Year of Graduation


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Open Access Thesis

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First Advisor

Aaron Kitch


The human body was a site of discovery and redefinition in early modern Europe. This project traces the gradual arc from the mid-seventeenth century towards Cartesian notions of the body in the later part of the century through two fictions: Phineas Fletcher (1582-1650)’s The Purple Island (1633) and Gabriel Daniel (1649-1728)’s Voyage du Monde de Descartes (1690). This project views these two largely-overlooked texts as important literary works that represent the seventeenth century’s transformative debates about and explorations of the human body. I argue that Fletcher employs a dissective mode that embraces mind-body harmony while framing the human as both fragmented and whole. I then explore how Voyage du Monde de Descartes responds to an altogether different culture in the late seventeenth century, after Cartesian ideas extracted mind from body and no longer saw the body as a significant marker of humanity. I argue that Voyage ultimately reveals—through a captivating satirical fiction—how understanding Cartesian anatomy as the product of anxiety, uncertainty, and novelty helps us better see how we became motivated to transcend our bodies.