University of Pittsburgh

News and Events

2015-2016 Research Theme:

Interdisciplinarity in Historical Perspective

People working in today’s universities frequently emphasize innovative interdisciplinary scholarship, but they often forget that it is the disciplines themselves that are innovations—that it is only from a modern perspective that “arts” and “sciences” are discrete categories. Writers, artists, scientists, and philosophers from earlier periods took interdisciplinarity for granted in ways that seem almost impossible now, from Leonardo da Vinci’s stunning drawings of birds and flying machines to Sir Francis Bacon’s utopian fiction about the institutionalization of experimental science, the “New Atlantis.” This lecture series highlights the foundational connections among natural science, philosophy, arts and letters in early modernity. We also raise the question of how and why these fields diverged: when did natural philosophy forget its philosophical roots? When were the humanities imagined as distinct from experimental sciences? When did poetry part company with physics?

Supported by a generous grant from the Provost’s “Year of the Humanities in the University,” our collaborative research group will sponsor a series of reading groups, seminars, and lectures on this theme.

Upcoming Events






Susan Wells (Temple University) Event Series

Thursday, February 4 - Friday, February 5, 2016

Colloquium: “The Anatomy of Melancholy and the Anxiety of Persuasion”

Thursday, February 4, 2016

12:30 PM

Humanities Center, 602 Cathedral of Learning

Humanities Center Colloquium Events typically involve conversations around a pre-distributed piece of writing. You can download the reading here.

With responses by: Jennifer Waldron (Department of English) and Peggy Knapp (Carnegie Mellon University)

Lecture: "In Search of the Clitoris"

Friday, February 5, 2016

3:00 PM

William Pitt Union - Lower Lounge

{View the event flyer here}

Susan Wells is working on a rhetorical analysis of Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy. Her most recent book is Our Bodies, Ourselves and the Work of Writing (Stanford University Press, 2010). Her interests include rhetorics of science and medicine, critical theory, theories of the public sphere, and feminism. Wells’s book on nineteenth-century women physicians and scientific writing, Out of the Dead House, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 2001, and won the 2002 W. Ross Winterowd Award for the most outstanding book in composition theory. She has also published Sweet Reason: Rhetoric and the Discourses of Modernity (Chicago, 1996) and The Dialectics of Representation (Johns Hopkins University, 1985).

Sponsored by: Humanities Center, Year of the Humanities, Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program, Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, and the Communication Department


Todd Reeser (GSWS): Setting Plato Straight

Book Release Event

Thursday, February 11, 2016

4:00 - 5:30 PM

402 Cathedral of Learning

With responses by: Chloé Hogg (French and Italian), Marianne Novy (English), and Julie Beaulieu (GSWS)

In Setting Plato Straight, Todd W. Reeser undertakes the first sustained and comprehensive study of Renaissance textual responses to Platonic same-sex sexuality. Reeser mines an expansive collection of translations, commentaries, and literary sources to study how Renaissance translators transformed ancient eros into non-erotic, non-homosexual relations. He analyzes the interpretive lenses translators employed and the ways in which they read and reread Plato’s texts. In spite of this cleansing, Reeser finds surviving traces of Platonic same-sex sexuality that imply a complicated, recurring process of course-correction—of setting Plato straight.

Please contact with any questions.



Gerard Passannante

(University of Maryland)

Lecture: "Leonardo's Disasters"

Thursday, February 18, 2016

5:00 PM

Humanities Center, Cathedral of Learning 602

Passannante will discuss Leonardo da Vinci’s lifelong fascination with images of natural catastrophe—men and women swept up in hurricanes, citiesdemolished in a single violent stroke, the earth rendered a mere speck of dust by a sudden shift of scale. Moving from the artist’s instructions on how to paint a deluge (which would capture the imagination of filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein) to his astonishing late sketches of the flood, Passannante will consider the philosophical questions that haunted Leonardo as he pictured scenes of destruction.

Seminar: "The Earthquake and the Microscope"

Friday, February 19, 2016

12:00 PM

Humanities Center, Cathedral of Learning 602

In this seminar, Passannante will discuss the conceptual intimacy of the earthquake and the microscope in the mind of English virtuoso Robert Hooke, showing how the image of catastrophe emerged from (and responded to) the material constraints of Hooke’s instruments and the philosophical fantasies that attended their use.

Gerard Passannante is Associate Professor of English at the University of Maryland. His first book, The Lucretian Renaissance, was awarded the 2014 Harry Levin Prize by the American Comparative Literature Association. The book argues that, long before it took on its familiar shape during the Scientific Revolution, the ancient philosophy of atoms and the void reemerged in the Renaissance as a story about reading and letters. Passannante is the winner of the Rome Prize and a National Humanities Center Fellowship, among other awards.

Sponsored by: Humanities Center, Year of the Humanities, Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program

{View the event flyer here}


Domenico Bertoloni Meli - Mechanism Historicized

(Indiana University)

Lecture Series:  Monday, March 14 – Thursday, March 17, 2016

Mechanism and Visualization

Monday, March 14, 2016


University Club, Lecture Room A

This lecture will discuss the implications of different forms of visualization,starting with Andreas Vesalius and moving through the late 17th century, with a special focus on Robert Hooke.

The Very Word Mechanism

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

4:00 PM

Humanities Center, Cathedral of Learning 602

Framing Mechanisms

Thursday, March 17, 2016



Domenico Bertoloni Meli is Professor of History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine at Indiana University. He has received many fellowships and grants, most recently a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. He has also been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, worked at the Max Planck Institute for History of Science in Berlin, and received fellowships and grants from Indiana University, the Dibner Institute, the National Science Foundation, the Wellcome Trust for the History of Medicine, and Jesus College, Cambridge. Professor Meli has widespread research interests, including the mathematical and medical disciplines from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, especially mechanics and anatomy. His most recent book is Mechanism, Experiment, Disease: Marcello Malpighi and Seventeenth-Century Anatomy (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011).