The Ends of Life
Roads to Fulfillment in Early Modern England
Oxford University Press, $24.95, 416 pp.
Keith Thomas is an important British historian whose work should be more widely known in America. He writes about how early modern people—from the aristocrat to the laborer—conceived of life’s purposes. Terry Eagleton has written that “as far as society is concerned, I as an individual am utterly dispensable.” Why don’t I “join a circus or take an overdose”? Eagleton uses the idea of “centering”—ideology that makes one feel significant—to overcome such dread and despair. In The Ends of...
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