Leonardo's Disasters (Gerard Passannante Lecture)

Dr. Passannante (English, University of Maryland) will discuss Leonardo da Vinci’s lifelong fascination with images of natural catastrophe—men and women swept up in hurricanes, cities demolished in a single violent stroke, the earth rendered a mere speck of dust by a sudden shift of scale. Moving from the artist’s instructions on how to paint a deluge (which would capture the imagination of filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein) to his astonishing late sketches of the flood, Passannante will consider the philosophical questions that haunted Leonardo as he pictured scenes of destruction.

Passannante's presentation is part of the Year of Humanities series "Interdisciplinarity in Historical Perspective." The series raises questions about how various disciplines arose throughout history, asking questions such as: when did natural philosophy forget its philosophical roots? When were the humanities imagined as distinct from experimental sciences? When did poetry part company with physics?

Professor Passannante will also host a seminar on Friday, February 19 at 12 pm titled "The Earthquake and the Microscope." In this seminar, Passannante will discuss the conceptual intimacy of the earthquake and the microscope in the mind of English virtuoso Robert Hooke, showing how the image of catastrophe emerged from (and responded to) the material constraints of Hooke’s instruments and the philosophical fantasies that attended their use. For more information, click here.

This event is also sponsored by the Humanities Center and the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program. For more information, click here or contact Jennifer Waldron at jwaldron@pitt.edu.


Thursday, February 18, 2016 - 5:00pm

Location and Address

Humanities Center, 602 Cathedral of Learning