– Antiquarians and polymaths are part of a universal, redemptive project in which man participates in the transformation of his own environment (Nuncius, 2016).
Forms of organization and notation of scientific knowledge
Natural history in the early modern period
History of collecting and print culture
Historiography and critical traditions of classical antiquity
Mediterranean circulation of ideas
Intellectual and information networks
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I am currently a fellow at the New Europe College in Bucharest: this appointment in Romania’s institute for advanced studies follows another post as a visiting professor in the department of history of philosophy at the University of Bucharest, and a post-doctoral research fellow in the framework of their Institute for Research in the Humanities.
Previously, and most recently, I collaborated with Ca' Foscari in Venice on a cycle of lectures, and taught for a few years at the City University of New York. I have been working since at least 2004 on early modern forms of knowledge production and organization (most notably, material culture and its relation with rhetoric), on the idea of genre as epistemic vehicle, and on the humanist movement at large and its impact on Latin philosophy and the development of ethical thought. These ideas already emerged in my PhD thesis of 2009, largely dedicated to the Renaissance polymath Leon Battista Alberti, but they are even stronger in the book I am finishing now, which is about the Galilean method and the tradition of the household academy. My present research expands on the dynamics of Aristotelian natural philosophy from antiquity to the seventeenth century, and on the ways in which scientific ideas were disseminated both within scholarly communities and across different social milieus, namely Central Europe and the Mediterranean, as with the 17th-century neo-Hellenism.
I would describe my historical research as a field intersecting two discrete intellectual traditions: history of philosophy and history of science. In turn, I would characterize my methodology as intensely multidisciplinary, not only because I am less interested in the shape that questions take when the sources are interrogated from a single, institutional point of reference, but even more precisely because I accept a radically material conception of the historian's job, which, as Gianna Pomata and Nancy Siraisi noted, was ascending at least since the sixteenth century. This is directly related to my experience that contextualizing certain kinds of artifacts, or giving thick descriptions of locally and temporally situated phenomena, brings to the fore the necessity of a nexus—as that between between natural history and antiquarian practices such as collecting, note-taking, displaying, etc.
So, too, in my own work the historia of things, i.e. the effect wrought onto a tradition by its reception in the early modern period, is at the same time a historical object of study and a historical format of experimental report.
My thinking has been spurred, at increasing junctures, by Ian Maclean's traversal of European ideas through print culture, by the solicitation of humanist methods of reading and writing of Anthony Grafton, Ann Blair, and Richard Yeo, by Peter Miller's way of turning survivals into evidence and finally by Mordechai Feingold's habit of locating cultural paradigms in the bedrock of the history of universities. This, however, is just a sample of influential readings that is meant to convey the idea that while the tools of knowledge are often traditional and philological, my publications (see below) and the various projects I describe elsewhere try to turn them into something intellectually encompassing and fresh, whether I focus more on procedures (writing history, staging a play-text, debating, assembling a library, annotating Pliny or Euclid, etc.) or rather on products themselves (maps, secrets, automata, proverbs and other such sign-bearing artifacts).