David Simon teaches and writes about the literary and intellectual history of sixteenth and seventeenth-century England, often in connection with continental (especially French) cultural phenomena. He is writing a book about the intimacy of literature and science in this period, which explores the shared interest of natural philosophers and poets in the epistemological and ethical consequences of carelessness and other forms of casual indifference. By describing experiences of minimal feeling that are neither repressive nor illusory, neither achievements of self-discipline nor self-serving fabrications, the protagonists of his project disclose an unfamiliar conception of scientific dispassion. For Boyle, Marvell, Milton, and others, “nonchalance” intensifies receptivity and draws out the world’s hidden properties.
Early modernity is the focus but not the horizon of his research, which takes up issues that connect (and divide) past and present: the history of science and technology; the history of the passions (including the history of sexuality); rhetoric, hermeneutics, and other strands of Renaissance “literary theory”; Reformation theology; Marxian historiography and social theory; and the history of piety.