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O queijo e os vermes: o cotidiano e as…
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O queijo e os vermes: o cotidiano e as idéias de um moleiro perseguido… (original 1976; edition 1987)

by Carlo Ginzburg (Author)

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1,015None8,345 (3.94)22
Member:carlamaryoliveira
Title:O queijo e os vermes: o cotidiano e as idéias de um moleiro perseguido pela Inquisição
Authors:Carlo Ginzburg (Author)
Info:Companhia das Letras (1987), 1ª reimp., paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:Europa, Idade Moderna, Inquisição

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The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller by Carlo Ginzburg (1976)

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This is a microhistory of a sixteenth century Italian miller, whose heretical beliefs brought him to the attention of the Inquisition. Ginzburg uses the records of his trial to examine his personal theology and cosmology, and to examine to what extent we can recover a pre-modern "popular culture." I thought it was a more sophisticated attempt at a microhistory than The Return of Martin Guerre; Ginzburg approaches his sources with more subtlety and with more awareness of the dangers of pre-conceived notions. I particularly appreciated how Ginzburg's critical awareness of the sources contrasted with Menocchio's own sometimes wilful misreadings of the texts he came into contact with.

That said, I'm not sure why Ginzburg is so insistent that the "peasant culture" in which Menocchio lived had strong non/pre-Christian elements, and why the unorthodox elements of Menocchio's thought were necessarily products of such cultural elements rather than of independent thought (in as much as such a thing is possible, of course) or other influences. I'm still not sure about his conclusions in as much as they are predicated on the suitability of Menocchio, a single and rather eccentric man, as a means of investigating Friuli peasantry as a whole. I'm undecided, but I'll be thinking about this one for a while. ( )
  siriaeve | Feb 1, 2010 |
Carlo Ginzburg looks at detailed records from the Roman Inquisition trial of a sixteenth century miller named Menocchio whose heresies include the rejection of the divinity of Christ, the rejection of the idea of Virgin Birth, and an interesting cosmogony in which in the beginning all was chaos out of which emerged a mass "just as cheese is made out of milk--and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels, and among that number of angels there was also God, he too having been created out of that mass at the same time..."(p. 6). The author uses Menocchio's references to books he has read to argue for a relationship between "high" culture and "popular" culture in the lives of peasants such that the peasants are neither accepting unquestioned the culture handed down to them by dominant social groups nor creating spontaneously a self-contained peasant culture. ( )
  TinuvielDancing | Jan 19, 2010 |
On the 3rd of February in the year 1584 an Italian miller named Menocchio of the village of Montereale presented himself voluntarily to the Holy Office in Concordia to answer charges of heresy and blasphemy. His friends and neighbors all counseled him to say he was sorry, to say he never meant any harm, and to otherwise keep his mouth shut. “Tell them what they want to know and try not to talk too much; do not go out of your way to discuss these things. Answer only their questions” was the heartfelt advice of the village vicar.

Menocchio, whose full name was Domenico Scandella, obviously tried to follow the advice of his friends, but his gregarious nature got the better of him and it wasn’t long before he was expounding to his inquisitors his own ideas about the nature of the universe. “In my opinion, all was chaos, that is, the earth, air, water and fire were mixed together; and out of that bulk a mass formed—just as cheese is made out of milk—and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels. . . .”

Not surprisingly, Menocchio was eventually burned at the stake as a heretic.

It was just over four hundred years later that Menocchio stumbled into my life, when I happened to pick up a book called The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth Century Miller by Carlo Ginzburg. The book had been on the “for further reading” list in one of my European History Survey classes in college and I was still at an age where I had the energy and inclination to do all my extra credit work. The author had come across the church documents of Menocchio’s trial while researching something else and was intrigued by the character of the man recorded in the transcripts. The miller was neither nobility nor serf, but a person of some consequence in his town and a little unusual in that he could read and write. Although obviously that wasn’t all that was unusual about him.

I was instantly charmed. I have big, thick tomes on the history of Renaissance Italy and Reformation Europe that cover their era war by war, pope by pope, king by king. But not one of them has left such a vivid impression on me as Ginzburg’s account of the opening testimony at Menocchio’s trial. “He is always arguing with somebody about the faith just for the sake of arguing” said more than one witness. And indeed, Menocchio seems like the kind of man who couldn’t resist poking a stick at a bear. “Priests want us under their thumb, just to keep us quiet, while they have a good time” he said at his inquest, of all places. And then, to his judges, “Everybody has his calling, some to plow, some to hoe, and I have mine, which is to blaspheme.”

My god, I thought, I know this guy. He’s the guy who sits at the local bar and tells you exactly what is wrong with America. The one who tells you what he’d do if he were in charge. The one who won’t shut up after he has a few drinks in him. Opinionated, sometimes annoying, but basically harmless, unless he happens to live in sixteenth-century Italy, in which case it was a fatal habit. Although it should be pointed out that the miller had lived in the same village for over forty years, presumably arguing with all and sundry at the least provocation during that entire time, and no one had felt inclined to report him for it. The fact that he didn’t end up in serious trouble until the 1580s probably says more about the changing nature of Church authority during the rise of Lutheranism than it does about Menocchio’s own wacky philosophies.

Ginzburg attempted, using the documents he found and his own knowledge of the era, to prove a theory that Menocchio’s peculiar ideas of cosmology are founded in an oral folk tradition that has been dressed up in the ideas he gleaned from his rather uncritical reading. (Logic was not one of Menocchio’s strong points). Whether or not the author succeeds in this is open to debate. But he did succeed, spectacularly, in inventing a new kind of history: historia populi.

Sometimes called “micro-history” because it focuses on a small event or place, The Cheese and the Worms is an early example of what I think of as “street-level” history. History told from the vantage point of the average and the insignificant. Most history is told from the top down—from the point of view of kings and leaders, political movements and military actions. The Cheese and the Worms is history looking upwards—at one strange event in a relatively ordinary man’s life, and what that implies about the world in which he lives.

Ginzburg’s historical approach ruffled some academic feathers but captured the imagination of the reading public. It certainly captured my imagination with its almost storyteller’s approach to a field that had hitherto hidden its delights behind formulaic, ostensibly “objective” language (although any historian will tell you there’s no such thing). full review
10 vote southernbooklady | Mar 2, 2009 |
Evocative and unexpectedly moving.
  bhutten | Sep 15, 2008 |
A short historical work attempts to look into the cosmos of a 16th-century miller in the north of Italy. Based on transcripts and letters for his two trials for heresy, Ginzburg attempts to trace the origin of Menocchio's views and how they developed and contradicted his previously stated views. Ginzburg uses this microhistory to ask whether Menocchio's cosmology represent great folk mythology of the time or if they're unique to this one heretic. It's a short but challenging read, and one with surprises - eg. despite his heresy Menocchio was chosen as mayor of his town and even in his trials his inquisitors are impressed and interested in his strange theology. They ultimately executed him all the same for a sad ending. Menocchio may a mad-man raving conspiracy theories on the T, yet his thought process is so complex it makes you wonder about what people describe as madness.

"Although the lower classes are no longer ignored by historians, they seem condemned, nevertheless, to remain 'silent.'" - p. xx ( )
1 vote Othemts | Jun 25, 2008 |
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» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carlo Ginzburgprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hadders, GerardCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ronteltap, RuudTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tedeschi, AnneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tedeschi, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vogogd, Pietha deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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