Magic as a historiographic category

Dana Jalobeanu

What is Renaissance magic? What connects the seemingly very different enterprises of Marsilio Ficino (De vita libri tres), Cornelius Agrippa, Giordano Bruno (De vinculis), Giovan Battista della Porta (Magia naturalis) and Francis Bacon? In what sense their projects of a natural magic are about the same thing?

One proposal to answer this question was formulated more than 30 years ago by Ioan Petru Culianu’s book, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance. A book widely read but also very much contested by the experts. A book that still makes a very good reading today. Culianu’s proposal is to treat magic as a historiographic category. And to define it as a science of manipulating the contents of the imaginary. Or a set of sciences, since Culianu talks rather about a cluster of Renaissance sciences of the imaginary which contains not only natural (and demonic) magic, but also sciences such as the art of memory, divination, astrology etc.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of re-reading Renaissance authors with the help of this historiographic category? And in what way is Culianu’s “magic” useful to the historian of science (or the intellectual historian) today?

Join us on Friday, 31 of July, 8 pm (Bucharest time). On zoom and live on the youtube channel Cafeneaua filosofica. For the zoom link email me:

Below a trailer – as a teaser for Friday.

The poetic veil: fables, philosophy and the shaping of the Renaissance

Dana Jalobeanu

(Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, Penguin Books, 1967)

Image result for wind pagan mysteries in the renaissanceImagine a course which combines, in an imaginative manner, philosophy, art history, literature and a lot of discussions about how to see and understand famous painting. Imagine looking at beautiful paintings — by Boticelli, Raphael and Pierro della Francesca – and learning how to look and what to search for in them.

Take, for example, Boticelli’s Primavera, one of the most celebrated paintings of all time. How shall we look at it? What is the relation between the various groups of figures represented in the painting? There are two “triads” represented on canvas: on the left, the three graces engaged in a seraphic dance. On the right hand side, another dynamic group of three figures: Zephyr, the nymph Chloris, and Flora, the goddess of the spring. In the center, still, quiet (and fully dressed) Venus, more like a “goddess of moderation,” than like the figure we all know (from other Renaissance’s paintings). Above all, Cupid, caught in flight, points his arrow to the dance of the graces. How are we to “read” this strikingly dynamic painting? What do we need to decipher the complex and eclectic mixture of symbols? Continue reading The poetic veil: fables, philosophy and the shaping of the Renaissance

Marsilio Ficino’s vision of renovatio between politics and theology

Dana Jalobeanu

(Sophia Howlett, Marsilio Ficino and his world, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

If you are new in the field, or simply not up to date with the new trends in Ficinian studies, this is the place to begin. Sophia Howlett offers a clearly written and daring revisionist story of Renaissance; one set to deconstruct most of our cherished myths. Based on a wide survey of the recent (and less recent) scholarship, Marsilio Ficino and his world tells an alternative story to the celebrated fairy tale of the Platonic Academy of Florence and the recovery of Plato’s works in Western Europe. Continue reading Marsilio Ficino’s vision of renovatio between politics and theology