To Burlesque Oneself

In researching stuff, I often come across other stuff. Stuff that’s pretty funny or intriguing. The latest is about the various Italian Academies that existed from the Renaissance on for a couple hundred years. These were gatherings, usually in patrician homes or other ridotti (technically “annexes”) where the literati met to discuss poetry, literature, grammar (my students would be astounded to hear that!), philosophy, the classics in Greek, and so on. Some topics: (these come from Bassanese’s book on Gaspara Stampa):

“Can love exist without jealousy?” “Can a man fall in love by hearsay rather than sight?” “Can a courtesan love selflessly?” “Is nobility a quality of the soul or the blood?”

These academies had some pretty spectacular names that I kept marveling at as I came across them. Here are a few I found in Pompeo Molmenti’s Venice: Part III Vol. II:

Discordanti, Instancabili, Sviluppati, Immaturi, Ordinati, Animosi, Assicurati, Marittimi, Fileleuteri, Arditi, Fioriti, Peripatetici, Imperfetti, Tassisti, Immobili, Delfici, Abbagliati, Paragonisti, Intriciati, Silenti, Suscitati, Imperterbabili, Infuocati, Pacifici, Filaleti, Dodonei, Separati, Infaticabili, Filadelfici, Industriosi

Now, if I throw these into Google Translate (which can be a very amusing exercise in itself) here’s what we get:

Discordant, Tireless, Developed, Immature, Sorted, Animosi sure, the Maritime Fileleuteri, Arditi, Flowery, Peripatetics, Imperfect, Taxi drivers, Real Estate, Delphic, Dazzled, Paragonisti, Intriciati, Silent, Raised, Imperterbabili, Infuocati, Pacifici, Philaletheians, Dodonei, Separated, Tireless, Filadelfici, Industrious.

I hope my Italian and Venetian readers out there will help with translations. Somehow I’m thinking that Google Translate isn’t quite accurate.

But what’s the deal with these names? These are supposed to be scholarly societies gathering with the purpose of fostering learning and discourse. Well, I finally came across an answer. Isaac Disraeli (father of Benjamin) wrote an anonymous chapter in the book Curiosities of Literature titled “On the Ridiculous Titles Assumed by Italian Academies.” He claims that the Academies chose such silly names on purpose to obscure their true purpose, to “rid the air of pedantry” and to “burlesque themselves.” I love that they were poking fun at themselves and their erudite conclaves. Some other societies mentioned were the Sleepy, the Lazy, the Insipids, the Blockheads, and the Thunderstruck.

If you were going to name your Academy, what would you choose?

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About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
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7 Responses to To Burlesque Oneself

  1. Nancy says:

    Personally I’d choose Taxi Drivers; that term seems so out of palce and it made me laugh. By the end, especially after your quote from Disraeli, the names were starting to sound like the Seven Dwarves from Snow White.

  2. Those names are funny to the modern ear, and of course Google didn’t get all the meanings.. I did a quick search of the wrong translations and this is the result:

    Animosi = Courageous
    Assicurati = Insured
    Fileleuteri (from eleuteri = liberi or free) = I think this means “those who support freedom”
    Arditi = Brave
    Immobili = Motionless, Static
    Paragonisti = Those who compare
    Intriciati = Woven or Entangled
    Imperterbabili = Unflappable
    Infuocati = Excited, Impassioned
    Pacifici = Peaceful
    Dodonei = From Mount Dodoneo in Puglia, linked to the cult of Jupiter
    Filadelfici = This makes me think of the “Philadelphe”, an anti-Napoleonic society

    I’m not sure about “Tassisti” as this certainly doesn’t derive from taxi (cab) as this term should be early 20th century…

  3. Actually, “Tassisti” can also refer to “Taxis”, “A figure of speech in which individual elements are sistematically arranged” (Oxford Dictionary). If this is true, “Tassisti” were those who supported rethorical devices.

    • That makes a lot of sense. Rhetoric was considered one of the most important skills for the educated person, though Cassandra Fedele, a 15th century woman known for presenting a few superb orations, believed that eloquence was supreme–so that one could display her erudition.
      But taxi cabs are funnier.

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