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Gendered Contexts

New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies


Edited By Laura Benedetti, Julia Hairston and Julia L. Hairston

The application of feminist thought to the study of Italian culture is generating some of the most innovative work in the field today. This volume presents a range of essays which focus on the construction of gender in Italian literature as well as essays in feminist theory. The contributions reflect the current diversity of critical approaches available to those interrogating gender and offer interpretations of prose, poetry, theater, and the visual arts from Boccaccio, Michelangelo, and Galileo to contemporary Italian writers such as Carla Cerati and Dacia Maraini.


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A Gendered Cosmos: Galileo, Mother Earth, and the "Sink of Uncleanliness": Dolora A. Wojciehowski 93


A Gendered Cosmos: Galileo, Mother Earth, and the "Sink of Uncleanliness" Dolora A. Wojciehowski Throughout the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632), in which he attempts to prove the validity of the Copernican hypothesis, Galileo makes a distinction between two types of discourse or, if you will, two word systems. Salviati, Galileo's spokesman in the Dialogue, 1 often contrasts "rigorous demonstration," or authentic science, with mere rhetoric. For example, when the character Simplicia offers Aristotelian critiques of the Copernican hypothesis, Salviati responds: As to the terrestrial globe being between Venus and Mars, let me say one word about that. You yourself, on behalf of this author, may attempt to remove it, but please let us not entangle these little flowers of rhetoric in the rigors of demonstration. Let us leave them rather to the orators, or better to the poets, who best know how to exalt by the graciousness the most vile and sometimes even pernicious things. 2 What Salviati advocates as "rigorous demonstration" is a kind of proof based both on mathematical deduction and on empirical evidence, as opposed to the sort of proof offered by Aristotelian syllogistic reasoning.3 In this passage Salviati revives with Platonic condescension an ancient prejudice against rhetoric. He implies that the arguments of his opponents are merely rhetorical, techniques of persuasion lacking substance. True science, in contrast, consists of more than oratorical or poetic technique, because it is founded on solid empirical and/or mathematical proof. We recognize in Salviati' s rhetoric a...

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