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Sir Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis – The beginning

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The first sentence of the New Atlantis.
  3. Leaving the narration to a man with an eye for detail.
  4. Bacon's choice of audience.
  5. An early and accepted emblem of the church.
  6. The beginning of the story and the transformation of the opening passage into a gateway.
  7. Conclusion.
  8. Bibliography.

The beginning of the New Atlantis is, in the first place, an account of a long voyage across the Pacific, undertaken by a crew of 51 sailors. At the same time, it serves as a brief introduction to two different peoples ? the sailors on the one hand and the Bensalemites on the other. The passage also presents the narrator's first impressions of the newly discovered island of Bensalem. In addition, the opening passage of the New Atlantis is more than a simple description of an adventure which begins at sea and is triggered by a tempest. The phrase ?We sailed from Peru? not only establishes the nature of the story one is about to read but also plunges the reader into a hasty and unexpected departure. ?We? are caught unprepared for an adventure that tosses both reader and characters into a peculiar setting, where complete loss of orientation, purpose and identity melt together to form the basis of a questioning about the real purpose of the text.

[...] We can distinguish three that seem to stand out in particular at the beginning of the New Atlantis the ship or the boat, the opposition between light and darkness and, to a certain extent, the colours. All are placed in relation to the sailors as well as to the people of Bensalem. Each of these categories serves to describe and situate the newly acquainted parties in respect to one another. An early and accepted emblem of the church is the ship and the word which refers to the central part of the church comes from the Latin word for ship (Medieval Latin n?vis, from Latin, from its shape). [...]

[...] Their curiosity brings new worlds to light but their inner light makes them persevere with their curiosity, hence the opposition between light and darkness which recurs in a number of places throughout the New Atlantis. Light is the symbol of God's power but it is also used to denote the power of knowledge. It is interesting to take a look at the island of Bensalem which gradually comes to light and materializes out of the vanishing mist. The island passes from darkness to light; it is unknown at first and is announced only as an allusion to what lies beyond the discovered regions of the globe. [...]

[...] Indeed, the New Atlantis can fulfil such demands. It is probably the only way for the modern reader to get through the voyage for the first time. It should not be forgotten that in the 17th century, first accounts of the civilizations of the Western Hemisphere the Aztec, Maya, and Inca had already been brought to Europe. We might very well assume that as an author Bacon has been influenced by the glowing accounts of the great cities of Central and South America. [...]

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