Medieval Perspectives

Razieh Mousavi (Max Planck)

Islamic classical literature is a broad subject, encompassing all written works available in Muslim societies and beyond during the early Islamic period (7th–11th centuries). It is a rich area of research comprising divine as well as secular works. Of the various scientific texts in understanding the history of classical Islamic literature, astronomy is one of the least examined. Greater attention of modern studies was paid to the technical analysis of astronomical books while their literal sides have been touched to a lesser extent. My doctoral project explores the formation process of early astronomical compilations through the lens of the peculiar writing type of al-Farghānī’s Elements of Astronomy. I tend to see how interactions between translated materials and practised knowledge shaped the writing structures of early Islamic contributions. My study is, however, beyond the scope of translation methods which focuses on transferring knowledge from one tradition into another. The major concern of my project is the presentation techniques employed by Muslim astronomers to address their readers within Islamic circles. I argue that identifying and tracing writing formats shed more light on the adaptation period of foreign material. My study also calls attention to how early writers on astronomy navigated along the imported and generated, row and received, and new and old methods. 

Eleonora Andriani (Observatoire de Paris – PSL CNRS)

I would like to contribute to the topic of 'Portents and Prognostications', as it is displayed in the work of Michael Scot, the court astrologer of Frederick II Hohenstaufen. Michael Scot is regarded as one of the leading intellectuals in Western Europe during the first third of the thirteenth century and as the exemplary author for understanding the relationships between astrology, divination, magic and religious orthodoxy in the Middle Ages. Dedicated to the emperor, the Liber introductorius (1228–1235), his astrological work, includes a long introduction and three books: the Liber quatuor distinctionum, the Liber particularis and the Liber physionomie. My paper will include a study of Michael's discussion of the interpretation of unusual signs and unexpected events, as it is found both in the Liber quatuor distinctionum and the Liber particularis. Through the analysis of some neglected textual evidence, I will explore Michael's account on portents and prognostications, the range of which goes from the occurrence of astrological, meteorological and astrometeorological phenomena to that of suspicious, unexpected events in everyday life.