Friday, November 23, 2012

Visionary Architecture

Champoux’s dissertation, “Visionary Architecture: Monastic Magic and Cognition in John of Morigny’s ‘Liber florum,’” is concerned with the 14th-century Benedictine monk who participated in ritual magic and had visionary experiences. Besides being fascinating reading, John’s text, says Champoux, has altered the study and classification of medieval religions.
“Through a detailed examination of John’s visions and the historical context in which they were written, I argue that magic unsettled medieval theological boundaries and imbued John with a degree of creative license that forced theological interventions from his more orthodox peers,” says Champoux.
Patricia Miller, Champoux’s adviser, says this kind of research is rooted in the latter-day work of Hélène Cixous—specifically, her concept of “productive exile”—and of Michel Foucault, whose study of utopias and heterotopias has changed our understanding of space and time. Miller also points out that Champoux’s research rocks the fractious scholarly field of magic at its “conceptual and definitional core.”
“She is intellectually bold to enter into these discussions,” says Miller, who serves as the Bishop W. Earl Ledden Professor of Religion. “I think her approach—which emphasizes the idea of what magic does, intellectually, rather than what it is—will make a real contribution toward de-essentializing this topic and enabling its study as a legitimate expression of religion.”

Monday, November 12, 2012

Renaissance Scholars and Their Demons - Ficino lecture

Society for Neo-Latin Studies: Annual Lecture
November 16th, 5 p.m., University College London
Dr Maude Vanhaelen (University of Warwick)
Renaissance scholars and their demons:
on Ficino and Iamblichus’ De Mysteriis

In 1486, Ficino suddenly interrupts his commentary on Plotinus’ Enneads and devotes three years to the translation of other Neoplatonic texts related to some of the most delicate doctrines of the time: pagan demonology, divination through dreams and theurgy. This paper examines the circumstances surrounding the production of these texts, and explores the ways in which they modify ancient and medieval doctrines of prophecy and divination. It also offers an overview of the immediate reception of Ficino’s translations: it shows that a network of humanists nourished a special interest in the doctrines revived by Ficino, prompting Savonarola to mount virulent attacks against his contemporaries’ revival of the pagan cult to malevolent ‘spirits’.

The lecture will take place in the Chadwick Building (G08), University College London, on Gower Street WC1E 6BT (

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bruno's "Renaissance Dream of Knowledge" in England

The Renaissance Drama of Knowledge

Giordano Bruno in England


By Hilary Gatti

Giordano Bruno’s visit to Elizabethan England in the 1580s left its imprint on many fields of contemporary culture, ranging from the newly-developing science, the philosophy of knowledge and language, to the extraordinary flowering of Elizabethan poetry and drama.
This book explores Bruno's influence on English figures as different as the ninth Earl of Northumberland, Thomas Harriot, Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare. Originally published in 1989, it is of interest to students and teachers of history of ideas, cultural history, European drama and renaissance England.

Bruno's work had particular power and emphasis in the modern world due to his response to the cultural crisis which had developed - his impulse towards a new ‘faculty of knowing’ had a disruptive effect on existing orthodoxies – religious, scientific, philosophical, and political.

abstract from the publisher's website

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Call for Papers: The Substance of Sacred Place

From:   Urban, Tim <>
Date:   October 29, 2012

Call for Papers

The Substance of Sacred Place:
An Interdisciplinary Workshop on Locative Materiality

organised by Laura Veneskey and Annette Hoffmann

20th/21st June 2013
Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut

The study of holy places has long been a central concern of not only the humanities, but also the social sciences. Much of this body of scholarship has focused on pilgrimage and sacred centers, either as theoretical constructions or as concrete places, such as Jerusalem, Mecca or Benares. These subjects have been explored, on the one hand, through the study of ritual and liturgy, and on the other, through various modes of representation, be they architectural, cartographic, iconic, or textual. Complementary to these lines of inquiry, we invite papers that explore the material and tactile dimensions of locative sacrality across religious traditions. How is a sense of place communicable through physical means? What can a consideration of matter tell us about the often fraught relationship between the tangible world and its representation?

We seek analyses of all materials evocative of a particular sacred milieu, not only earth, dust, stone, but also wood, metal, pigments, oil, or water. Presentations exploring either the substances and places themselves or textual and iconic depictions thereof are equally welcome. We invite papers from all disciplines on any locale conceived of as sacred, whether scriptural, pilgrim, monastic, ascetic, or cultic, between antiquity and the early modern period. The workshop is aimed at young researchers, and is intended to bring together graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and those in the early stages of their teaching or professional careers.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
- Sacred landscapes (deserts, mountains, caves, etc.)
- The material dimensions of topographic representation (iconic or textual)
- Earthen, geographic, and locative relics
- Transportable versus site-specific sanctity
- The physicality of built environments and places of worship

Interested applicants should send a current c.v. and an abstract of no more than 250 words (for presentations of twenty minutes) to Proposals must be received by date 30th November 2012.

For questions and further information please contact:
Laura Veneskey (
or Annette Hoffmann (