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From Researchathon (II) to BNE


The moment of real research is here; and it comes with both excitement and anxiety. After four years of what certainly sometimes felt as micromanaged work, this time everything is on me. Being so far from Morningside Campus is definitely weird. People at the Casa Hispánica have classes to teach and meetings they are running to as we speak, so I am kind of on my own now. Also, jet lag is (quite literally) killing me.

Meet the hand of whoever is digitalizing Proaza's 1506 edition of the Ars metaphysicalis.

First of all, an explanation about the researchathon is due since it was announced in the last post and it was almost literally the last thing I did before leaving for Madrid. The experience was enriching although a bit nerve-wracking. The meeting was just two days before my flight. This is the first time a researchathon for a dissertation project was made and a three-step plan in order to prepare it was designed. As Alex Gil, one of the specialists on Digital Humanities at Butler Library, put it, I was the Guinea pig for future researchathons. The first thing I did was to create a paragraph with a general description of the dissertation (I shared it with you in the previous post). Second, a series of tags aimed to help the research of bibliographic entries relevant for my project, which is the main goal of the researchathon, to transform the bibliography of the prospectus into the bibliography of a future dissertation. Third, a collective zotero folder with the help of Alex that would include everybody who was going to participate in the research. The idea of this prep was to give some orientation to people with varying degrees of expertise in early modern Iberian culture (from none to actually more than mine). Some of the participants would turn out to be better at researching secondary sources using simple tags, some others would be more helpful searching for primary sources in particular data bases.

It turned to be a great experience. I got out of it a few items of secondary literature that I somehow had missed and some interesting primary sources that I had not considered in the construction of my prospectus. In particular, I am currently very excited about two sets of sources: 1) books around the Escorial and the circulation of Herrera’s designs for the construction of the monastery; 2) printed editions of Ramon Llull’s works preserved in the archive of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Particularly, this second set has changed the structure of my dissertation. The archive of the Universidad Complutense has led me to think that the symbiosis between Philip II’s intellectual and political project and the circulation of Lullist texts in 16th century that I call Lullus Escurialensis may have had a previous phase that I am preliminarily calling Lullus Complutensis. This much I got from the researchathon and it was certainly important. For this reason a big thanks is due to Alex Gil, Susanna Allés Torrent, Jesús Rodríguez Velasco, Seth Kimmel, Mariana-Cecilia Velázquez, Agnese Codebò, Miguel Ibáñez Aristondo, David Colmenares, Nicole Hughes, Orlando Betancor, and Diego Rubio who took a couple of hours from their busy Monday to come and help. Some others were not able to take the time but wrote to wish good luck and though their presence was missed, their kindness and interest in the project was appreciated.

Epistemologically, there is a main difficulty about the organization of a researchathon about a dissertation that I think should be addressed in order to plan following successful experiences like mine. Normally dissertations are trying to build a critical and historic problem were there was none perceived, or more likely where bibliography had perceived it in a vague or scattered way. They may take a set of authors or objects as a point of departure, but they try at the same time to not be bounded by those figures. If one works in this vein, reducing the dissertation to tags that do not feel disparate may turn into a highly frustrating task. Take my dissertation, for instance. Ramon Llull is one of the main authors I will consider, as I have said already a million times in just this post and the one before. In the 16th century he was dead, yet he was at the center of debates about memory, medicine, alchemy, religion, science, and law. To navigate such complexity will be at the same time a huge problem and a source of excitement in the writing of my dissertation. Nonetheless, it makes the secondary bibliography available look scattered and all over the place, at least to untrained eyes. As for the primary sources, especially for a med/early modern oriented project, the difficulty consists on the fact that the good leads tend to be buried among books with unending titles in Latin. Such books often contain the work of one’s interest in the middle of other people’s stuff (which is an interesting fact in itself). If this was not enough, sometimes it is necessary to dig these books online… they exist in scanned copies but finding them can be trickier than expected. By the way, many times when one is going to use copies uploaded by googlebooks the results can be frustratingly hilarious (or hilariously frustrating).

After the researchathon, I flew to Madrid, a couple of days before the first case of Ebola originated in Europe was declared (fantastic timing!). This has given me the perfect excuse for spending nights reading this old book by Carlo Cipolla… but there is no time to get into that now. So far, I have been fighting against jet lag, which has proven harder than expected, and working at the Biblioteca Nacional. Here I am examining primary sources (particularly old editions of the works of Ramon Llull) and coming up with a master design for the chapters. In my head there are four main organizing historic-institutional moments of the portability of 16th century Lullism: 1) the reception in the cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros’s intellectual circle and subsequently at the University of Alcalá; 2) the re-definition of Lullism at the Escorial by Philip II’s intellectual circle; 3) the epistemological importance of the Art of Ramon Llull in the creation of the Academia Mathematica in Madrid in 1584; 4) the political implications of Philip II’s efforts to push the process of canonization in Rome during the last decades of his own life. I will keep on blogging about the project as it develops. So if you want to keep hearing about it, stay tuned.

Last Updated 4 years ago


  • Cipolla, Carlo. Contro un nemico invisibile. Epidemie e strutture sanitarie nell’Italia del Rinascimento. Bologna: Il Mulino, 1986. Print.
  • Janer, Jaume. Ars metaphisicalis naturalis ordinis cuiuslibet rei intelligibilis arboris nature reverendi doctoris preclarissimi magistri Jacobi Januarii, monachi terraconensis diocesis. Ed. Alfonso de Proaza. València: Lleonard Hutz, 1506. Print.
  • Wilson, Krissy. Web.


Noel Blanco Mourelle, « From Researchathon (II) to BNE », Blogs, Columbia University | LAIC, Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures (online), published on October 14, 2014. Full URL for this article


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