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David Carroll Simon

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Associate Professor, English

3241 Tawes Hall
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Research Expertise

LGBTQ Studies
Literary Theory
Literature and Science
Medieval and Renaissance
Poetics
Women's Literature and Feminist Theory

David Carroll Simon works in the field of comparative literature, with a focus on the early modern period. In addition to questions of literary form and genre, he is interested in the history of science and philosophy; the history of the passions, including the history of sexuality; Critical Theory and other political-philosophical responses to capitalism; feminism, including early modern traditions; and social and economic history.

Simon is the author of Light without Heat: The Observational Mood from Bacon to Milton (Cornell University Press, 2018), which argues for the importance of careless inattention and open-ended receptivity to the literary and philosophical experiments of England's scientific revolution. He has published essays on nonchalance (in English Literary History), schadenfreude (in Critical Inquiry), practical jokes (in Studies in Philology), and panoramic vision (in Criticism). He is now at work on a study of comedy, gender subordination, sexuality, and the question of disenchantment.

Recently, Simon has taught courses on Shakespeare, Milton, methods in the discipline of English, the literature and philosophy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, science and fiction, ethico-political dimensions of comedy, and recent developments in feminist theory and LGBTQ Studies.

Publications

“Vicious Pranks: Comedy and Cruelty in Rabelais and Shakespeare”

This essay juxtaposes vicious pranks in François Rabelais’s Pantagruel (1532) and William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (1601) in order to describe a form of comic violence that functions as a knowledge claim about its target.

English

Lead: David Carroll Simon
Dates:
In each case, the event of injury conveys an eager insistence on the truth of some taken-for-granted assertion about the injured party. I discuss the role of comic atmosphere in encouraging such performative incuriosity, and I describe those strategies by which cruel pranksters enlist the participation of readers and spectators. Ultimately, I show that Shakespeare parts ways with Rabelais by undermining epistemological security, the desire for which helps motivate both the prank and whatever affirmation it elicits from witnesses.

“Milton’s Panorama: Paradise Regained in the Age of Critique”

This essay begins with a discussion of recent debates about the value of “critique” and other forms of adversarial reading, arguing that influential proposals for “post-critical” alternatives have privileged the role of fixed psychic states in the practic

English

Lead: David Carroll Simon
Dates:
Turning to Roland Barthes's 1977–78 lecture course at the Collège de France, an understudied precursor to post-critical agitation, I argue that he offers us concepts, “the neutral” and “the panorama,” that invite reflection on the affective conditions of reading. Yet here the “panorama” is no more than an intriguing sketch; Milton enriches our understanding of this concept by developing a detailed description of wayward visual attention. Exploring this dimension of Paradise Regained, I depart from the near-consensus view among scholars that the poem should be understood as a celebration of self-mastery. Ultimately, I show how Milton's account of the wandering eye both anticipates and challenges recent “post-critical” perspectives by modeling a knowingly unpredictable version of irenic reading.

Light without Heat: The Observational Mood from Bacon to Milton

In Light without Heat, David Carroll Simon argues for the importance of carelessness to the literary and scientific experiments of the seventeenth century.

English

Lead: David Carroll Simon
Dates:
While scholars have often looked to this period in order to narrate the triumph of methodical rigor as a quintessentially modern intellectual value, Simon describes the appeal of open-ended receptivity to the protagonists of the New Science. In straying from the work of self-possession and the duty to sift fact from fiction, early modern intellectuals discovered the cognitive advantages of the undisciplined mind.

“The Anatomy of Schadenfreude; or, Montaigne’s Laughter"

Philosophers have often condemned schadenfreude, the pleasure someone takes in someone else’s suffering, as proof of moral failure

English

Lead: David Carroll Simon
Dates:
This essay cuts against both accusatory and apologetic perspectives—but not by offering a competing moral evaluation.

“Andrew Marvell and the Epistemology of Carelessness”

This essay considers the “wildly digressive voice” and “careless receptivity” (558) in Andrew Marvell’s Upon Appleton House (1651).

English

Lead: David Carroll Simon
Dates:
This “peculiar affect” Simon argues, “discloses an unfamiliar history of experimentalism leading from Bacon’s late humanist conjectures to the laboratories of Marvell’s contemporaries.” Specifically, it examines this voice through the context of the “trauma of civil war” and “Marvell’s interest in Optics” (558). Simon concludes that “Marvell’s visionary carelessness” leads us to “consider freedom from discipline another pathway to understanding” (580).