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Material Texts: Hannah Marcus (Harvard): “Censoring Medicine: Processes of Expurgation, Forgetting, and Remembering in Early Modern Italy”
Monday, February 6, 2017 - 5:15pm to 6:30pm

Class of 1978 Pavilion in the Kislak Center on the 6th Floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

We will be welcoming Hannah Marcus (Harvard) for a talk entitled: “Censoring Medicine: Processes of Expurgation, Forgetting, and Remembering in Early Modern Italy” Hannah writes: 

The Roman Index of Prohibited Books (1559) not only banned the works of theologians like Luther and Melanchthon; it also made it illegal for scholars in Italy to read many works of medicine written and published in Northern Europe. While some of these books were burned, many others were expurgated, or selectively censored. This talk examines copies of expurgated medical books to reveal that Catholic authorities understood the printed book as both an intellectual threat and also a physical object that could be manipulated and regulated. By combining historical and bibliographical approaches, I delve into the medical books themselves as a lost archive about the process of censorship. This archive reveals the varied forms in which readers encountered books and negotiated the unstable relationships between reading, writing, and orthodoxy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Close examination of censored objects reveals book expurgation as a process of memory damnation. This damnatio memoriae was not about forgetting, but instead was meant to memorialize the desecration of non-Catholic authors and to deepen the distinction between confessional communities while still allowing medical works to circulate in Catholic Italy. 


Hannah Marcus recently completed her PhD in History at Stanford and is a postdoctoral researcher with the Galileo Correspondence Project.  She will be starting as an assistant professor in the History of Science Department at Harvard in Fall 2017.