Organized Session

Censoring Science in the Early Modern Mediterranean

Organizers

Jonathan Regier

Ghent University

Hannah Marcus

Harvard University

Chair

Hannah Marcus

Harvard University

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Session Abstract

As scientific texts crossed boundaries-linguistic, cultural, social, and material-they were subject to censorship by multiple authorities. The papers in this panel engage with aspects of early modern medical and scientific thought as they passed through censorial scrutiny. The individual case studies provide an opportunity to question more broadly the role of censorship in shaping scientific thought and the obstacles it presented to scientific communication.

Presenter 1

In the Time of Melancholy: Medical Translation, Religious Conversion, and Resilience in the Early Modern Ottoman World

Duygu Yildirim

Stanford University

Abstract

This paper explores how and why certain medical translations became successful during the times of religious conflict in the early modern era. By focusing on the understudied relation between religious conversion and medical discourse, this paper scrutinizes the Ottoman imperial physician, Hayatizade Mustafa's (d. 1692) medical work entitled, Curative Treatise for Difficult Diseases. As one of the first systematic medicinal translations into Ottoman Turkish from European languages, the work includes sections on melancholy and hypochondriacal melancholy as the most common diseases of the time. As a Jewish convert to Islam, Hayatizade's translations provided him a space in which he used the discourses of "utility" and "progress" to refute classical Islamic medical tradition. Hayatizade's engagement with melancholy reveals the ways in which medical discourse became a polarized setting where religious identities were negotiated during the times of religious conflict. Conceptualizing the history of melancholy as a dialectical tension between spiritual anxiety and self-representation, this paper reveals how medical translation could be a consolatory instrument for an early modern scholar who was constantly struggling for idioms of self-representation. As a religious convert whose faith was always in question, Hayatizade removed all the references to the supernatural causes of melancholy in the translation process. This self-censorship created a discreet language which dissented from the Islamic corpus. Yet, it also made the translation more accessible to readers who sought remedies for their own religious anxieties.

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Presenter 2

Making a Censor: Learned Magic in Robert Bellarmine's Lectiones lovanienses

Neil Tarrant

University of York

Abstract

The Jesuit Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) was a highly influential figure in the structures of censorship in post-Tridentine Rome. He served as consultor to the Index of Forbidden Books and the Holy Office, he was a member of the Congregation of the Index, and was involved in both the trial of Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) and the investigation of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). In this paper, I explore aspects of Bellarmine's intellectual formation by examining unpublished material from his Lectiones lovanienses, a series of lectures on Thomas Aquinas's Summa theologica given at the University of Louvain in the early 1570s. I consider his lectures on sections of the Summa concerned with superstition, and an appended document Disputatio de magia. The material in the lectures indicates that Bellarmine accepted many of Aquinas's definitions of the boundaries of superstition. In the Disputatio, however, he distinguished between three types of magic: "demonic," "natural" and "mixed." Whilst Aquinas accepted the existence of demonic magic and the possibility that humans could work natural wonders, he explicitly used neither of the latter two terms. In this paper, I suggest that to develop these categories, Bellarmine drew on the variant Thomism used by Nicholas Eymerich (1316-99) in his inquisitorial manual, Directorium inquisitorum. I also show how Bellarmine used these concepts in the Disputatio to assess the legitimacy of contemporary works such as Giambattista Della Porta's Magia naturalis. This discussion therefore provides a basis to consider how Bellarmine approached works of learned magic when he later acted as a censor.

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Presenter 3

Girolamo Cardano's Philosophy of Threat and the Roman Inquisition

Jonathan Regier

Ghent University

Abstract

Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576) was among the most widely-read natural philosophers of the latter sixteenth century. His literary output and fame spanned many disciplines-medicine, astrology, natural philosophy, moral philosophy, mathematics-, and his ideas continued to exert major influence well into the seventeenth century. As diverse as his projects and interests were, a common theme unites them: the individual, by Cardano's reckoning, lives in a network of danger, from bodily illness and accident, to chance events, to faults of intellect and memory, to the vagaries of ambition and passion. In the first part of this talk, I would like to sketch how we might read Cardano's corpus as a case study in the history of threat and risk, especially in the secularization of threat management-that is, the gradual emphasis on threat as natural, and on threat management as a strictly human enterprise. In 1570, Cardano finally ran afoul of the church, suffering an Inquisition trial in Bologna that led to the prohibition by the Index of all his books except the explicitly medical. In a recent study (Isis 110:4), I have examined some of the underlying tensions between Cardano and his Inquisition censors. In the second part of this talk, I will explore another way of interpreting Cardano's Inquisition trial, suggesting that his reception by censors of the Holy Office and Index can be read as the response of confessional authorities seeking to reinforce their own position as protectors of Christendom.

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Commentator

Hannah Marcus

Harvard University