prose
  • Jenny Richards (Newcastle): Appealing to 'the physical ear': Thomas Nashe on prose style

 

The Thomas Browne Seminar 2012

Invention, Philosophy and Technology in the Seventeenth Century: A Symposium

University of York
Wednesday 23 May, 2012

  • Ayesha Mukherjee (Exeter) The economy and philosophy of manure in Hugh Platt
  • Paddy Bullard (Kent) Isaac Walton and Joseph Moxon, on technical manuals
  • Eleanor Decamp (Oxford) '[Keep] sharp Instruments...as neere as you can, ever hidden from the eyes of the Patient': the visibility of surgical objects in      seventeenth-century literature
  • Tullia Giersberg (King's College, London) Cornelis Drebbel's 'Perpetuum Mobile' and the Contested Meanings of Invention in Ben Jonson's 'Mercury Vindicated from the Alchemists at Court' (1614-15)
  • Raphael Hallett (Leeds) 'Invention', 'Creation' and Early Modern Laboratory Culture
  • Helen Hills (York) Inventio and invenzione: from saintly relic to art and back in baroque Italy
  • Adam Ganz (Royal Hollway) 'Close, naked, natural', How the Lens changed writing
  • Michael Harrigan (Warwick) Plantation, Labour and Technology in the Early Modern 'Antilles'
  • Katherine Hunt (London Consortium, University of London) From procedural to miscellany: how to make a firework in the mid-seventeenth century
  • Cesare Pastorino (Sussex) Francis Bacon and the State Promotion of Innovation: the Early Stuart Patent System
  • Daisy Hildyard (Queen Mary's, London) 'The Workmen could give me very little Account of any thing': John Locke and Daniel Defoe meet miners
  • Will Calvert (Cambridge) Invention, National Power, and the Limits of the Possible in Early Stuart England
  • Claire Preston (Birmingham) Big Dig: the poetics of early-modern drainage

 

The Thomas Browne Seminar 2010

Universityof York
Thursday 18 March, 2010

  • Bill Sherman (York) Mapping the World of Knowledge: Hernando Colón and the Biblioteca Colombina
  • Lisa Skogh (Stockholm) Library of Swedish queen Hedwig Eleonora
  • Daniel Starza-Smith (UCL) Edward, second Viscount Conway
  • Hugh Adlington (Birmingham) On Donne’s Library
  • Piers Brown (York) On Donne’s Library

 

The Thomas Browne Seminar 2009

University of York
Wednesday 3rd June, 2009

  • Iain McClure (King's College, London) 'Milton's 'cany wagons light': automata and the vacuity of invention
  • Edward Paleit (University of Exeter) English classical scholarship and the merces literarum: the case of Thomas Farnaby
  • Simon Howes (University of Oxford) 'By these Means and Helps, the excellent Hippocrates arriv'd at the top of Physik': Thomas Sydenham and the politics of the Observationes Medicae
  • Mark Jenner (University of York) Country Tastes and a Chinese Touch? Sir John Floyer's Senses
  • Angus Gowland (University College, London) Burton, Browne, and Renaissance dream theory

 

The Thomas Browne Seminar 2007

Authority and Authorities in Thomas Browne and His Contemporaries: A Symposium

University of Leeds
Saturday 21st April 2007

  • Kathryn Murphy, The physician’s religion and salus populi: the 1642 publication of Religio Medici
  • Mary Ann Lund, 'Raptures of futurity': Browne and religious ecstasy
  • Dean Thompson, Ash and Scattered Urns: The Arrangement of Thought in Sir Thomas Browne's Hydriotaphia and The Garden of Cyrus
  • Chloe Houston, 'A true relation of what mine eies saw': questioning authority in early seventeenth-century travel narratives
  • Anna Winterbottom, The Early Royal Society, Travel Writing, and the Establishment of Scientific Authority
  • Christopher Johnson, Between Anatomy and Uroscopy: Burton, Browne, and Early Modern Encyclopedism
  • Benjamin Wardhaugh, Poor Robin and Merry Andrew: mathematical humour and mathematical metaphors in Restoration England
  • Rosanna Cox, 'Monkish and Miserable Sophistry': Milton versus Scholasticism
  • Philip Major, Biblical authority in Clarendon’s Contemplations and Reflections on the Psalms of David
  • Evan Labzetta, Radicalizing Political Dissent during the English Civil Wars

 

The Thomas Browne Seminar 2006

Birkbeck College, University of London
Saturday 8th April 2006

  • Claire Preston, The Arena of the Unwell: Letter to a Friend as Medical Narrative
  • Karen Edwards, Thomas Browne and the Absurdities of Melancholy
  • Stephen Clucas, Argument, authority and textual fragmentation in Natural Philosophy: Browne, Burton and Galileo
  • Kathryn Murphy, 'A man very well studyed': Thomas Browne and the Hartlib circle
  • Kevin Faulkner, The Ghost of a Rose: Hermetic phantasmagoria and The Garden of Cyrus
  • Philip Major, Urn-Burial and the interregnum royalist
  • Kevin Killeen, The Politics of Painting in Pseudodoxia Epidemica

 

Leiden Conference, 2005

Four Centuries of Thomas Browne

Department of English, University of Leiden
Thursday and Friday, 27- 28 October 2005

Organised by Richard Todd and Jan Frans van Dijkhuizen (University of Leiden)

Conference speakers:
Keynotes

  • Brooke Conti, Yale University/Temple University, PA, 'The Rhetoricke Wherewith I Perswade Another I Cannot Persuade Myself': The Religio Medici’s Profession of Faith
  • Claire Preston, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, Of Cyder and Sallets: Browne and the Hortulan Saints
  • Reid Barbour, University of North Carolina, Atheists, Monsters, and Plague: Weeds and Tares in the Garden of Thomas Browne’s Padova, 1632

Conference Papers:

  • Kathryn Murphy, Balliol College, Oxford, 'A Likely Story': Plato’s Timaeus in The Garden of Cyrus
  • Roy Rosenstein, American University of Paris, Browne, Borges, and Back: The Phantasmagories of Imaginative Learning
  • Brent Nelson, University of Saskatchewan, Sir Thomas and Son, Collectors
  • Richard Todd, University of Leiden, Some bibliographical considerations on Browne’s use of “promiscuity” in the 1633 edition of John Donne’s Poems, “Elegies to the Author”
  • Mary Ann Lund, Wadham College, Oxford, Spiritual Physicians?: Robert Burton and Sir Thomas Browne on religion and medicine
  • Kees Verduin, University of Leiden, Under the leaden planet: Thomas Browne, black bile and seventeenth-century time travel
  • Hugh Adlington, King’s College London, Sir Thomas Browne and Divination
  • Ingo Berensmeyer, University of Siegen, The Politics of Sir Thomas Browne
  • Kevin Killeen, University of Reading, 'The community of this fruit': Commentary and curiosa in Pseudodoxia Epidemica
  • Dawn Morgan, St Thomas University, Reparation of 'our Primarie ruines': Thomas Browne’s Resistance to Allegory
  • Panel: 'Sir Thomas Browne, Leiden and medicine in the seventeenth century': Harm Beukers, Manfred Horstmanshoff (University of Leiden)

 

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Contacts

For information about the Thomas Browne Seminar, please contact: