Cheese And Worms

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“The Cheese and the Worms” by Carlo Gunzburg is about a time and place where Catholicism was undoubtedly the religion of Europe. Carlo Ginzburg looks at detailed records from the Roman Inquisition trial of a sixteenth century miller named Menocchio whose heresies include the rejection of the divinity of Christ, the rejection of the idea of Virgin Birth, and an interesting cosmogony in which the beginning was utter chaos. Gunzburg’s thesis is that the idea of popular culture is a balanced relationship of power between the dominant class and the culture of those considered the subordinate class. It is believed that the dominate class don’t necessarily always dictate their beliefs and standards to the subordinate class. Ginzburg’s argues that it is unacceptable to think that ideas originate exclusively among the dominate classes but rather they work not only from the top, dominant class down, but also from the artisan and peasant culture up.1 He states that the peasants are neither accepting of the unquestioned culture handed down to them by dominant social groups nor creating spontaneously a self-contained peasant culture. Menocchio was a miller that lived alone at the edge of the village. He happened to have a fascination with books and over time began to develop his own fascinating world views. Unfortunately the Catholic Church was not overly fond of free-thinkers and thus we find Menocchio in front of an Inquisition that records the proceedings in exacting detail.2 The author provides the reader with a list of the books that Menocchio read. It is by examination of this list that one can start to deduce just where Menocchio gets his ideas. Menocchio is very sure of himself throughout the proceedings and one may be hard pressed to believe that he bases his ideas on conjecture alone. In fact it can be seen that Menocchio's ideas are representative of a culture,

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