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Seven Metaphysical PoetsA Structural Study of the Unchanging Self$
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Robert Ellrodt

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198117384

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198117384.001.0001

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Edward Herbert of Cherbury and Thomas Traherne: From Self-Reflexivity to Solipsism?

Edward Herbert of Cherbury and Thomas Traherne: From Self-Reflexivity to Solipsism?

(p.85) Chapter 5 Edward Herbert of Cherbury and Thomas Traherne: From Self-Reflexivity to Solipsism?
Seven Metaphysical Poets

Robert Ellrodt

Oxford University Press

A combined survey of Edward Herbert's prose works and his rather slender corpus of poetry sheds some light on the emergence of his mode of self-reflexivity. Herbert found it absurd to assume that there are only five modes of apprehension because we have five sense-organs. Because of his exclusive attention to the ‘inner sense’, Herbert multiplied the modes of apprehension; his discovery of subjectivity made him keenly aware of the particularity of each representation. With Thomas Traherne we move from egocentricity to a kind of solipsistic illusion, at least in his record of the alleged intuitions of his infancy. Traherne's evocation of his dreams in childhood is in accordance with the conclusions reached by Jean Piaget. The spontaneous solipsism of the infant, acknowledged by modern psychology, is linked to the poet's moments of solipsistic meditation. Had Traherne been capable of self-criticism, he might not have indulged in an exaltation of self-love. This self-centredness is characteristic of his conception of love as originating in self-love both in man and in God.

Keywords:   Edward Herbert, Thomas Traherne, poetry, self-reflexivity, egocentricity, solipsism, apprehension, infancy, self-love

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