Publication Date

April 2019

Advisor(s)

Joseph Fitzpatrick

Major

College of Letters, Italian Studies

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

This thesis attends to the life and afterlives of the archive of polymath Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605) – an early modern Italian naturalist, the first professor of natural history appointed in Italy, and the so-called Father of natural history studies. I turn to the past as a way to get a clearer view of the social and political forces that gather around the promise of an objective knowledge of nature – forces that are effectively obscured in contemporary discourses, representations, and practices of science. By particularizing the characterizations of early modern science through closer attention to context as well as content, to the connections between social status, intellectual identity, and colonial power, I offer ways to rethink what counts as reliable knowledge of nature. My project strikes neither an optimistic nor pessimistic note. Rather, it is rooted in the belief that there are infinite amounts of hope that we have yet to apprehend if we recognize how power and knowledge have always been intermingled both productively and violently in the study of nature.

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