How to Do It: Guides to Good Living for Renaissance Italians

University of Chicago Press
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How to Do It shows us sixteenth-century Italy from an entirely new perspective: through manuals which were staples in the households of middlebrow Italians merely trying to lead better lives. Addressing challenges such as how to conceive a boy, the manuals offered suggestions such as tying a tourniquet around your husband's left testicle. Or should you want to goad female desires, throw 90 grubs in a liter of olive oil, let steep in the sun for a week and apply liberally on the male anatomy. Bell's journey through booklets long dismissed by scholars as being of little literary value gives us a refreshing and surprisingly fun social history.

"Lively and curious reading, particularly in its cascade of anecdote, offered in a breezy, cozy, journalistic style." —Lauro Martines, Times Literary Supplement

"[Bell's] fascinating book is a window on a lost world far nearer to our own than we might imagine. . . . How pleasant to read his delightful, informative and often hilarious book." —Kate Saunders, The Independent

"An extraordinary work which blends the learned with the frankly bizarre." —The Economist

"Professor Bell has a sly sense of humor and an enviably strong stomach. . . . He wants to know how people actually behaved, not how the Church or philosophers or earnest humanists thought they should behave. I loved this book." —Christopher Stace, Daily Telegraph
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About the author

Rudolph M. Bell is a professor of history at Rutgers University. His previous books include Saints and Society: The Two Worlds of Western Christendom, 1000-1700 and Holy Anorexia, both published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Sep 1, 2000
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Pages
389
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ISBN
9780226041834
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / Renaissance
History / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The Italian peasantry has often been described as tragic, backward, hopeless, downtrodden, static, and passive. In Fate and Honor, Family and Village, Rudolph Bell argues against this characterization by reconstructing the complete demographic history of four country villages since 1800. He analyzes births, marriages, and deaths in terms of four concepts that capture more accurately and sympathetically the essence of the Italian peasant's life: Fortuna (fate), onore (honor, dignity), famiglia (family), and campanilismo (village).

Fortuna is the cultural wellspring of Italian peasant society, the worldview from which all social life flows. The concept of Fortuna does not refer to philosophical questions, predestination, or value judgments. Rather, Fortuna is the sum total of all explanations of outcomes perceived to be beyond human control. Thus, in Bell's view, high mortality does not lead peasants to a resigned acceptance of their fate; instead, they rely on honor, reciprocal exchanges of favors, and marriage to forge new links in their familial and social networks. With thorough documentation in graphs and tables, the author evaluates peasant reactions to time, work, family, space, migration, and protest to portray rural Italians as active, flexible, and shrewd, participating fully in shaping their destinies.

Bell asserts that the real problem of the Mezzogiorno is not one of resistance to technology, of high birth rates, or even of illiteracy. It is one of solving technical questions in ways that foster dependency. The historical and sociological practice of treating peasant culture as backward, secondary, and circumscribed only encourages disruption and ultimately blocks the road to economic and political justice in a post-modern world.

From 1501 to 1505, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti both lived and worked in Florence. Leonardo was a charming, handsome fifty year-old at the peak of his career. Michelangelo was a temperamental sculptor in his mid-twenties, desperate to make a name for himself.

Michelangelo is a virtual unknown when he returns to Florence and wins the commission to carve what will become one of the most famous sculptures of all time: David. Even though his impoverished family shuns him for being an artist, he is desperate to support them. Living at the foot of his misshapen block of marble, Michelangelo struggles until the stone finally begins to speak. Working against an impossible deadline, he begins his feverish carving.

Meanwhile, Leonardo's life is falling apart: he loses the hoped-for David commission; he can't seem to finish any project; he is obsessed with his ungainly flying machine; he almost dies in war; his engineering designs disastrously fail; and he is haunted by a woman he has seen in the market--a merchant's wife, whom he is finally commissioned to paint. Her name is Lisa, and she becomes his muse.

Leonardo despises Michelangelo for his youth and lack of sophistication. Michelangelo both loathes and worships Leonardo's genius.

Oil and Marble is the story of their nearly forgotten rivalry.

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The Italian peasantry has often been described as tragic, backward, hopeless, downtrodden, static, and passive. In Fate and Honor, Family and Village, Rudolph Bell argues against this characterization by reconstructing the complete demographic history of four country villages since 1800. He analyzes births, marriages, and deaths in terms of four concepts that capture more accurately and sympathetically the essence of the Italian peasant's life: Fortuna (fate), onore (honor, dignity), famiglia (family), and campanilismo (village).

Fortuna is the cultural wellspring of Italian peasant society, the worldview from which all social life flows. The concept of Fortuna does not refer to philosophical questions, predestination, or value judgments. Rather, Fortuna is the sum total of all explanations of outcomes perceived to be beyond human control. Thus, in Bell's view, high mortality does not lead peasants to a resigned acceptance of their fate; instead, they rely on honor, reciprocal exchanges of favors, and marriage to forge new links in their familial and social networks. With thorough documentation in graphs and tables, the author evaluates peasant reactions to time, work, family, space, migration, and protest to portray rural Italians as active, flexible, and shrewd, participating fully in shaping their destinies.

Bell asserts that the real problem of the Mezzogiorno is not one of resistance to technology, of high birth rates, or even of illiteracy. It is one of solving technical questions in ways that foster dependency. The historical and sociological practice of treating peasant culture as backward, secondary, and circumscribed only encourages disruption and ultimately blocks the road to economic and political justice in a post-modern world.

The Italian peasantry has often been described as tragic, backward, hopeless, downtrodden, static, and passive. In Fate and Honor, Family and Village, Rudolph Bell argues against this characterization by reconstructing the complete demographic history of four country villages since 1800. He analyzes births, marriages, and deaths in terms of four concepts that capture more accurately and sympathetically the essence of the Italian peasant's life: Fortuna (fate), onore (honor, dignity), famiglia (family), and campanilismo (village).Fortuna is the cultural wellspring of Italian peasant society, the worldview from which all social life flows. The concept of Fortuna does not refer to philosophical questions, predestination, or value judgments. Rather, Fortuna is the sum total of all explanations of outcomes perceived to be beyond human control. Thus, in Bell's view, high mortality does not lead peasants to a resigned acceptance of their fate; instead, they rely on honor, reciprocal exchanges of favors, and marriage to forge new links in their familial and social networks. With thorough documentation in graphs and tables, the author evaluates peasant reactions to time, work, family, space, migration, and protest to portray rural Italians as active, flexible, and shrewd, participating fully in shaping their destinies.Bell asserts that the real problem of the Mezzogiorno is not one of resistance to technology, of high birth rates, or even of illiteracy. It is one of solving technical questions in ways that foster dependency. The historical and sociological practice of treating peasant culture as backward, secondary, and circumscribed only encourages disruption and ultimately blocks the road to economic and political justice in a post-modern world.
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