The Horizons of a Myth
Winner of the Prix du Budget of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres
Selected as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2003 by Choice Magazine
Perhaps more than in any other city, Venice has been shaped by its environment. The lagoon on which it was built isolated the city's inhabitants from mainland Europe, forcing them to look seaward for their survival and to establish a maritime empire that generated incalculable wealth, making Venice the envy of Renaissance Europe. In Venice Triumphant, Elisabeth Crouzet-Pavan provides a rich, multilayered history of Venice from Roman times to the sixteenth century. Instead of employing a rigidly chronological framework, she looks at the history of Venice thematically, focusing on the relationship between the city and its unique physical milieu in a way that emphasizes complexity and continuity.
Central to Crouzet-Pavan's discussion is her concept of l'imaginaire, literally translated as "the imaginary" and here meaning the many symbolic terms Venetians created to describe and understand the peculiar space they inhabited and, by extension, themselves. One key example of l'imaginaire is Venetians' use of the term "the continent" to refer, somewhat dismissively, to Italy, Germany, and other lands beyond the lagoon in order to emphasize their own distinctive maritime identity. As Crouzet-Pavan shows, this sense of exceptionalism impacts every aspect of Venetian history: its art and architecture; its involvement with mainland politics; its commercial, civic, and political institutions; and the shape of daily life in its homes, alleys, and courtyards. Elegantly translated by Lydia G. Cochrane, Venice Triumphant offers a bold new perspective on the world's most beautiful—and remarkable—city.
About the Authors
Elisabeth Crouzet-Pavan is a professor of medieval history at the Sorbonne. Her other books are Sopra le acque salse: Espaces, pouvoir et société à Venise a la fin du Moyen Âge (1992); La Mort lente de Torcello: Histoire d'une cité disparue (1994); Venise: Une invention de la ville, XIIIe–XVe siècle (1997); and Enfers et paradis: L'Italie de Dante et de Giotto (2001). Venice Triumphant, originally published in French in 1999, is her first book to be translated into English. Lydia G. Cochrane has translated three previous books for Johns Hopkins: On the Edge of the Cliff by Roger Chartier (1996), The Color of Melancholy by Jacqueline Cerquiglini-Toulet (1997), and History of Suicide by Georges Minois (1999). Her other translations include Alain Boureau's The Lord's First Night (1998) and The Myth of Pope Joan (2001), and Renzo Dubbini's Geography of the Gaze (2002).
"A formidable reading of Venetian history.... To say that Crouzet-Pavan has a grasp of the literature, from the oldest parchments to contemporary writings, is an understatement, and she is always happy to poke a hole in a thesis—that Venice turned its back on the mainland, for example.... Elegantly, she animates her story with the acts, words, and movements of actual Venetians... constantly shuffling the big picture with the human scale: international relations are crucially important, but so are the role of money-lending and salt production, not to mention confraternities, the parish bell tower, the candlestick maker, the fencing teacher, and the rag seller. Crouzet-Pavan is an impressive conductor, making sprightly and complex music out of myriad strains that shape Venice."
"Masterful... This elegantly written, even lyrical, work should be the standard for all future books on Venice."
"A novel approach to retelling a story that has been told many times... This work will be of value to historians and students of Venetian history."
"Crouzet-Pavan has not only produced an original and intriguing overview of Venetian history; she has provided a thoughtful personal review of the mass of scholarly work that has radically changed our understanding of Venice and medieval and Renaissance Italy over the last half century."
"This book offers an innovative perspective for reconsidering the history of the identity of Venice... In the rich and endless, though also traditional, literature on Venice, this book is very different. It provides an original methodology and a fascinating approach to the Venetian past."
"For more than twenty years, Elisabeth Crouzet-Pavan has dedicated herself to the study of urban affairs on the Italian peninsula. Not without daring, she presents a formidable work of synthesis on the rise of the city of the Doges, the evolution of a unique place and identity."
"Elisabeth Crouzet-Pavan reconstructs the history of the city and at a stroke disposes of the customary clichés... A must-read work for those wishing to return to Venice and discover the thousand and one secrets of this ephemeral yet enduring city."
"This is true background for a city which seems balanced carefully between Roman times; the enchantment of the 16th century—and today. This book will fill you in on the ancient part and connect you with its footpaths into today as nothing else I have read does."
"Pick up Venice Triumphant and you can get lost in its pages as you might in a glossy picture book of the city—enjoying the verbal images, reading a bit in one place or another, skipping around as mood and moment suggest."
"A fine synthesis of Venetian history."
"Elisabeth Crouzet-Pavan is the premiere historian of Venice writing today. The depth of her research in the Venetian archives is unmatched and she writes with a poetic sensibility that equals Fernand Braudel's. Venice Triumphant is an innovative, thematic history of the city that emphasizes continuity and explores issues of space, power, and representation. Her discussion is clear, never obscure, and she writes in a lively, evocative prose that will appeal to general readers and historians alike. This book should become the standard work on the history of Venice for the next generation."
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