Early Modern Knowledge (Fall 2016, Section 17)

About this class

To quote L.P. Hartley: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”  Early modern Europe (1500-1800) does indeed seem like a foreign land, where kings and queens ruled over a population that would be considered both ignorant and subservient by modern standards. And yet, this was a universe that had its own rationale and a time when important developments in scientific, philosophical, political, and religious knowledge laid the foundation for the world in which we live today. Western society embraced the notion that the earth revolved around the sun, and ideas about a divinely ordained monarchy gave way to the defense of democratic forms; theologians tore apart the Christian church, and people began to think through the implications of empire and conquest as Europeans spread themselves around the globe.

 

How was knowledge constructed in this period, and how and why did older forms of knowing give way to new ways of understanding the universe? Moreover, how were the various intellectual developments of the day interrelated, and what does all of this tell us about the production of knowledge more generally? This course will investigate how knowledge was produced (and also reformed) in the early modern world and, in the process, develop students' capacity for critical thought and analysis. It is organized thematically rather than chronologically, and incorporates workshops and in-class activities alongside lecture material. A participation mark will be also assigned.

Marianopolis College
by Cloud on October 25, 2016
                                 Mercurius Compitalitius: or, a Guide to the Practical Physician is a roughly 5lbs (2.3kg) guide that was written in English. It was published in 1684, with rough dimensions of 8x13 inches. The main contents of this book or “guide” focuses on medicine and how to treat various diseases or disorders. The book had the aroma of herbal medicines, while at the same time a smoke-like smell. The cover of the book was brown, plain and seems to be made up of wood.

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Marianopolis College
by Georgia Matthews on October 25, 2016
     The rare book observed is called The Works of Ambrose Parey. It was published in the late 17th century, between the years 1678 and 1691. It is written in only English and it is a very big book. Its dimensions are around one foot in width, one and a half feet in length and one to two inches in thickness. The book’s size makes it also quite heavy. The cover of the book is very worn down.

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Marianopolis College
by sophiecb on October 25, 2016
Empirical Observations

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Marianopolis College
by Augustin on October 24, 2016
During the short trip to the Osler library organized by Marianopolis College, I had the honour of consulting A Guide to the Practical Physician by Theoph Bonet.

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2 years 11 months ago

I really enjoyed reading your text. You chose quite the complex advertisement and successfully explained the negative messages it portrays. I must point out how much I liked the way you used profanity in the sentence "Bluntly and somewhat crudely put, she is waiting to be f*cked" to emphasize your point about the sexual objectification of the model in the picture, much like we saw in class. Have you thought of the possibility that this advertisement also promotes an idealistic physical appearance that all women should strive for? The model in the image was specifically chosen for a reason. One could argue that this reason is for her slim body, white skin colour and long smooth, straight hair, which sends the message that all women must look this way. This is simply another message that could have been looked at as it seems quite relevant. As far as the proposed solution goes, I must admit that it seems quite impressive. By using examples such as Nike with their equality advertisement, you show how companies that are successful in the current day market are using gender equality tactics rather than sexual methods and it is bringing them revenue whereas American Apparel is struggling financially by using the objectification of women to sell their merchandise. The only question I have for you is what changes would you make to this exact advertisement in order to eliminate the negative messages being spread will still being able to successful intrigue the consumers into wanting t buy this product? In the end, this is a great analysis. Good job!

2 years 11 months ago

I really enjoyed reading your text. You chose quite the complex advertisement and successfully explained the negative messages it portrays. I must point out how much I liked the way you used profanity in the sentence "Bluntly and somewhat crudely put, she is waiting to be f*cked" to emphasize your point about the sexual objectification of the model in the picture, much like we saw in class. Have you thought of the possibility that this advertisement also promotes an idealistic physical appearance that all women should strive for? The model in the image was specifically chosen for a reason. One could argue that this reason is for her slim body, white skin colour and long smooth, straight hair, which sends the message that all women must look this way. This is simply another message that could have been looked at as it seems quite relevant. As far as the proposed solution goes, I must admit that it seems quite impressive. By using examples such as Nike with their equality advertisement, you show how companies that are successful in the current day market are using gender equality tactics rather than sexual methods and it is bringing them revenue whereas American Apparel is struggling financially by using the objectification of women to sell their merchandise. The only question I have for you is what changes would you make to this exact advertisement in order to eliminate the negative messages being spread will still being able to successful intrigue the consumers into wanting t buy this product? In the end, this is a great analysis. Good job!

