Robert Morrison: Jewish Scholars Between Italy and the Eastern Mediterranean

Thursday, March 14, 2013, 3:30pm
Encina Hall, Room 208

Robert Morrison (Bowdoin College), “Jewish Scholars Between Italy and the Eastern Mediterranean”

The subject of this talk is a network of scholars from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that bridged Istanbul, Crete, and the Veneto as well as Jewish, Christian, and Muslim intellectual life.  These scholars engaged in a conversation that spanned different lands and different cultures.  The conversation was bi-directional: figures at the Ottoman court were interested in Latin books just as scholars in the Veneto seem to have been interested in Islamic astronomy. The talk will begin by outlining the major figures in this scholarly network and then move to a discussion of the texts and ideas that circulated via the network.  The most prominent topics were astronomy (including foundations of Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus), astrology (resolving increasingly arcane methods of forecasting), Qabbala and its use in the service of Christianity, Averroist philosophy, and machinations (be they medical, mechanical, or alchemical).  The talk will conclude by considering the social contexts of the most significant members of the network and examine how they navigated a highly complex world.

Robert Morrison is Associate Professor of Religion at Bowdoin College.  He received his M.Phil. and Ph.D. from Columbia University. His courses lie in the academic study of both Islam and Judaism, but address, in addition, comparative topics.  His research has focused on the role of science in Islamic and Jewish texts, as well as in the history of Islamic science. His book The Intellectual Career of Niẓām al-Dīn al-Nīsābūrī (Routledge, 2007) received the 2009 World Prize for the Book of the Year of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Islamic studies. Among his publications are An Astronomical Treatise by Mūsā Jālīnūs alias Moses Galeano,” (Aleph: Historical Studies in Science and Judaism X/2 2011), “Discussions of Astrology in Early Tafsīr,” (Journal of Qur’ānic Studies XI 2009), “Quṭb al-Dīn al-Shīrāzī’s Hypotheses for Celestial Motions” (Journal for the History of Arabic Science XIII, 2005),  “The Response of Ottoman Religious Scholars to European Science” (Archivum Ottomanicum XXI, 2003), “The Portrayal of Nature in a Medieval Qur’an Commentary” (Studia Islamica XCIV, 2002), “Conceptions of the Soul in Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Poetry” (Edebiyat XI, 2000).