These original interpretations of Renaissance culture focus on literary texts in English and in a range of vernacular languages. They also deal with the reception and transformation of the Greco-Roman literary, political and intellectual heritage.
Examines the shift from classical and medieval conceptions of Fortune to modern notions of chance. In spite of groundbreaking work by historians of science on the emergence of mathematical probability in the Renaissance period, chance has not been much studied in relation to the literary field. The new vigour assumed by chance in the late Renaissance appears in works that explain the perception of fortuitous events as projections of human desire and fear onto the world. In focusing on this understanding of chance as a subjective phenomenon, The Phantom of Chance is the first study to explore its aesthetic and ethical dimensions, by contrast with works centred on mathematical probability and gambling. A re-examination of the work of major authors shows how they represented a world that is both random and yet meaningful. In this fascinating new study, John Lyons argues that the idea of chance assumed new vigour in the late Renaissance, when converging philosophical and literary currents demystified the powerful concept of Fortune, sensitizing writers to the relationship between human desire and the world's apparent randomness.
Up to now, the story of chance has been written by historians of mathematical thought and has focused on calculation, probability and gambling. Lyons, by contrast, highlights the ethical, aesthetic and even erotic aspects of chance. He offers detailed readings of the works of major French authors - Montaigne, Corneille, Lafayette, Scudery, Pascal, Racine, Bossuet, and La Bruyere.Key Features- Renews our understanding of romance, tragedy, comedy & religious polemic in the light of the changed conceptions of the fortuitous - Shows how the emergence of suspense and subjective interest are linked to the shift from Fortune to randomness- Proposes a new view on how religious writers, faced with the sceptical challenge of late Renaissance thought, integrated chance into the post-Reformation mainstream of Catholic teachings.
' John D. Lyons' new take on the issue of chance, supported by illuminating interpretations of major 17th-century French texts, invites the reader to rethink the enigmatic links between randomness and necessity. Beautifully written, powerfully argued, The Phantom of Chance is a major contribution to the intellectual and literary history of modern times.' Thomas Pavel, University of Chicago
'John D. Lyons brilliantly shows how, in both literary and religious writing of the Seventeenth Century, the quest for pattern has to come to terms with the apparently irreducible element of randomness in human life. Original in conception, broad in perspective, subtle in analysis, this is a remarkable book.' Michael Moriarty, Drapers Professor of French, University of Cambridge
This book has been donated by the Edinburgh University Press.