Birth, Infancy, and Other Impossible Experiences in Seventeenth-Century England


What is the nature of human awareness? In seventeenth-century England, a number of writers answered this question by appealing to experiences that most would consider impossible. Deploying remembered or imagined first-person accounts, a variety of philosophers, theologians, and poets discussed how it felt to grow in the womb, what the experience of birth was like, how the world appeared to infants, and what showed up at the birth of human consciousness in the distant past. This talk examines this fascinating cultural phenomenon by discussing the works by Nathaniel Culverwell, John Milton, Thomas Traherne, and others.