Anthony Funari

Mastering the universe

Are humans the masters of the natural world? Or does nature defy control? Those questions may seem topical today, but they also were relevant in the 17th century when Francis Bacon examined humanity’s relationship to nature.

That tenuous relationship, explored in Bacon’s narratives, is the topic of a book by Anthony J. Funari, an adjunct professor of English at JCCC.

Funari’s book is entitled “Francis Bacon and the 17th-Century Intellectual Discourse” and is published by Palgrave Macmillan.  

Funari draws together 17th-century English literature, the history of science and the study of the environment to explore the historical roots of our current environmental conversations.

 “Particularly in light of the 2010 Gulf oil spill, this debate over our environmental future took on even more urgency,” Funari said. “This ‘salvation through technology’ that we saw in the Gulf spill was a belief that can be traced back to Bacon.”

Funari started studying Bacon as an undergraduate, comparing the themes of Bacon’s narratives to nearly everything else he was reading. The idea for making his dissertation into a book came with the help of one of dissertation advisers, who put him in contact with a book publisher.

“The publisher asked me to send half of my manuscript, so I worked on my best chapters, and it was then sent out for peer review,” Funari said. “The publishers said, ‘This has scholarly merit,’ and in December (2010) I received the email the book would be published.”

Funari said he doesn’t necessarily admire Bacon as a person – he was a consummate politician who lost his post as lord chancellor because of taking bribes – but he does admire the grandeur of his writing.

Bacon set about to change how everyone thinks, Funari explained, so much so that he is considered the founder of modern scientific thought. “The scope of what he set out to do is amazing,” he said.

“We see science always progressing,” Funari said.  “For Bacon, it wasn’t about discovery; it was about recovery – of that knowledge and power of Eden.”