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Time's Purpled MasquersStars and the Afterlife in Renaissance English Literature$
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Alastair Fowler

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198183402

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198183402.001.0001

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Stellar Afterlives

Stellar Afterlives

(p.59) 2 Stellar Afterlives
Time's Purpled Masquers

Alastair Fowler

Oxford University Press

Stars and the afterlife occur in English literature during the Renaissance. An aspiration to be stellified (translated to the stars) went back to antiquity when general belief linked the soul's immortality with the heavens. More significantly for the present enquiry is the tradition of quasi-religious Pythagoreanism. The discoveries of Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo are seen as ‘advances’ leading to the world-picture of modern science. For their contemporaries, however, the new science had very different implications. Tycho Brahe's 1572 discovery of a nova revealed the way to a stellar afterlife. Stellification was also pursued through some sort of Paracelsian or alchemic purification. For those who found mortification daunting and the psychodynamics of alchemic ascesis impalpable, there was a more material alternative. Stellification could be imagined in terms of space travel. Here again the new astronomy played an exciting part.

Keywords:   English literature, Renaissance, stellification, afterlife, stars, heavens, purification, astronomy, new science, Tycho Brahe

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