History and Humanities Department
John Cabot University Rome

Humanitas and artes liberales are two concepts strongly connected to Rome. The concept of the liberal arts is of central relevance for John Cabot University. “Humanistic Studies” is the name of one of our majors. However, all of these concepts have changed over time, and there are various interconnections between all of them. 

The “Humanisms and Beyond” Lecture Series consists in focused reflections on historical and contemporary developments of the various concepts mentioned, and also about their complex web of interrelations. The various presentations highlight central elements of this web, and a foundation for confronting current challenges related to the future of higher education concerning humanistic studies in a liberal arts context in Rome. The future needs the past.

Organizers: Fabrizio Conti and Stefan Lorenz Sorgner

The lectures will be livestreamed on youtube:


1st JCU Humanisms and Beyond Lecture

Speaker: Prof. Fabrizio Conti (JCU)

Topic: The Classical Roots of Beliefs in Witchcraft: A Multidisciplinary Liberal Arts Topic

17th of November, 2020, 7.30-9.00 pm CET

Abstract: the talk will address the multifaceted issue of witch-beliefs, which emerged in Europe in the 15th century, and whose constitutive elements, however, need to be traced back to a composite background of both classical and folkloric origin. In particular, Conti’s talk will aim at discussing the literary traditions centered on the bird-women, blood-sucking striges (from which the Italian “streghe” derive), to be found in authors such as the Greek Antoninos Liberalis as well as the Latin Horace, Ovid, and Petronius, and the role these traditions played in the construction of the figure of the witch once it merged into the medieval belief of which the canon Episcopi had spoken (originally in a skeptical way!) concerning women with the abilities of going about at night along with the goddess Diana. The talk will aim at illustrating the potentialities of such a topic as a teaching and research field for the liberal arts student to develop critical thinking, a multidisciplinary approach, and problem-based learning in a historical perspective.

Biography: Prof. Conti earned his PhD in History and Medieval Studies from the Central European University in Budapest (2011). He also earned degrees from the School of the Vatican Secret Archive and the Pontifical Institute for Christian Archeology. After several teaching experiences both in Italy and abroad, and after having taught at the Ohio State University in 2015, he is currently a lecturer in History at JCU. He has published a monograph titled Witchcraft, Superstition, and Observant Franciscan Preachers: Pastoral Approach and Intellectual Debate in Renaissance Milan (Brepols, 2015), and has edited the volume Civilizations of The Supernatural: Witchcraft, Ritual, and Religious Experience in Late Antique, Medieval, and Renaissance Traditions (Trivent, 2020) with a foreword by Teofilo F. Ruiz (UCLA).