Early Modern Clouds and the Poetics of Meteorology: An Introduction

Jeffrey N. Peters, Katharina N. Piechocki

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial

5 Scopus citations


Since antiquity, philosophers and poets have understood clouds to be principles of generation and procreation. They can turn, Aristophanes tells us, “into anything they want.” They are bound up with the act of begetting and giving birth, of bringing into being the new–hollow vessels, as Seneca would later put it, with solid walls. And yet the creative force of clouds is a strange, even counterintuitive, one: what they generate and bring forth is often evanescent, incorporeal, and unsubstantial. In this essay, we explore a poetics of clouds as a site of tension between the empty and the procreative, the material and the immaterial, the perceptible and the imperceptible. Clouds, we suggest, are instances of conveyance whose power of mediation gives shape to the unsayable, the unrepresentable, and the apparently unknowable. Their meteorological trickery draws our attention to the infinity of the cosmos by obscuring it. Their rhetorical obfuscations–what medieval tradition called the integumentum–draw us into their truths by turning us seductively away from them. Expressions of both cosmological and poetic becoming, clouds are therefore inseparable from epistemological and esthetic considerations of the ways meaning and knowledge are at once hidden and revealed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-78
Number of pages14
JournalRomance Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Clouds
  • cosmology
  • gender
  • mediation
  • poetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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