Watch the video of the full lecture below and view Jonathan's slides here.
Among some beautiful examples of Early Modern pieces from the Matheson Library Rare Books collection, visiting historian Dr Jonathan Davies from Warwick University presented some of his research into the history of "Insults in Early Modern Italy".
In studying the history of insults in Early Modern Italy, one must contextualise these insults within the violence of the time. It is from this approach that Davies introduced us to Delle Considerationi e Dubitationi Sopra la materia delle mentite, e offese di parole ('Reflections and Doubts on the subject of Falsehoods and Verbal Insults') by Bolognese professor Camillo Baldi.
Davies has been working with this text, often overlooked by other scholars as a reprint of one of Baldi’s other works, as an alternative to the Judicial records that have most often been used to examine the history of insults. From this perspective Davies challenges the traditional conception of Early Modern insults as static and based around shared taboos, and instead posits that, based on research by Trevor Dean, the most powerful insults are, in fact, culturally specific.
|Dr Jonathan Davies (R) Warwick University, with |
Peter Howard, Deputy Dean of Arts, Monash
Nowhere else was this factionalist violence more pronounced than in Bologna, the city from which Baldi, the author of Davies’ focus text, was writing. Davies suggests that this was caused by the emasculation of the Bolognese aristocracy, upon the defeat of the city by Pope Julius II. The estimated homicide rate of the area quadrupled during this time, and it is in this context that Baldi wrote his Considerationi e Dubitationi. This work, wherein Baldi identifies situations that might arise, and theorizes the most appropriate outcome, was dedicated to the Bolognese Elite, indicating that the situation in Bologna was something that Baldi felt the need to comment on.
As Davies listed the focus of each of the numerous chapters in Baldi’s books, he asked that the audience consider which subjects Baldi highlighted or repeated most, and if there were any patterns they might notice. Additionally, the audience were asked to keep in mind how recent methodologies, such as Gender or Class, might be used to analyse the works. Certainly, notions of hierarchies (such as what do do when insult is handed down by a prince) and gendered concepts (seen in the many chapters on lovers and affairs) were clearly present throughout these texts.
Baldi’s Considerationi e Dubitationi reveals to us a wide range of insults which may have arisen in Early Modern Italy, and also examines the relationships between the quarrelling parties and how this may have affected the given situation. To conclude his presentation, Davies contended that, when looking at insults in this period, we need to examine texts such as Baldi’s alongside the often-used judicial texts, to get a richer view of the relationships between quarrelling parties.