ABSTRACT

Susan James describes the seventeenth-century intellectual milieu as regarding the passions as overbearing and disruptive, making us ‘false, foolish, inconstant, and uncertain’. She demonstrates that the ‘constitutional inability to govern our emotions’ found in early modern writing was often attributed to the Fall, and notes the popular emphasis on exerting control over the passions.1 However, James also documents positive observations of the role of the passions, and brings out the resulting equivocality:

Thus James arrives at a more nuanced view of the various seventeenth-century positions than the reductive, binary interpretations she criticizes. She shows that:

Her work rehabilitates the ‘emotional character of learning and the role of the passions in rational thought and action’ (ibid.).