3 years 2 months ago

Great piece, I really like the way in which you described very specific features of this book such as the smell of herbal medicine as well as physical condition of the book. I found it very interesting when you compared the creation of books from that time period to today, especially when you hinted at the way in which these books were advertised represented an early form of capitalism. Although you are undeniably correct with your claim that today's print publishing is much more efficient and that the methods of creating books such as this one are outdated, it is important to think about how advanced books like this were for their time. Before the printing press allowed these to be published, each book would have to be hand written by a scribe which is timely, and leads a rarity of identical books. Even how you noted that the last word on each page is the first word on the next is very advanced as this is how those who bind the books know that the pages are in order. Overall, outstanding article with great analysis, just thought I'd put my opinion in on how impressive these books actually are for their time.

3 years 2 months ago

I really liked your description of the book, because it felt as if I have seen and touched it myself. You gave a good mental image of what it looks like. Also, it is quite interesting how the balance between the four humors were mentioned in the book. Your depiction of the shift from rationalism to empiricism using the evidences from the text are accurate and well-done. Overall, it was a great analysis.

3 years 2 months ago

I enjoyed how you asked yourself and to the readers questions about the book. For instance, the fact that that you understood that the book is the second edition to the original copy, thus, explaining the paradigm shift, shows how well you analyzed the book. I was also generally surprised that the book was meant to be read by less educated people. All in all, it was a good analysis!

3 years 3 months ago

I really liked the way you compared early modern printing techniques with modern technology! Indeed, it allows the reader (such as myself) to have a reference point in order to compare the 2 methods. You say that this was written for high rank, wealthy and literate individual, and that surgeons are among those who would use this book. However, am I correct in assuming that surgeons were only barbers and butchers looking for extra money? Therefore, would these people not be high ranked individuals, much less be literate and have spare times on their hands? Anyways, although this may seem like criticism a bit on the harsh side, it was the only downside to your paper. Everything else is well written, well linked together, and well organized! Wonderful!

3 years 3 months ago

" the knowledge that was present during the 17th was not as advance as the knowledge present today". How can you say that modern knowledge is more advance than past knowledge? We often create the illusion that as time passes by, humanity evolves and advances progressively. However, as we have seen, knowledge doesn't always progress, in fact, the changes in society occur only if the current paradigm shifts. Perhaps, our current paradigm is all wrong, and we are no where closer to the truth than we were a few centuries ago.

On another note, I have noticed that you did not say anything about the author of the book. Was it anonymous? I would loved to know!

3 years 3 months ago

"That is to say the practice of medicine came from theory that fit within what was agreed upon as truth." I like how you incorporated this into your essay, however, i believe that if you had compared that to the modern paradigm (how today knowledge stems from practice, whereas before it came from theory), it would create a "reference point" for your reader, for him (or her) to better understand early modern knowledge. Otherwise, this is very well written!

3 years 3 months ago

You were very successful in comparing the text to your book. The book's appearance and use was properly justified by examples given from the text.Also, the description is very accurate in the introduction. Great job!

3 years 3 months ago

It's strange to think that educated people used to think that some illnesses are caused by witchcraft and that the body was made of only four humours. However, as you said, we may think it's absurd, but in their time it was common knowledge because they were a part of a different medical paradigm than we are today. It also makes you wonder how these methods of curing people worked in that time since their medical knowledge was mostly wrong in terms of what we consider medical knowledge today.

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