David Porreca

Co-Director, Medieval Studies


Ph.D.,  Warburg Institute, University of London
Dissertation: “The Influence of Hermetic Texts on Western Europe Philosophers and Theologians (1160-1300)”
MA, University of Toronto


(519) 888-4567 x 32436
ML 227

David Porreca


Academic Biography

I was born in Montréal and attended the Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf through the end of CÉGEP in pure & applied sciences. Discovering in the process that my talents lay in languages and philosophy instead of physics and mathematics, I gave up on the idea of planetary astronomy and instead came to the University of Waterloo for an Honours BA in Medieval Studies.  I did my MA at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto before moving on to the Warburg Institute (University of London) for a PhD under the supervision of Prof. Charles Burnett and Dr. Jill Kraye, completed in 2001.  After holding a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Religion & Culture Department at Wilfrid Laurier University, I came to be the medievalist in the Classical Studies Department at the University of Waterloo.  I am currently Co-Director of the Undergraduate program in Medieval Studies, as well as the Graduate Officer for the MA in Ancient Mediterranean Cultures which we run jointly with our colleagues at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Broadly speaking, my research interests involve Medieval intellectual history, especially the reception of the pagan Classical tradition in the Christian Middle Ages.  The main focus of my research has been the enigmatic figure of Hermes Trismegistus.  In the process of hunting for any and all references to Hermes during the Middle Ages, I have conducted research at over thirty manuscript libraries scattered throughout Europe. Along the way, I have become interested in ancient and Medieval magic, astrology, alchemy, palaeography, manuscript transmission and glosses.

In parallel to my interest in intellectual history, I have begun examining the dynamics of the rise, flourishing and downfall of complex societies, especially with regard to the impact of resource depletion on these processes.

My teaching interests include Latin (Classical & Medieval), magic & esoterica, ancient religious traditions in general and the Hermetic tradition in particular, Medieval Studies broadly construed (Medieval society, defining the Middle Ages) and the decline and fall of ancient Roman civilization.

Selected Publications



  • 'Hermetism as Rationalism in Francesco Patrizi', (12 pp.) contribution to the proceedings of theHermetism and Rationalism in an Era of Cultural Change workshop held in February 2006 in Groningen, NL; galley proofs received 29 August 2007.
  • ‘How Hidden Was God? Revelation and Pedagogy in Ancient and Medieval Hermetic Writings’, (26 pp.), contribution to the proceedings of Hidden God, Hidden Histories, ed. A. DeConick, submitted for editorial review 1 September 2010
  • Annotations to MS Reims, Bibliothèque Municipale 877: A Brief Commentary on the Hermetic Asclepius’, (25 pp.), revised version submitted to Opuscula: Short Texts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, January 2011

Current Research:


  • 'John Peckham, Hermes Trismegistus and the Trinity'. This article will include the critical edition of several sections of Peckham's Commentary on Book I of Peter Lombard's Sentences.


  • 'The Influence of Hermetic Texts on Medieval Philosophers, from Augustine to Ficino' In progress.

Critical Edition/Commentary  

  • 'The Curious Commentators of MS Copenhagen, Fabricius 91 40'.  This project will involve the critical edition of the copious annotations to this early 13th-century manuscript whose annotated contents include Sidonius Apollinaris' Letters, Apuleius' De deo Socratis and the Asclepius attributed to Hermes Trismegistus.


  • In collaboration with Dr Bruno Tremblay from the Philosophy Department at St Jerome's University, we are in the process of digitizing the complete works of Albertus Magnus as printed in the Paris edition of 1890-1899 by A. Borgnet (http://albertusmagnus.uwaterloo.ca/).


  •  ‘Divine Names: A Cross-Cultural Comparison (Papyri Graecae Magicae, Picatrix, Munich Handbook)’ Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft 5 (2010) 17-29
  •  ‘Albert the Great and Hermes Trismegistus: An Update’ Mediaeval Studies 72 (2010) 245-281
  • ‘Biblical Authority in the Malleus maleficarum: Sacred Text in Support of a Radical Agenda’, Dulia et latria 1 (2008), 81-93.
  • ‘Hermes philosophus: Ramon Martí’s Singular Use of a Mythical Authority’, La corónica 36 (2007), 129-144.
  • 'Hermes Trismegistus in Thomas of York: A 13th-Century Witness to the Prominence of an Ancient Sage', Archives d'histoire doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Age 72 (2005), 147-275.
  • 'Magic in the Classroom:  Strategies for Critical Thinking', Religious Studies and Theology 21 (2005), 15-31.


  •  Bartlett, R., The Natural and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages (Cambridge
  • University Press, 2008), in The  Sixteenth Century Journal 41 (2010), 207-8
  • Finkelstein, A., The Grammar of Profit: The Price Revolution in Intellectual Context,
  • (Brill, 2006), in The Sixteenth Century Journal 39 (2008) 786-8
  • Alchemy and Early Modern Chemistry - Papers from Ambix, Allen G. Debus, ed.,.  s.l.:  Jeremy Mills Publishing.  2004.  543 pages. £33.  ISBN 0-9546484-1-2 for The Sixteenth-Century Journal 38 (2006), 841-2
University of Waterloo

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