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Astronomy - Astronomy, Observations and Techniques | The Sky in Early Modern English Literature - A Study of Allusions to Celestial Events in Elizabethan

The Sky in Early Modern English Literature

A Study of Allusions to Celestial Events in Elizabethan and Jacobean Writing, 1572-1620

Levy, David H.

2011, XXIX, 111 p.

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  • Inspires readers to look for their own connections between astronomy and literature, and expand their own ideas to find links between art or music and the sky
  • Offers an enjoyable and informative read, opening links between science, the arts, and history 
  • Explores both astronomy and Shakespearian literature with compelling depth and supportive illustrations 
  • Written by a famous comet discoverer and science editor

When a dissertation gets completed, the normal rule is that it is never read. By anyone.  David H. Levy’s dissertation - The Sky in Early Modern English Literature:  A Study of Allusions to Celestial Events in Elizabethan and Jacobean Writing, 1572-1620 - is different.  It opens a whole new interdisciplinary field, which involves the beautiful relationship between the night sky and the works of the early modern period of English Literature.  Although the sky enters into much of literature through the ages, the period involving William Shakespeare and his colleagues is particularly rich. 

             When Shakespeare was about 8 years old, his father probably took him outside his Stratford home into their northward-facing back yard.  There, father and son gazed upon the first great new star visible in the past 500 years, shining forth as brightly as Venus, and even visible in daylight.  This new star, which we now know as a supernova, completely unhinged old ideas about the cosmos.  Combined with a parade of bright comets, a second bright new star in 1604, and a series of eclipses, people began to look at the sky more seriously.  In this book, Levy explores how the sky of that period was reflected in its literature.

             Levy’s ultimate goal in this book is to inspire his readers to do the same thing as their ancestors did so long ago—look at the sky and appreciate how those long-gone authors read the sky.

Content Level » Research

Keywords » English literature - Relation between sky and literature - William Shakespeare - comets and meteors - historical astronomy - literature and astronomy - references to the sky - the first telescope

Related subjects » Astronomy, Observations and Techniques - Linguistics

Table of contents 

Abstract.- Preface.- General Introduction.- Chapter One: The Stella Novae of 1572 and 1604.- Chapter Two: Comets and Meteors: A Rich Harvest from 1573 to 1607.- Chapter Three: These Late Eclipses.- Chapter Four: Of Signs and Seasons.- Chapter Five: The Telescope in Early Modern English Literature.- Appendix: A Selection of References to the Sky in Writings from 1572 to 1620.- Postscript.- Works cited.

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