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You are here: Home Courses Middlebury-CMRS Course List HIST 0140 Occult Sciences in the Middle Ages

HIST 0140 Occult Sciences in the Middle Ages

Many medieval people held and practised beliefs which today we would label occult, magical or esoteric. At the learned level, Platonic, Hermetic, Islamic and Kabbalistic ideas were profoundly influential, but less intellectual inspirations and needs were also deeply at work.  The results are evident not only in ‘magical’, astrological and alchemical texts as such, but also in religious, philosophical, legal, literary and artistic works. Other disciplines are drawn on freely as required, but the core of students’ work in this course is in exploring the testimony of these rich and allusive primary sources (in translation) for themselves.

Sample Syllabus

  • Late Antique Roots: Neoplatonism, Hermeticism, Kabbalah
  • Occult Thought in the Universities
  • Popular Beliefs
  • Everyday Magic
  • Attitudes to Witches
  • Occult Byzantium
  • Beyond Christendom
  • Occultism and the Roots of the Renaissance

Introductory Reading

  • Kieckhefer, R.,  Magic in the Middle Ages.  Cambridge: Canto, CUP, revised edn, 2000
  • Maxwell-Stuart, P.G. (ed.), The Occult in Mediaeval Europe. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005
  • Flint, V., The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991
  • Maguire, H. (ed.), Byzantine Magic.  Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 2008
  • Kennedy, E.S., Astronomy and Astrology in the Medieval Islamic World. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998
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CMRS provides a genuine Oxford experience complete with access to wonderful libraries and excellent tutors.  At the same time, the CMRS program flexe...
Mark Marshall, Autumn Semester 2007, Cranmer House