Paola UgoliniOct 11, 2021
Court and Its Critics
Anti-Court Sentiments in Early Modern Italy
University of Toronto Press 2020
The fashionable and decorous men whom we recognize in portraits and letters from the Italian Renaissance penned some of the most scathing critiques of the courts in which they served. Such anti-courtly discourse furnished a platform for discussing pressing questions of early modern Italian society. The court was the space that witnessed a new form of negotiation of identity and prestige, the definition of masculinity and of gender-specific roles, the birth of modern politics and of an ethics based on merit and on individual self-interest. In The Court and Its Critics: Anti-Court Sentiments in Early Modern Italy (University of Toronto Press, 2020), Paola Ugolini analyzes anti-courtly critiques using a wide variety of sources including manuals of courtliness, dialogues, satires, and plays, from the mid-fifteenth to the early seventeenth century. The book is the first work of its kind, as it systematically investigates anti-court sentiments across an impressive number of primary sources. At its core, the book reimagines the agency of authors who served in roles they often despised, and it prompts questions of the psychological effect of transforming the self in order to please those in power. An elegantly written study, The Court and Its Critics will be of interest to scholars of the early modern period as well as to those who are curious about the fraught history of the development of the self.
Gerry Milligan is Professor of Italian at the College of Staten Island, where he serves as Director of Honors. He is Professor in Italian and Global Early Modern Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. His NBN interview is available at Moral Combat: Women, Gender, and War in Italian Renaissance Literature.