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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
The City of Dreaming Spires
Waking up surrounded by Gothic architecture Studying in the Radcliffe Camera­ Strutting in high heels across cobblestones Shopping at the Covered Mar...
Veronica Popp, Spring Semester 2009, Elmhurst College