Francis Bacon produced his final draft of the New Atlantis around the years 1624-1625. Standing at the threshold of early modern thought, Bacon's text operates at the interstices of its contemporary culture and does indeed signal a desire to 'illuminate all the border-regions that confine upon the circle of our present knowledge'. This book presents a collection of essays that show how the New Atlantis negotiates a variety of contexts, namely literary, philosophical, political, religious and social, in order to achieve this. The narrative begins with a standard literary device. When Bacon wrote the New Atlantis, he clearly had More's Utopia in mind as a model. For all his strictures on the use of language for rhetorical effect, Francis Bacon was thoroughly grounded in the Renaissance art of rhetoric. He consciously drew on his rhetorical skill in his writings, adapting his style as occasion demanded. The New Atlantis is a text about natural philosophy which seems to offer connections at almost every point with moral and political philosophy. The book discusses two forms of natural knowledge that Bacon takes up and develops in the New Atlantis: natural magic, and medicine. The modern project is crucially dependent on two fundamental miracles: the miracle of creation and the miracle of divine revelation. The book also analyses Bacon's representations of colonialism and Jewishness in the New Atlantis has revealed. The New Atlantis raises questions concerning the relationship between censorship and knowledge.
This chapter presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book reflects a concern to locate the New Atlantis in reference to Francis Bacon's oeuvre specifically, and to the broader cultural and historical context in which it intervenes. It examines the significance of the New Atlantis's uses of literary forms and also its relation to Sylva Sylvarum. The book argues that Bensalem represents a thoroughly technological society, whose project for the mastery of nature places religion's function in an ambiguous position. It relates the politics of the New Atlantis more directly to the immediate context of Jacobean England. The book explores the colonial expansion and Jewish toleration. It provides an analysis of the complex formulation of gender in Bacon's text, arguing against the tendency of feminist criticism to view Bacon as the founding father of a thoroughly masculinised science.