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Disreputable Bodies: Magic, Medicine, and Gender in Renaissance Natural Philosophy


Through a close reading of rarely studied materials, Sergius Kodera examines the contested position of the body in Renaissance philosophy. He shows how abstract metaphysical ideas evolved in tandem with the creation of new metaphors that shaped the understanding of early modern political, cultural, and scientific practices. In so doing, Kodera offers a new approach to these issues by describing the function and interaction of new technologies (such as optics and distillation) with popular creeds (such as witchcraft and folk medicine), as well as their relationship to the newly discovered texts from Greek and Roman Antiquity that captured the attention of Renaissance intellectuals. Kodera investigates for the first time how some philosophers forged their original syntheses from both newly available and traditional materials. In so doing, they contributed in unexpected ways to the formation of new cultural practices, such as surgical intervention into the human body aimed at a moral improvement of the individual, or medical vampirism -- practices that entailed largely unexplored conceptualisations of physical bodies, but were also tied inextricably to the formation of new and striking metaphors for the physical world.

This is a work of startling, refreshing originality, such startling originality that it is certain to spark controversy. Nothing in this book is predictable, from its premises to its marshalling of evidence to its conclusions. As a result it provokes any reader to rethink some of the most basic received ideas about philosophy and belief in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
-Ingrid Rowland (Notre Dame University)

This book is a major contribution to the study of Renaissance Neoplatonic magical theory and discourse, conducted through a profoundly revelatory exploration of the systemic gender bias in philosophical and proto-scientific literature.
-Walter Stephens (Johns Hopkins University)

Sergius Kodera teaches philosophy at the University of Vienna (Austria). He has published on Marsilio Ficino, Fernando de Rojas, Leone Ebreo, Matteo Ricci, Girolamo Cardano, Giambattista della Porta, and Giordano Bruno.

Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, Victoria University in the University of Toronto, 2010

Essays and Studies 23

978-0-7727-2063-4 (online)
978-0-7727-2060-3 (print)

OCUL Access:
The online edition of this title is now available to Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL) member institutions on the OCUL Scholars Portal Books platform.

Ebook Sales:
The ebook version of this volume is free.

Print Sales:
A limited number of print copies are available for purchase from:

-The Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies. Visit the volume page on the Centre's web site for details.

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