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The Path to Personal Salvation: The Hermetic Trope of Self-Mastery in Shakespeare, Bacon, and Milton

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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/10801

The Path to Personal Salvation: The Hermetic Trope of Self-Mastery in Shakespeare, Bacon, and Milton

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Title: The Path to Personal Salvation: The Hermetic Trope of Self-Mastery in Shakespeare, Bacon, and Milton
Author: Amundson, Cassandra
Advisor(s): Gaines, Barry
Committee Member(s): Greenberg, Marissa
Kells, Michelle
Domski, Mary
Department: University of New Mexico. Dept. of English
Subject(s): Renaissance
Hermetic
LC Subject(s): Hermetism in literature
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616--Criticism and interpretation
Bacon, Francis, 1561-1626--Criticiam and interpretation
Milton, John, 1608-1674--Criticism and interpretation
Degree Level: Doctoral
Abstract: My dissertation examines Renaissance authors’ investment in the Hermetic tradition. This tradition is based on the Hellenistic Egyptian philosophical-theological writings ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, which emerged in parallel with early Christianity, Neoplatonism, and Gnosticism. The Hermetic tradition gained importance in the Renaissance with Marsilio Ficino’s translations and soon became an alternative avenue for the exploration in the spiritual conception of the “self” as divine, a conception previously closed off by medieval orthodox religious and secular traditions. I argue that principal figures in the Renaissance and Restoration—Shakespeare, Bacon, and Milton—were engaged in constructing this Hermetic mode of thinking to illustrate individuals’ ability and responsibility for “saving” themselves through the gnosis of self-discovery, the gnosis that emphasized living with and in the presence of God. The Hermetic discourse is well documented in the history discipline by such scholars as Lynn Thorndike, Frances Yates, and D. P. Walker. Yet, in the literary discipline, there have not been sufficient discussions for locating the influence of the Hermetism on Renaissance and Restoration literary authors. In this way, I fill the gap in Renaissance scholarship and classroom teaching by showing that these authors used rhetorical maneuvers and symbols to illustrate the Hermetic mode of thinking as a major defining feature in their arguments for a new epistemology.
Graduation Date: May 2010
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/10801

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