Venice from the Ground Up

Venice from the Ground Up

by James H. S. McGregor

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Overview

Venice came to life on spongy mudflats at the edge of the habitable world. Protected in a tidal estuary from barbarian invaders and Byzantine overlords, the fishermen, salt gatherers, and traders who settled there crafted an amphibious way of life unlike anything the Roman Empire had ever known. In an astonishing feat of narrative history, James H. S. McGregor recreates this world-turned-upside-down, with its waterways rather than roads, its boats tethered alongside dwellings, and its livelihood harvested from the sea.

McGregor begins with the river currents that poured into the shallow Lagoon, carving channels in its bed and depositing islands of silt. He then describes the imaginative responses of Venetians to the demands and opportunities of this harsh environment—transforming the channels into canals, reclaiming salt marshes for the construction of massive churches, erecting a thriving marketplace and stately palaces along the Grand Canal. Through McGregor’s eyes, we witness the flowering of Venice’s restless creativity in the elaborate mosaics of St. Mark’s soaring basilica, the expressive paintings in smaller neighborhood churches, and the colorful religious festivals—but also in theatrical productions, gambling casinos, and masked revelry, which reveal the city’s less pious and orderly face.

McGregor tells his unique history of Venice by drawing on a crumbling, tide-threatened cityscape and a treasure-trove of art that can still be seen in place today. The narrative follows both a chronological and geographical organization, so that readers can trace the city’s evolution chapter by chapter and visitors can explore it district by district on foot and by boat.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674027527
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 04/30/2008
Series: From the Ground Up , #8
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 5.75(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

James H. S. McGregor is Emeritus Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Georgia.

Table of Contents

Introduction

1 The Lagoon

2 St. Mark's Basilica

3 Company Town

4 State of Grace

5 Evangelism on the Northern Rim

6 State of Siege

7 Merchants and Mariners

8 The Streets of Venice

Information

Further Reading

Acknowledgments

Illustration Credits

Index

What People are Saying About This

This is an excellent book. The history of the city is recounted as if it were a story, which makes the whole work eminently readable. The history of Venice is as meandering as its canals, and to have achieved an overall straightforward path through it is no small feat. McGregor's book is a perfect introduction to Venice. Italians themselves would read it with profit.

Piero Boitani

This is an excellent book. The history of the city is recounted as if it were a story, which makes the whole work eminently readable. The history of Venice is as meandering as its canals, and to have achieved an overall straightforward path through it is no small feat. McGregor's book is a perfect introduction to Venice. Italians themselves would read it with profit. --(Piero Boitani, Professor of Comparative Literature at University of Rome La Sapienza)

Customer Reviews