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Elizabeth A. Spiller
Regents of the University of California, Davis (Tallahassee, FL 32306-0001)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$25,200 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2013 – 12/31/2013

The Sense of Matter: Science, Matter Theory, and Literary Creation in the Renaissance

What is matter? What are its smallest parts and furthest bounds? How is it created or destroyed? These questions have been of central concern to philosophers, physicists, and theologians. In the Renaissance, these questions also provoked intense debate among artists, writers, and readers. Drawing on the history of science, historical phenomenology, and literary history, The Sense of Matter will demonstrate that when Aristotle's theory of matter is challenged in the Renaissance, central components of a system of poetic matter and making are also challenged. This book-length study traces those challenges through the works of Shakespeare, Spenser, Donne, Marvell, Hutchinson, and Milton, showing that how the question "what is matter?" determines how you answer such questions as "what is a poem made of?" and "what does it do to you?" This book will offer new answers about why art "matters" in thinking about the physical boundaries of the world and our relationship to it.