The Architectures of Knowledge: Spatial Metaphors in Seventeenth-Century Natural Philosophical Literature
Dr Helen Smith
While seventeenth-century philosophical and natural philosophical literature is often associated with a shift towards ‘plain style’, figurative tropes and ornamental language proliferated across texts in which knowledge about the world was constructed and communicated. Proposing a hybrid literary-scientific approach to knowing, this thesis examines four key metaphors of place – the library, the cabinet, the garden and the stillhouse – to suggest how the mind and the book could be mapped as sites of scientific investigation. Examining the close interconnections of material, metaphorical and conceptual space to indicate that analogies between place, mind and text were not merely decorative but also epistemologically productive, this project will illustrate that the spatial imagination was a critical tool for building natural philosophical knowledge in the seventeenth century.