Kristen Poole

Penn Humanities Forum Regional Fellow

20032004 Forum on Belief

Kristen Poole

Assistant Professor of English, University of Delaware

The Physics of Eschatology in Early Modern England

The late 16th century witnessed the end of popular belief in purgatory; in the wake of this collapse, English culture became obsessed with melancholy and alienation. Poole proposes that this momentous and widespread shift in eschatological belief was brought on by a rapid change in the understanding of physics through the extensive dissemination of geographic, cartographic, and even perspectival knowledge. Space, in particular, underwent a dramatic transformation from a metamorphic and fluid construction to a calibrated, static entity that was given its final modern articulation by Descartes. With the emergence of modern, quadrated space, the dead no longer inhabited a world that was parallel to and interpenetrating with earthly space, but were spatially severed and temporally repositioned in the "afterlife."

While at the Forum, Poole will focus on a section of her manuscript tentatively entitled Deadlines: Eschatological Dramas in Early Modern England that focuses on relationships with the dead and what is now known as the "afterlife" during the years preceding this Cartesian formulation of a stable, modern conception of space. To explore the dramatic and lyrical expression of these issues, Poole will examine Shakespeare's Othello and Macbeth, Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, and Donne's poetry and sermons.