Book — 293 pages, 2 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 23 cm
Introduction: catastrophizing: a beginner's guide
Earthquakes of the mind
Shakespeare's catastrophic "anything"
The earthquake and the microscope
Disaster before the sublime; or, Kant's catastrophes
Afterword: catastrophizing in the age of climate change.
When we catastrophize, we think the worst. We make too much of too little, or something of nothing. Yet what looks simply like a bad habit, Gerard Passannante argues, was also a spur to some of the daring conceptual innovations and feats of imagination that defined the intellectual and cultural history of the early modern period. Reaching back to the time between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, Passannante traces a history of catastrophizing through literary and philosophical encounters with materialism--the view that the world is composed of nothing but matter. As artists, poets, philosophers, and scholars pondered the physical causes and material stuff of the cosmos, they conjured up disasters out of thin air and responded as though to events that were befalling them. From Leonardo da Vinci's imaginative experiments with nature's destructive forces to the fevered fantasies of doomsday astrologers, from the self-fulfilling prophecies of Shakespeare's tragic characters to the mental earthquakes that guided Kant toward his theory of the sublime, Passannante shows how and why the early moderns reached for disaster when they ventured beyond the limits of the sensible. He goes on to explore both the danger and the critical potential of thinking catastrophically in our own time. (source: Nielsen Book Data)
With "The Lucretian Renaissance", Gerard Passannante offers a radical rethinking of a familiar narrative: the rise of materialism in early modern Europe. Passannante begins by taking up the ancient philosophical notion that the world is composed of two fundamental opposites: atoms, as the philosopher Epicurus theorized, intrinsically unchangeable and moving about the void; and, the void itself, or nothingness. Passannante considers the fact that this strain of ancient Greek philosophy survived and was transmitted to the Renaissance primarily by means of a poem that had seemingly been lost - a poem insisting that the letters of the alphabet are like the atoms that make up the universe. By tracing this elemental analogy through the fortunes of Lucretius' "On the Nature of Things", Passannante argues that the philosophy of atoms and the void reemerged in the Renaissance as a story about reading and letters - a story that materialized in texts, in their physical recomposition, and in their scattering. From the works of Virgil and Macrobius to those of Petrarch, Montaigne, Bacon, Spenser, and Newton, "The Lucretian Renaissance" recovers a forgotten history of materialism in humanist thought and scholarly practice and asks us to reconsider one of the most enduring questions of the period: what does it mean for a text, a poem, and philosophy to be "reborn"? (source: Nielsen Book Data)