Sharp Minds: Metaphor and the Cult of Ingenuity in an Age of Science (1639-1654)


ACLS Fellowship Program


Spanish and Portuguese


“Sharp Minds” tells a story at the crossroads of humanistic and scientific inquiry. It explores the 17th-century cult of intricate and wonder-arousing metaphors, called “conceits,” in connection with contemporary discourses on geometry, optics, and medicine. In a conversation, a sermon, or a play, conceits enabled a speaker’s “sharp mind” to arouse marvel in others by creating mind-blowing associations between disparate objects. The book argues that interest in Euclid’s geometry, telescopic and microscopic observations, distorting mirrors, and anatomy crucially informed the way Italian and Spanish theorists writing between 1639 and 1654 conceptualized the conceit’s logical and psychological workings. It reveals that scientific and technological innovations reshaped the way scholars imagined language’s ability to generate spaces of encounter and competition between the minds of speaker and listener.