Egyptian Oedipus: Athanasius Kircher And The Secrets Of Antiquity by Daniel StolzenbergEgyptian Oedipus: Athanasius Kircher And The Secrets Of Antiquity by Daniel Stolzenberg

Egyptian Oedipus: Athanasius Kircher And The Secrets Of Antiquity

byDaniel Stolzenberg

Paperback | May 22, 2015

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A contemporary of Descartes and Newton, Athanasius Kircher, S. J. (1601/2–80), was one of Europe’s most inventive and versatile scholars in the baroque era. He published more than thirty works in fields as diverse as astronomy, magnetism, cryptology, numerology, geology, and music. But Kircher is most famous—or infamous—for his quixotic attempt to decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphs and reconstruct the ancient traditions they encoded. In 1655, after more than two decades of toil, Kircher published his solution to the hieroglyphs, Oedipus Aegyptiacus, a work that has been called “one of the most learned monstrosities of all times.” Here Daniel Stolzenberg presents a new interpretation of Kircher’s hieroglyphic studies, placing them in the context of seventeenth-century scholarship on paganism and Oriental languages.
Situating Kircher in the social world of baroque Rome, with its scholars, artists, patrons, and censors, Stolzenberg shows how Kircher’s study of ancient paganism depended on the circulation of texts, artifacts, and people between Christian and Islamic civilizations. Along with other participants in the rise of Oriental studies, Kircher aimed to revolutionize the study of the past by mastering Near Eastern languages and recovering ancient manuscripts hidden away in the legendary libraries of Cairo and Damascus. The spectacular flaws of his scholarship have fostered an image of Kircher as an eccentric anachronism, a throwback to the Renaissance hermetic tradition. Stolzenberg argues against this view, showing how Kircher embodied essential tensions of a pivotal phase in European intellectual history, when pre-Enlightenment scholars pioneered modern empirical methods of studying the past while still working within traditional frameworks, such as biblical history and beliefs about magic and esoteric wisdom.
Daniel Stolzenberg is associate professor of history at the University of California, Davis.
Title:Egyptian Oedipus: Athanasius Kircher And The Secrets Of AntiquityFormat:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:May 22, 2015Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022627327X

ISBN - 13:9780226273273

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Table of Contents

Note on Quotations and Translations

Introduction: Oedipus in Exile
1. Esoteric Antiquarianism
2. How to Get Ahead in the Republic of Letters
3. Oedipus in Rome
4. Ancient Theology and the Antiquarian
5. The Discovery of Oriental Antiquity
6. Erudition and Censorship
7. Symbolic Wisdom in an Age of Criticism
8. Oedipus at Large
Epilogue: The Twilight of Tradition and the Clear Light of History


Editorial Reviews

“In this lively and erudite book, Daniel Stolzenberg sets himself the daunting task of making Athanasius Kircher legible to a modern reader. How, he asks, can we understand a writer like Kircher without making him a figure either of comedy or of awe? The answer he gives is a tour-de-force reading of Kircher’s central claim to fame in the seventeenth century, his work on hieroglyphics. Along the way, we learn much about the fate and function of occult philosophy in the period, the operations of the early modern republic of letters, and the place of Rome and early modern Catholicism more generally in the intellectual landscape of early modern Europe.”