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13 - Clouds and Meteors

Recreating Wonder on the Early Modern Stage

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2021

Kirsten E. Shepherd-Barr
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

Chapter 13: This chapter traces the theatrum mundi (theatre as world) metaphor back to its technical and philosophical roots. By comparing iconographic sources from scientific texts with scenographic ones, the chapter follows the evolution of the notions of machine and wonder in the seventeenth century and argues that the material culture of theatre played an important role in the development of Cartesian physics and the new cosmology and, in particular, in the mechanization of the world picture. The chapter focuses on the relationship between Fontenelle, Descartes, and the engineer and architect Giacomo Torelli, whose scenography gained him the name of ‘the great sorcerer’. Paradoxically, it is by taking up Torelli’s design, combined with Descartes’s new definition of meteors, that Fontenelle manages to define a new type of ‘wonder’, scientific and no longer magical.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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References

Blair, Ann. The Theater of Nature: Jean Bodin and Renaissance Science. Princeton, 1997.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Damisch, Hubert. A Theory of /Cloud/: Toward a History of Painting. Stanford, 2002.Google Scholar
Descartes, René. Les Météores, in Œuvres, tome VI. Paris, 1996.Google Scholar
Fontenelle. Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes, ed. Martin, Christophe (1686; Paris, 1998). For the English edition, see Fontenelle, Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds, trans. E. Gunning. London, 1803.Google Scholar
McKinney, Joslin, and Butterworth, Philip, eds. The Cambridge Introduction to Scenography. Cambridge, 2009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tkaczyk, Viktoria. Himmels-Falten, zur Theatralität des Fliegens in der Frühen Neuzeit. Munich, 2011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Werrett, Simon. Fireworks: Pyrotechnic Arts and Sciences in European History. Chicago, 2010.Google Scholar
Yates, Frances. The Art of Memory. Chicago, 1966.Google Scholar
Yates, Frances. Theatre of the World. Chicago, 1969.Google Scholar
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