Renaissance Florence in the Rhetoric of Two Popular Preachers: Giovanni Dominici (1356-1419) and Bernardino Da Siena (1380-1444)

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Renaissance Florence in the Rhetoric of Two Popular Preachers: Giovanni Dominici (1356-1419) and Bernardino da Siena (1380-1444). By Nirit Ben-Aryeh Debby. [Late Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Volume 4.] (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers. 2001. Pp. xii, 344. $82.00, euro72,00.)

Intensely engaged with the major issues of the day, as weE as the salvation of the soul, preachers of the late medieval and early modern period have become key interpreters of their complex societies. In the last decade, the historiography of Italian preaching has especiaEy grown and deepened as scholars have moved from theological issues to the importance of the sermon as a social and cultural text.

A welcome addition to the literature is Nirit Ben-Aryeh Debby's study of two master preachers of the early fifteenth century, the Dominican Giovanni Dominici and the Franciscan Bernardino da Siena. Focusing on sermons preached and recorded in Florence, Debby examines a variety of topics, including politics, economic life, the family, anti-Semitism, and public controversies. Meticulously researched in terms of the historiography of preaching, the author's approach can be relatively conservative (for example, the chapter on "Family,Women, and Social Fringe" could be enriched by a thorough consideration of the extensive scholarship on gender). And, perhaps because of the timing of publication, she covers aspects of Bernardino, such as women's roles, anti-Semitism, peacemaking, and public performance that have been handled recently by other scholars (Mormando, 1999; Polecritti, 2000).

However, this careful overview still provides a sound analysis of Dominici's and Bernardino's fiery social preaching in Florence and provides a revealing glimpse of the many nuances between them as they worked, only a few decades apart, within a particular setting. Each of the seven chapters moves back and forth between Dominici and Bernardino, permitting a finely honed comparison. Particularly relevant to the intellectual context of Florence is the discussion in Chapter Four, "The Preachers on Culture and Education. …