337 Cohen Hall
Elly Truitt, Bryn Mawr College
"Talking Heads: Astral Science, Divination, and Legends of Medieval Philosophers"
Abstract: Medieval automata in the Latin West rested on specific ideas surrounding the foreign nature of the knowledge that made them possible. Legends of prophetic statues created by learned medieval men from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries reflect concerns about the rapid importation and assimilation of the new sciences of the quadrivium, especially astral science, into the western intellectual tradition. Gerbert of Aurillac, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, and Albertus Magnus were renowned for their erudition in celestial science, mathematics, and natural philosophy, and all were posthumously reputed to have made, either through demonic or astral magic, speaking figures that would reveal both future events and further occult knowledge. Unlike the courtly automata in twelfth and thirteenth-century literary texts, these legends expose the alluring and possibly ruinous potential of new, foreign knowledge for purposes which are, at best, hubristic, and at worse, diabolical.