CREMS: Creatures of the Imagination: Visualizing Monsters in the Early Modern Sciences-Trim
From Barbara Leavey on April 19th, 2021
A workshop featuring talks by:
Surekha Davies: “Life on the Edge: Imaginative Prototyping and Sea Monsters in Early Modern Europe”
For early modern European naturalists, the ocean depths were the edges of the world. Making knowledge about deep sea life required distinctive approaches to identifying, collecting, and interpreting evidence from places that were almost unreachable via bodies, senses, or instruments. Davies’s paper will show how making knowledge about oceanic animals required the sustained, deliberate imagination of category-breakers: monsters. Visual images of monstrous marine life were diagrams that enabled viewers to see in ways that were impossible in real life.
Surekha Davies is a historian of science, art and ideas and a postdoctoral fellow at Utrecht University.
Jennifer M. Rampling: “Deciphering the Dragon: Monsters and Image-Making in English Alchemy”
European alchemy is renowned for its obscure, allegorical imagery, populated by green lions, phoenixes, and serpents devouring their own tails. What were these images supposed to signify, and did they have any relation to identifiable alchemical practices? In this talk, I will focus on depictions of two important monsters—the dragon and the basilisk—in the English alchemical tradition. These bizarre figures expressed what more naturalistic drawings of chemical substances could not: the hidden properties and structures of matter. But the act of copying could also alter the content and meaning of figures, reflecting new attitudes towards both alchemy and image-making.
Jennifer Rampling is associate professor of history at Princeton, where she teaches in the Program in History of Science.