The Boundaries of Eros: Sex Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice

The Boundaries of Eros: Sex Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice

The Boundaries of Eros: Sex Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice

The Boundaries of Eros: Sex Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice

Synopsis


"Extremely welcome for its systematic attempt to squeeze information about changing attitudes to sexuality from the judicial records."--The London Review of Books
"As full a picture as can be constructed from the scraps of legal and other documents which reveal the Venetian attitudes towards women and sexuality, sex crime and sexual deviance in the Renaissance."--Chronique
"[An] excellent case history."--Sex Roles

Excerpt

Not surprisingly, our picture of Renaissance sexuality is confusing. Literature of the period abounds with signals seemingly at cross-purpose. the transcendent vision of love epitomized by Dante Vita Nuova and Divine Comedy, the formal courtesy and lighthearted adultery of Boccaccio's Decameron, the courtly manners of Castiglione Perfect Courtier, the mischievous machiavellianism of Machiavelli Mandragola, the exploitative sensuality ofAretino Dialogues -- each portrays a different sexual world overlaid with literary traditions and personal values that leaves one who seeks the reality of Renaissance sexuality uncertain and dissatisfied.

The moralists of the period, whether working in a traditional scholastic mode or in the newer humanist one, seem to reflect more on enduring Christian values than on contemporary practice. When they occasionally do drop from eternal verities to practical daily concerns, one is struck by their vision of a world polarized between Christians living chastely in the City of God and pagans living in Sodom and Gomorrah, both somehow inhabiting our Renaissance cities and dominating them. Yet the chronicles and histories of the time show little sign of such profound sexual divisions, and we are tempted to write off these accounts as the logical extremes of a moralizing vision.

Diaries, or more accurately ricordi, when they can be found, provide interesting information especially on the economics and emotions of marriage. Gregorio Dati's businesslike recording of childbirth, wife death, and dowry price comes immediately to mind. But in his accounts of married life the countinghouse mentality that emerges may be largely a facet of the format of these ricordi, which were often little more than articulated family ledgers rather than attempts to record emotional life. Moreover, a record of childbirth and dowry prices provides in the end only . . .

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