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How to Do It: Guides to Good Living for Renaissance Italians (1999)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0226042103, Hardcover)Bestseller lists routinely include advice books instructing attentive readers on everything from how to create a life of material and spiritual abundance to how to delay the aging process. While addressing specific issues, such how-to books reflect larger social concerns that characterize a particular time period, and, as such, they can be read as sociological and historical documents. Rudolph M. Bell, professor of history at Rutgers University, takes the rare step of investing the genre--usually considered ephemeral or dismissed as "fluff"--with just such historical importance. How to Do It offers an insightful, frequently humorous examination of 16th-century middle-class Italian life as reflected in the abundance of advice books that circulated during the period.
Bell relates, in lively detail, just how obsessed Renaissance Italians were with the same kind of advice literature that proliferates today. How to Do It makes clear how timeless many societal concerns are, and how little the solutions to them have changed over the centuries. He focuses his study on advice concerning interactions among men, women, and their children--beginning by examining advice books on conception--and continues sequentially forward in the life of the parent, addressing issues of pregnancy and childbirth, raising children, adolescence (considered in the 16th century to extend until age 28), and, finally, marital relations. Two secondary themes add depth to his already engaging examination: the confusion of "authorities" resulting from the large number of printing presses that simultaneously emerged in so many places, and the ways in which the printed word allowed these self-appointed experts to enter the intimate recesses of private life.
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:54:28 -0400)
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