As part of the research group’s inquiry into the forms of causal relationships between the incorporeal, immaterial, or spiritual realm and the physical world, the project concentrated on the capacity of language, in particular poetic language, to refer to and represent entities that do not seem to be circumscribed by space.


Its major subjects were the psychodynamics of ancient neoplatonism and its unfolding in poetic texts of the English Renaissance (including the writings of metaphysical poets such as Herbert, Traherne, Donne, or Crashaw, but also works of Thomas More and John Davies, as well as Shakespearean drama).

Research continued to be guided by questions concerning early modern writers’ response to neoplatonic thinking on space, in particular to neoplatonic concepts of the soul and its mediated relationship to matter, with a special interest in the sympathetic correspondences that were thought to hold together micro- and macrocosm, corporeal and incorporeal worlds, and the ways these were articulated in different poetic media. One of its most fascinating insights so far was gained into the historically varying modes of conceptualizing hybrid (in)corporeality in the idea of the ochema or vehicle of the soul. In the texts under consideration, poetic language thus appears to be capable of explicating and rendering available to the imagination – and thus potentially also to the intellect – notions and concepts barely accessible to traditional discursive thinking.

For related publications, see

Verena Lobsien

Steven Menn