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Queen's University

James SommervilleSommerville.jpg

Ph.D. Candidate
Renaissance and Early Modern European History

Phone: 613-533-2150
Fax: 613-533-6298


B.A. University of Toronto w/honours
M.A. Queen's University


I am a PhD candidate under the supervision of Professor Anthony D'Elia. My dissertation regards the religious beliefs, medical regimens, and political theory of Marsilio Ficino of Florence (1433-1499). The working title of my project is Nosce Te Ipsum: Demons, Bodies, and the State in Renaissance Neoplatonism.

In this project, I seek to illustrate the point of intersection between Renaissance Neoplatonic conceptions of individual and state order. In what manner, according to Ficino, should Christians have lived their lives? How could a Christian come to know their self and thus come to know the way of life appropriate to their person? What procedures could he or she employ to temper their thoughts and behaviour so that they agreed with the will of divine providence? And, finally, what sort of state would emerge if such procedures were employed generally? The result, it seems, would be a rigidly hierarchic and theocratic kingship in which economic resources would be held in common but distributed according to divinely ordained worth. One in which methods of ordering the individual Christian body would bring about and reinforce the general order of the Christian state.

Aside from my dissertation research, I am interested in the whole of European history, from the medieval through to the modern era. My dream is to one day teach a course regarding modern western civilization. I am particularly interested in the histories of the classical republican tradition, fascism, occultism, and science. I have also given a lot of thought to the structure of conspiracy theories as a general phenomenon and to the culture and sociology of western conspiracy theorists, especially the manner in which the past is 'used' by such theorists.

Outside of academia, I am a devoted practitioner of a martial art called Systema, a Russian method of combat training emphasizing clear-sightedness and relaxation. For fun I tend to read comic books and listen to music.


2014 Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award - Academy for Advanced Studies in the Renaissance
2010-2011 William C. Leggett Graduate Fellowship
2011-2012 Ontario Graduate Scholarship
2012-2013 Ontario Graduate Scholarship
2013-2014 Ontario Graduate Scholarship

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000