The Cultural History of Astrology

HPSC-X 705 — Spring 2019

William Newman
MO 228
Days and Times
11:30A-01:30P W
Course Description
Department: History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine

As Aby Warburg, Erwin Panofsky, and other scholars whose work spans the history of science and art have shown, astrology long formed one of the central themes of concern to European and Islamic intellectuals. Astrology was arguably one of the first “applied sciences,” linking the empirical research and abstract theorizing of astronomy to the world of practical results. From providing the basis for planting crops to predicting the outcomes of battles, weather, and individual fates, astrological expertise permeated many aspects of medieval and Renaissance life. At the same time, the zodiacal signs, decans, and planets served an important role in the art of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, providing visual topoi for manuscript illuminations, panel paintings, frescos, and encoded natal charts found in the ceilings of various Renaissance villas. Astrological themes also permeate the history of literature, ranging from the polyvalent work of Geoffrey Chaucer up to the satirical output of Jonathan Swift. The present course will begin by providing the basic astronomical information necessary to understand astrological material and then pass to a discussion of these themes in late antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the early modern period.

Interested in this course?

The full details of this course are available on the Office of the Registrar website.

See complete course details