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Descartes's FictionsReading Philosophy with Poetics$
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Emma Gilby

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198831891

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198831891.001.0001

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(p.203) Conclusion
Descartes's Fictions

Emma Gilby

Oxford University Press

In early modern poetic theory, readers and spectators are acknowledged, praised, and chastised for their responsiveness to the fictional experiences set out before them. Like the characters in the plays they watch and discuss, they are taken to be endowed to various degrees with the power of interpreting. The plot structures to which they are exposed grant varying degrees of evidence to heroism, magnanimity, and resolution. With prayers, prophecies, and curses, these structures show arcs of the past projecting into the present. Displaying tragic dilemmas, or tragicomic webs of romance or coincidence, they grapple with complex antecedents and show protagonists who are confused by their own futures. Throughout, vicious debates about the function of theatre are aired. The Descartes of the 1620s is surrounded by this dramatization of affective engagement and the acquisition of knowledge; and poetics gives us a set of ideas within which Descartes’s philosophy may be reconstructed....

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