University of Pittsburgh


Thursday, October 7th at 5:00 p.m.
Wendy Hyman, Oberlin College Department of English
Room TBA
The Metaphor of Science:
Figurative Language and Natural Philosophy in the Seventeenth Century

The talk examines the literary aspects of early modern scientific prose, especially the relationship between epistemology and rhetoric. For Thomas Browne, as for poets like Spenser and Donne, metaphor was a forensic device: a perfectly sensible epistemological tool to use on a complex world. Donne's Expostulation XIX asserts with equanimity that God is both a literal and metaphorical God, and metaphor is also a powerful tool for understanding the cosmos in Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici. The talk then looks at the subsequent demotion of figurative language by the Royal Society (especially Boyle and Sprat), for whom metaphor was *the* impediment to scientific knowledge.

Professor Hyman's research and teaching interests are primarily in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature, the history of science and intellectual history, Ovidianism and mythology, and lyric of all periods. She offers courses on Shakespeare, early modern poetry and drama, and several interdisciplinary topics, from the history of the book to the prehistory of the literary cyborg.

She is currently editing a book called The Automaton in English Renaissance Literature (forthcoming, Ashgate, LSCEM series), on the wide variety of inanimate objects that come to “life” in early modern literature. She is also working on a book manuscript, Skeptical Seductions: Carpe Diem Poetry and the Eroticism of Doubt. She has an article on Spenser's Faerie Queene in ELR, and on Thomas Nashe and early modern authorship in SEL. Other current scholarly interests are on literary incest and its role in theories of mimesis, and on the philosophical concept of “nothing” in the Renaissance.


In collaboration with the Program in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, the Humanities Center will host Anthony Grafton as a short-term fellow in November 2010.

Wednesday, November 3 at 5:00 p.m.
Public Lecture Frick Fine Arts Auditorium 
"How Jesus Celebrated Passover: Renaissance Scholarship and the Jewish Origins of Christianity"
The talk will focus on scholarly efforts to see Jesus as part of a Jewish world, and the Last Supper has the central role in the story.

A reception will follow in the Frick Fine Arts Cloister, 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, November 4 at 12:30 p.m. 
Humanities Center Seminar CL 602 
"Humanities and Inhumanities"
We will discuss Grafton's review of Louis Menand's book, The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in The American University. The review is from the February 17, 2010, issue of The New Republic:

Anthony Grafton is one of the world’s most influential scholars of Renaissance humanism and the early modern European “Republic of Letters.” As author, coauthor, editor, or translator, he has published close to twenty books on a variety of topics concerning early modern European culture. He writes about subjects such as footnotes and forgeries, the history of books and readers, Renaissance magic and the legend of Doctor Faustus, and the significance of technical details in early modern astrology, chronology, and science. Three collections of essays, Defenders of the Text (1991), Bring Out Your Dead (2001), and Worlds Made by Words (2009), cover most of the topics and themes that appeal to him. A regular contributor to The New Republic and The New York Review of Books, Grafton has taught at Princeton University since 1975. Professor Grafton has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (1989), the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (1993), the Balzan Prize for History of Humanities (2002), and the Mellon Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Award (2003). He was recently elected President of the American Historical Association for 2011.