The Culture Of Cleanliness In Renaissance Italy by Douglas BiowThe Culture Of Cleanliness In Renaissance Italy by Douglas Biow

The Culture Of Cleanliness In Renaissance Italy

byDouglas Biow

Hardcover | September 14, 2006

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Concerned about sanitation during a severe bout of plague in Milan, Leonardo da Vinci designed an ideal, clean city. Leonardo was far from alone among his contemporaries in thinking about personal and public hygiene, as Douglas Biow shows in The Culture of Cleanliness in Renaissance Italy. A concern for cleanliness, he argues, was everywhere in the Renaissance.Anxieties about cleanliness were expressed in literature from humanist panegyrics to bawdy carnival songs, as well as in the visual arts. Biow surveys them all to explain why the topic so permeated Renaissance culture. At one level, cleanliness, he documents, was a matter of real concern in the Renaissance. At another, he finds, issues such as human dignity, self-respect, self-discipline, social distinction, and originality were rethought as a matter of artistic concern.The Culture of Cleanliness in Renaissance Italy moves from the clean to the unclean, from the lofty to the base. Biow first examines the socially elevated, who defined and distinguished themselves as clean, pure, and polite. He then turns to soap, an increasingly common commodity in this period, and the figure of the washerwoman. Finally he focuses on latrines, which were universally scorned yet functioned artistically as figures of baseness, creativity, and fun in the works of Dante and Boccaccio. Paralleling this social stratification is a hierarchy of literary and visual artifacts, from the discourse of high humanism to filthy curses and scatological songs. Deftly bringing together high and low-as well as literary and visual-cultures, this book provides a fresh perspective on the Italian Renaissance and its artistic legacy.
Title:The Culture Of Cleanliness In Renaissance ItalyFormat:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.35 inPublished:September 14, 2006Publisher:CORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESSLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0801444810

ISBN - 13:9780801444814

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Editorial Reviews

"In a suggestive way this fascinating book reverses Dante's Divine Comedy—starting with Paradise and its immaculately clean dreams of the divine and the perfect, it drops through the circles of the renaissance world ending literally in the cesspool and latrines of Hell, perverse but also intriguing nightmares of the foul for the period. In doing so it develops a stimulating and challengingly different perspective on the time from the perspective of the clean and the unclean at every level from high culture to quotidian practice. At once witty, erudite and clever, it imaginatively and ironically knocks the crap out of many of the classical visions of the period, by literally returning crap (and its culturally entwined levels of the unclean) to its central place in renaissance life as lived and as imagined. Bakhtin, Elias and Burckhardt here are creatively melded with Dante, Boccaccio, Castiglione, Della Casa and a host of lesser known writers to examine a relatively ignored area of renaissance life and to suggestively rethink the renaissance itself. This is history that is definitely fun to think and rethink."—Guido Ruggiero, University of Miami