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Healthy Living in Late Renaissance Italy$
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Sandra Cavallo and Tessa Storey

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199678136

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199678136.001.0001

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Excretions as Excrements: The Hygiene of the Body

Excretions as Excrements: The Hygiene of the Body

(p.240) 8 Excretions as Excrements: The Hygiene of the Body
Healthy Living in Late Renaissance Italy

Sandra Cavallo

Tessa Storey

Oxford University Press

This chapter shows that health advice on hygiene centred around removal of waste products produced by the body and deposited especially on the scalp (through the pores and hair, considered an excrement) or in the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. It notes a shift from violent purging to discreet daily removal of excrements, which encouraged a flourishing material paraphernalia of hygiene. Bathing was regarded with increasing ambivalence and established explanations for this transformation are challenged: the identification of bathing with strenuous exercise, rather than the fear of contagion, is identified as the motor driving change—yet another facet in the fashioning of the body of the ‘new’ gentleman. Concerns about hygiene offer a new perspective on the rise and masculinization of domestic staff, perceived as being altogether cleaner than women. Overall, this redefinition of preferred forms of bodily purging profoundly affected the organization, layout, and material culture of the home.

Keywords:   hygiene, domestic staff, purging, bloodletting, baths/bathing, toilets

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