Philip Davis, Shakespeare Thinking. London: Continuum, 2007

By Paul, Ryan Singh | The Upstart Crow, Annual 2012 | Go to article overview

Philip Davis, Shakespeare Thinking. London: Continuum, 2007


Paul, Ryan Singh, The Upstart Crow


Philip Davis, Shakespeare Thinking. London: Continuum, 2007.

Cognitive theories of the embodied mind have energized many areas of the humanities, sparking responses that range from welcoming to skeptical. For some scholars, neuroscience promises a scientific foundation for humanist research, transcending the mind-body dichotomy by connecting psychic processes to the brain's physical structures. But as David Hawkes's provocative article on neuroscience as the "new materialism" demonstrates, others are far less sanguine about brain science's incursions into the humanities. (1) Hawkes challenges humanists engaged in cognitive studies to answer a question: "Is it true that human beings have no soul?" (21). For Hawkes, the "eliminative materialism" of neuroscience inevitably answers in the affirmative (11). The search for the physical origins of thought reduces humanity to nothing but matter, discarding the human subject as an illusion. Hawkes argues that if humanists accept the embodied mind as truth, the consequences could be devastating, and not only for humanities departments subject to "colonizatiorf' by the natural sciences (21). Neuroscience, he contends, is aligned on a metaphysical level with the capitalist project of endless commodification: it reduces humanity to another type of matter to be monetized and consumed.

Hawkes's essay engendered a series of vigorous, erudite responses, all recently published by the online journal Early Modern Culture. Given the influence of cognitive science on humanities research and the stakes involved, the discussion amongst Hawkes and his interlocutors is passionate, enlightening, and wide-ranging. It is unfortunate, however, that none of the participants took notice of Philip Davis's Shakespeare Thinking, a short but exciting work on the creative cognitive properties of language. In this book, Davis outlines a method of literary analysis that incorporates cognitive science while remaining sensitive to poetic subtleties and the dynamic relationship between mind and brain.

Davis argues that Shakespeare's dramatic verse reveals bits and pieces of "an original text or background script for the creation of life" (1). "Shakespearean thinking" is the name Davis gives to this script. Despite the materiality of the textual metaphor Davis employs, he is interested in action rather than substance. Speed is the most important feature of Shakespearean thinking, which jumps suddenly and unpredictably from place to place like a flash of electricity; it is a "quicker, more physically dispersed form of mentality" that expresses the almost pre-linguistic experience of life as it is in action, before the hardening of experience into memory and its inevitable second-order revisions (2). Rather than examining the content of thought, then, Davis attempts to trace thinking in motion, finding evidence of its passing in the transformations wrought upon language by the electrical flash of thought's sudden leaps and connections.

For the language to analyze such an elusive and ephemeral phenomenon, Davis draws on an eclectic array of sources, most notably a tradition of process philosophy that begins with William Hazlitt and moves through Charles Darwin to John Dewey, William James, and Henri Bergson. Contemplating reality as fluid motion rather than fixed substances, these thinkers provide Davis with a nascent philosophical language to "hold open the momentary" and describe life and thought in action prior to the illusory separation of subject and object and to the fixing of experience in settled concepts (10). It is these moments and motions "between," says Davis, that Shakespeare attempts to capture in verse: the generative processes of thinking as living energies collide with one another.

In a series of subtle and elegant close readings, Davis demonstrates the methodological implications of a focus on thinking over thought. Since Shakespearean thinking exists only when performed, it is not "in" the text. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Philip Davis, Shakespeare Thinking. London: Continuum, 2007
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.