Synopses & Reviews
Ginzburg explores Italian popular culture through the lens ofDemonico Scandella, a miller who was twice brought to trial for saying that the world had been created from putrefaction. He drawsmostly on transcripts of the trials, but also on other sources to discuss such aspects as from Concordia to Portogruaro, readers of thetown, the temple of the virgins, the father of Christ, written culture and oral culture, mythical cheeses and real cheeses, theflight of an idea, end of the interrogation, prison, nocturnal dialogue with the Jew, second sentence, two millers, dominant culture and subordinate culture, and letters from Rome.Annotation ©2014 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The Cheese and the Worms is an incisive study of popular culture in the sixteenth century as seen through the eyes of one man, the miller known as Menocchio, who was accused of heresy during the Inquisition and sentenced to death. Carlo Ginzburg uses the trial records to illustrate the religious and social conflicts of the society Menocchio lived in.
For a common miller, Menocchio was surprisingly literate. In his trial testimony he made references to more than a dozen books, including the Bible, Boccaccio's Decameron, Mandeville's Travels, and a -mysterious- book that may have been the Koran. And what he read he recast in terms familiar to him, as in his own version of the creation: -All was chaos, that is earth, air, water, and fire were mixed together; and of that bulk a mass formed--just as cheese is made out of milk--and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels.-
Ginzburg's influential book has been widely regarded as an early example of the analytic, case-oriented approach known as microhistory. In a thoughtful new preface, Ginzburg offers his own corollary to Menocchio's story as he considers the discrepancy between the intentions of the writer and what gets written. The Italian miller's story and Ginzburg's work continue to resonate with modern readers because they focus on how oral and written culture are inextricably linked. Menocchio's 500-year-old challenge to authority remains evocative and vital today.