1. Prologues in Learned Texts of Medieval Magic
Deadline for abstracts: 15 Sept 2019
Although the prologues of learned books of magic could take many forms, nearly all share at least one common characteristic: the claim to transmit a secret and pristine branch of knowledge. Such claims are frequently couched in the form of a narrative describing how this secret knowledge was originally revealed. Many employ the same actors (Hermes Trismegistus, King Solomon, Aristotle), the same objects (a tablet or disk made of precious material and inscribed with divine wisdom), and the same locations (a hidden cavern or lost pagan temple). These narratives helped to establish the authority of their texts, broadcast their affiliation with specific discourses, and signal how they should be read. Moreover, the prologues served to highlight the erudition of their authors through the use of classical and biblical references and often sophisticated word-play.
The aim of this session is to explore these still largely understudied prologues which testify to the variety of medieval approaches to “magic”. What do these prologues have to tell us about the institutional, cultural, and political milieux in which they were produced? How do certain recurring mythemes found in these prologues stand in relation to the various magical and divinatory arts, specifically those classified as natural or demonic? And to which philosophical, mystical, or religious beliefs do they appeal in order to justify the magical practices that they introduce?
Other potential topics relating to magical prologues include, but are not limited to
— the rhetoric of authority and the relation between power and secret knowledge
— the intersection of diverse intellectual traditions
— the continuity and reception of the Classical Tradition
— the appropriation of Jewish and Arabic traditions
— the relation between the tropes and mythemes found in magical prologues and those in other literary genres, such as prophecies and romances
— the assimilation of philosophical and medical texts
— the use of the Bible and biblical traditions
— philological and text-critical studies of magical prologues.
Please send your proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org by 15 September 2019.
Contact: Vajra Regan: email@example.com