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The Culture of Profession in Late Renaissance Italy

The Culture of Profession in Late Renaissance Italy

George W. McClure
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 390
  • Book Info
    The Culture of Profession in Late Renaissance Italy
    Book Description:

    From Latin humanists to popular writers, Italian Renaissance culture spawned a lively debate on vocational choice and the nature of profession. InThe Culture of Profession in Late Renaissance Italy, George W. McClure examines the turn this debate took in the second half of the Renaissance, when the learned 'praise and rebuke' of profession began to be complemented with more popular forms of discourse, and when less learned vocations made their voice heard.

    Focusing primarily on sources assembled and published in the sixteenth century, McClure's study explores professional themes in comic, festive, and popular print culture. A pivotal figure is Tomaso Garzoni, a monk whose popular encyclopedia,Universal Piazza of all the Professions of the World, was published in 1585. A funnel for earlier traditions and an influence on later ones, this massive compendium treated over 150 categories of profession - juxtaposing the world of philosophers and poets, lawyers and physicians, merchants and artisans, teachers and printers, cooks and chimneysweeps, prostitutes and procurers. If the conventional view is that Italian Renaissance society generally grew more aristocratic in the later period, this and other sources reveal a professional ethos more democratic in nature and bespeak the full cultural discovery of the middling and lowly professions in the late Renaissance.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8107-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Chapter 1 Humanist and Theological Backgrounds
    (pp. 3-26)

    This study focuses on the popular rhetoric of profession emanating from the second half of the Italian Renaissance. Because many of the genres commanding our attention are defined as ‘popular’ relative to traditions of learned Latin culture, these traditions – especially as they emerged and developed in the first half of the Renaissance – need to be generally sketched for purposes of cultural contrast and historical context. My purpose is not to examine these learned traditions thoroughly – an area that, having received considerable attention,¹ could bear even more study – but there are several reasons for defining them in...

  6. Chapter 2 Professions at Play: Jokes, Carnevale Songs, and Parlour Games
    (pp. 27-69)

    The learned genres and limited audiences of humanist and theological critiques of profession increasingly came to have more popular counterparts in the second half of the quattrocento and cinquecento. In some cases – as in the joke collection of the humblecontadopriest Piovano Arlotto or certain of the Florentine carnival songs assembled by Antonfrancesco Grazzini – these sources reflect the experience and interests of the lower orders of society. In other cases they reflect a high popular or ‘middlebrow’ transition from high culture, a transition accelerated by the spread of printing and – especially by the sixteenth century –...

  7. Chapter 3 Shuffling the Deck: Tomaso Garzoni’s Universal Piazza of All the Professions of the World
    (pp. 70-89)

    In 1585 Tomaso Garzoni, a Ravennan canon regular, published in Venice the most comprehensive survey of professional culture to emerge from Renaissance Italy. Nearly 1000 pages in length, the ambitiousLa piazza universale ditutte le professioni del mondoclearly struck a chord in Garzoni’s world, as it appeared in twenty-nine Venetian editions between 1585 and 1683.¹ Examining over 150 categories of professions from high, middle, and low culture, this encyclopedia juxtaposed the worlds of princes and poets, priests and theologians, lawyers and physicians, merchants and artisans, teachers and printers, cooks and chimneysweeps, prostitutes and procurers. Certainly, the work’s popularity was...

  8. Chapter 4 Learned Cooks and Culinary Lawyers: High, Middle, and Low Profession in the Universal Piazza
    (pp. 90-140)

    Garzoni’s rhetoric of profession can be read not only at the organizational level in thePiazzabut also, of course, in the 155 discourses themselves. Here the descriptions of almost all of the pursuits share certain rhetorical patterns: a history of the occupation, usually rooted in the classical and/or biblical periods and sometimes including an etymology of the trade name;¹ a literary survey of loci referring to the profession in either literal or figurative terms; a description of standard textbooks and/or standard tools for the practice of the trade; a catalogue of proper professional arcana (the doctor’s remedies, the merchant’s...

  9. Chapter 5 Professions on Display: Dress and Ritual in Late Sixteenth-Century Venice
    (pp. 141-176)

    The publication and frequent reprinting in Venice of thePiazza universalebeginning in 1585 undoubtedly energized the cultural and social interest in profession. The local impact of the work was evidenced by the complaint of humanists concerning their exclusion in the first edition. But thePiazzaalso may well have attracted the attention of a broader range of professionals and aroused interest in a wider range of pursuits – including especially the ‘silent’ lower arts. In this regard, Garzoni’s encyclopedia needs to be seen in concert with other developments in Venetian print culture and ritual life. Intersecting with thePiazza...

  10. Chapter 6 The Arts and the ‘Art of Dying’ in Venice: Vocation in a Renaissance Death Book
    (pp. 177-202)

    In 1596, six years after the initial appearance of Vecellio’s dress book and eleven after the first edition of thePiazza universale, the physician Fabio Glissenti published a voluminous treatise on the psychology of death set in Venice. As a persuasion to the acceptance of death, theDiscorsi morali contra il dispiacer del morire, detto Athanatophilia(Moral Discourses against the Displeasure of Dying, called Athanatophilia) was rooted not only in the Platonic tradition but also in the more recent traditions of thears moriendiand thedanse macabre.¹ Running to nearly 600 folios, Glissenti’s book is almost certainly the longest...

  11. Chapter 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 203-216)

    In proclaiming his embrace of the contemplative life in hisDe vita solitariaof 1346, Petrarch offered a catalogue of the professions he scorned as part of the distressing active life of the city:

    let us leave the city to the merchants, the advocates, the middlemen, the usurers, the tax collectors, the notaries, the physicians, the pharmacists, the butchers, the cooks, the millers, the poultry farmers, the alchemists, the cloth fullers, the smiths, the weavers, the architects, the sculptors, the painters, the mimes, the dancers, the musicians, the peddlers, the procurers, the thieves, the strangers, the cheats, the malefactors, the...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 217-346)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 347-362)
  14. Index
    (pp. 363-373)