At the next Vossius Seminar Juan Bubello (University of Buenos Aires) and Stephen Clucas (Birbeck, University of London) will present their research. Juan Bubello: “Alchemy, politics and power in the Spain of Felipe II. Persecutions and resistances” and Stephen Clucas: “Whose disciplines are we between? The case of John Dee’s Mathematicall Praeface (1570)”.
15.00-16.00: Juan Bubello (University of Buenos Aires)
16.15-17.15: Stephen Clucas (Birbeck, University of London)
Alchemy, politics and power in the Spain of Felipe II. Persecutions and resistances
The study of Western esotericism has developed greatly in the last twenty years. But specialists in the field have neglected the Spanish case, or have studied it marginally. This is unfortunate, because there are plenty of interesting cases there that are relevant for this field. When we focus on the history of alchemy in the Spain of Felipe II, we need to address the problem of its practices and representations and its relation to natural magic and astrology. This also implies observing political disputes over the legality of alchemy and conflicts that could lead to persecution and resistance.
Whose disciplines are we between? The case of John Dee’s Mathematicall Praeface (1570)
Whilst the histories of science, mathematics, magic and religion are often kept separate, the works of the Elizabethan and natural philosopher John Dee (1527-1609) seem to elicit – almost to demand – that we move between these discrete histories in order to make sense of their disciplinarity without lapsing into unconscious anachronism. This paper is a call for a kind of historical phenomenological ‘bracketing’, or temporary suspension of disciplinary assumptions. How do we know we are studying the right subject? Whose disciplines are we working between, when we do interdisciplinary work (ours? Or those of the period we are studying)? By looking at Dee’s survey of the mathematical sciences in his ‘very fruitfull Praeface’ to Henry Billingsley’s English translation of Euclid (published in 1570), I examine the disciplinary complexity of mediaeval and early modern disciplines such as perspectiva or “menadrie” which complicate the available categories used by modern historians.