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Sophie Hartles

History, University of Warwick

Thesis title:

Laughter and Violence in the Italian Renaissance: The Physical and Emotional Abuse of the �beffa�, c. 1400-1600

My doctoral project, Laughter and Violence in the Italian Renaissance: The Physical and Emotional Abuse of the beffa, investigates the violent culture of the Italian Renaissance through the analysis of the beffa. This was a cruel practical joke that was enjoyed and laughed at by many contemporaries while also physically and emotionally abusive. My interest in the beffa originated from my master’s dissertation at Manchester, Cruel Jokes, Friendship and Masculinity: A Cultural History of the Early Modern Italian Courts, which examined what the beffa could reveal about elite male sociability, masculine values, and the sinister nature of the Italian courts.

This current project provides the opportunity to examine the beffa more substantively, particularly its relation to violence and to incorporate other variables such as women and men of lower classes. I am interested in Bologna and Venice as case studies and in methods from cultural history, microhistory, and the history of emotions. I will be particularly looking at instances of the beffa in judicial records, works of literature, cheap print, art, and architecture, to gain a broader understanding of how laughter and violence intertwined in this culture and what this can reveal about their values, practices, interpersonal interactions, etc.


Research Area

  • History