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“Through a glasse darkly”: secrecy and access to arcane knowledge in seventeenth-century England

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dc.contributor.author Hunfeld, Christa
dc.date.accessioned 2018-10-01T16:23:46Z
dc.date.copyright 2018 en_US
dc.date.issued 2018-10-01
dc.identifier.uri https://dspace.library.uvic.ca//handle/1828/10120
dc.description.abstract In seventeenth-century England, pursuits of knowledge were shaped by two seemingly paradoxical, yet interwoven beliefs: a persistent belief in the devastating effects of the Fall on human reason, and a growing trust in human ability to sharpen understanding and pierce the seemingly impenetrable. This dissertation explores how writers of works of physiognomy, shorthand, astrology and secret history simultaneously presented human conjecture and intuition as limited and flawed but also capable of providing ordinary people with access to privileged information. The authors of these “do-it-yourself” manuals made distinctions between God’s secrecy and human secrecy and provided tips on how each could be tapped. Physiognomy inspired constant searching for hidden sources of insight; shorthand encouraged the sense that there was often more than met the eye; astrology emphasized the usefulness of uncertainty. Secret histories suggested that the very skills which the practices of physiognomy, shorthand, and astrology honed could be used to unveil the secrets of carnal monarchs, ministers, and royal mistresses. Over the course of the seventeenth century, the limits of attainable knowledge – and who could reliably present and access it – were being defined and redefined. To leading philosophers and political figures, human uncertainty necessitated the weighing of probabilities and the idealization of transparent, empirical and elite approaches to information. I argue that to writers of physiognomy, shorthand, astrology, and secret history, it reinforced the notion that arcane knowledge could be accessed by anyone. Such writers variously suggested that information that mattered to people’s daily lives depended upon personalized, conjectural and intuitive approaches to knowing. In short, secrets that were once divine and impenetrable were actually up for grabs. en_US
dc.language English eng
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.rights Available to the World Wide Web en_US
dc.subject Seventeenth-Century England en_US
dc.subject Shorthand en_US
dc.subject Physiognomy en_US
dc.subject Astrology en_US
dc.subject Secret History en_US
dc.subject Secret Knowledge en_US
dc.subject Uncertainty en_US
dc.subject Conjecture en_US
dc.subject How-to Manuals en_US
dc.title “Through a glasse darkly”: secrecy and access to arcane knowledge in seventeenth-century England en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US
dc.contributor.supervisor McKenzie, Andrea
dc.degree.department Department of History en_US
dc.degree.level Doctor of Philosophy Ph.D. en_US
dc.description.scholarlevel Graduate en_US
dc.description.embargo 2019-09-10


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