December 10th, 2002

Fishy Circumstances

Anthony Grafton

Anthony Grafton is certainly a good speaker. He's intelligent, engaging, lively, and is enthusiastic about his work. He's articulate and he uses slides. And best of all, he was speaking on things that at least tangentially relate to my current work! The subject was the literary commonalities of humanists and magi in the 15th and 16th centuries. Oh, the talk had a much catchier title, but that's what it was about. Evidently early magi-types were obsessed with book collecting and bibliography long before the humanists chanced across the subject, and both groups were much more closely related than either liked to acknowledge. (Frances Yates also liked to think the humanists were much too rational for all that magic stuff.) During the Q&A session, he even mentioned bits of the body of literature I'm playing with and made a plug for Brian Copenhaver's Polydore Vergil translation. That was another thing which was charming about the talk: Grafton made frequent, relevant, but never excessive plugs for his colleagues' work.

The subject of this talk makes up much of one of the chapters of Grafton's forthcoming book, Faustus and Friends.