World-makers: Research-based master course

Dana Jalobeanu (

Picture1This is a research-based, interdisciplinary master course designed for the first year master students at CESI (Research Center for the Study of the Imaginary, University of Bucharest). Its purpose is to read and discuss primary texts and to teach the students the basic skills of philosophical translation.

The course will use a textbook I have co-edited with Doina Cristina Rusu, as part of our project “From Natural History to Science: The Emergence of Experimental Philosophy” shortly to appear in print (at the University of Bucharest Press). This textbook will provide the students support and a model for their assignments.



Who are the “world-makers”? A brief overview here:World-makers


  1. Reisch textbook of natural philosophy – Gregor Reisch, Margarita philosphica (fragment) (in English, translated by Andrew Cunnigham and Saichiko Kusukawa)
  2. Robert Recorde, The first copernican? Robert Recorde, Castle of knowledge (First treatise)
  3. Thomas Digges: the infinite universe? Thomas Digges, A perfit description of the celestial orbs (1564)



  1. William Gilbert: Magnetism and vitalism, – William Gilbert, De magnete (fragments). Romanian version by Claudia Dumitru, with introduction by Dana Jalobeanu)
  2. Mark Ridley’s magnetic cosmology – Mark Ridley, A short treatise on magnetic bodies and motions, fragment – Romanian version by Dana Jalobeanu)
  3. Johannes Kepler, Introduction to Astronomia Nova (Astronomia Nova, English translation W. Donhaue)
  4. Francis Bacon’ s theory of the heavens – Francis Bacon, Thema coeli, Romanian version by Claudia Dumitru.



  1. Galileo Galilei, Sidereus nuncius
  2. Galileo Galilei, Dialogue on the two world-systems, Day 1 (English translation by Stillman Drake)
  3. John Wilkins, A discourse on the new planet, 1638
  4. Kenelm Digby’s mechanical cosmology
  5. Digby, Two treatises (fragments), Romanian version by Dana Jalobeanu)
  6. Isaac Newton, A hypothesis on light.
  7. Thomas Burnet, A new theory of the earth (fragments)


8. John Dee’s Aphorisms

9. Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, Preface

10. Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World





Seminar paper: introduce the author (30% of the evaluation)

Students are required to choose one author and to prepare a seminar paper (3-5 pages long), introducing their author. The text should focus on the context of the given text, and the details relevant for its understanding. In introducing an author it is important to emphasize what was his/her general plan/project and how does our reading relate to that more general plan. Also, I would like to know more about the intellectual context in which our author’s ideas have developed, about his intellectual sources, friends and foes, about his successes (in his own time: was he read? Did he have students and followers?) and failures (What did he hoped to achieve? How much did he manage to do? What prevented him to do more?  How did he/she reflect on the causes of his/her failure?). Try to reconstruct a portrait as free as possible from the various biases of the various historiographies.


Paper 2: Analyze a primary source (from the bibliography) (30% of the evaluation)

Write a 4-6 pages ‘introduction’ to a primary source from the bibliography. Explain its main ideas, define its terms, place it in the context (among the author’s other writings, for example), provide the reader with the appropriate footnotes (definitions, explanations of terms, references to the background etc.) and the running commentary that would help her understand the text better. Show at what points in your analysis the reader might benefit from reading secondary literature and why. What are the difficult problems this text is posing? What kind of problems are they? (terminological, conceptual, contextual, interpretative) What do we need in order to solve them?  Draft a list of questions and a bibliography which might help the reader solve some of these questions.

Paper 3: Discuss secondary literature referring to a primary source (30 % of the evaluation)

Select and discuss two secondary sources referring to the author/primary source you have worked on. Use the bibliography and ask for help when you need it. (Max 3-5 pages)