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The Eloquent Body

Dance and Humanist Culture in Fifteenth-Century Italy

Jennifer Nevile

Publication Year: 2004

"This book adds an entirely new dimension to the consideration of Humanism and Italian culture. It will make a welcome addition to the field of cultural studies by broadening the subject to consider an important source of information that has been previously overlooked." -- Timothy McGee

The Eloquent Body offers a history and analysis of court dancing during the Renaissance, within the context of Italian Humanism. Each chapter addresses different philosophical, social, or intellectual aspects of dance during the 15th century. Some topics include issues of economic class, education, and power; relating dance treatises to the ideals of Humanism and the meaning of the arts; ideas of the body as they relate to elegance, nobility, and ethics; the intellectual history of dance based on contemporaneous readings of Pythagoras and Plato; and a comparison of geometric dance structures to geometric order in Humanist architecture.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. i-v


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

The idea for this book originated over a decade ago, and since then its scope has grown considerably. During these years I have been fortunate to receive assistance in various ways from friends and colleagues, to whom I owe a deep debt of gratitude. It is my pleasure to acknowledge their help and encouragement here, as a...

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pp. 1-11

[T]he courtier must acquire this grace from those who appear to possess it. . . . However, having already thought a great deal about how this grace is acquired, and leaving aside those who are endowed with it by their stars, I have discovered a universal rule which seems to apply more than any other in all human actions or words: namely, to steer away from affectation at all costs, as if it were a rough and...

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1. Dance and Society

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pp. 12-57

The harmony in the sweet music of Guglielmo Ebreo is as sweet and heavenly as his fair dancing is elegant. It would make Maccabeus sheathe his sword. His dance comes not from human skill but from heavenly wit and divine knowledge. . . . Eagles on the wing are not so agile as Guglielmo, whose skills may be deemed to have been willed by Fate. Hector was never so outstanding in military...

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2. The Dance Treatises and Humanist Ideals

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pp. 58-74

The fact that Domenico, and later on Guglielmo and Cornazano, wrote dance treatises at all, let alone treatises that included substantial material on the philosophical basis of the dance practice, is a strong argument for the view that humanist thought influenced the art of dance in fifteenth-century Italy, that the dance masters were aware of the current ideas and attitudes of the humanists,...

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3. Eloquent Movement-Eloquent Prose

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pp. 75-103

An important part of humanist culture’s effect on the dance practice of fifteenth-century Italy was the dance masters’ realization that language was absolutely necessary to the status of dance as an art. They were acutely aware that for dance to be included as a liberal art, with a claim to true knowledge and wisdom, then it had to be more than just a body of physical skills; it was now essential...

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4. Dance and the Intellect

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pp. 104-118

In this matter [the education of the mind] we desire you to be convinced that there is nothing that men possess on earth more precious than intellect, and that other goods of human life which we pursue are truly insignificant and unworthy. Nobility is beautiful but it is a good not one’s own; riches are precious but they are the possession of fortune; glory is pleasant...

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5. Order and Virtue

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pp. 119-130

The old notion of synonymity between geometric and moral rectitude was so ingrained in the Western mind that people took it for granted that anyone fortunate enough to be raised in a geometrically ordered environment would be morally superior to anyone who lived amid the twisting cowpaths of an amorphous village.

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pp. 131-140

In their treatises both Cornazano and Guglielmo acknowledged Domenico as their master,

Appendix 1. Transcription and Translation of MS from Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Magl. VII 1121, f. 63r–69v

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pp. 141-157

Appendix 2. The Use of Mensuration Signs as Proportion Signs in the Dance Treatises

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pp. 158-160

Appendix 3. Floor Track and Music of Anello, Ingrata,Pizochara, and Verceppe

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pp. 161-188


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pp. 189-221


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pp. 223-240


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pp. 241-247

E-ISBN-13: 9780253111142
E-ISBN-10: 0253111145
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253344533

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 18 figures, 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2004