A HISTORY OF PRIVATE LIFE: Vol. III, Passions of the Renaissance by Roger--Ed. Chartier

A HISTORY OF PRIVATE LIFE: Vol. III, Passions of the Renaissance

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In this third volume of a massive study examining the evolution of private life (From Pagan Rome to Byzantium, 1987; Revelations of the Medieval World, 1988), 14 contributing authorities turn their attention to the rise of individualism and changing tastes during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The vast panorama here includes the gradual empowerment of the state, the internalization of faith during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and the spread of literacy among both urban and rural dwellers. The data presented are for the most part colorful and surprising. Consider, for example, Daniel Fabre's essay on charivaris, those rituals of intimidation that were prompted by everything from socially (though not necessarily religiously) inappropriate marriages to husband-beating and cuckoldry. Then there is Jean-Louis Flandrin's analysis of the shifting tastes of the period: Why was it that small birds--larks, buntings, snipes--replaced storks, swans, and peacocks as entr‚es-of-choice on aristocratic tables between 1555 and 1650? In pursuing the matter of the private versus the public person, there are intriguing sections on diary-keeping and religious observances, politics and pornography, Montaigne and male-bonding. Some of the ""revelations"" here are less than startling. It hardly comes as a surprise that literacy rates in cities were higher than those in the countryside, for example. But the wealth of material is impressive, and Arthur Goldhammer's skillful translation captures contributors' voices, from Alain Collomp's somewhat jargonistic prose to Jean-Louis Flandrin's more mellifluous style. (Lavishly illustrated with well-captioned reproductions of painting, engravings, woodcuts, and manuscripts.)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1989
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press