Stanley Chojnacki

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Professor Emeritus

CB# 3195
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599
venetian@email.unc.edu
 
 
 

MA University of California, Berkeley, 1962
PhD University of California, Berkeley, 1968

Research Interests

The principal research focus of Professor Chojnacki’s research is on the connection between government, family, and individual identity—especially gender identity—in Renaissance Italy from the fourteenth to sixteenth century, especially in Venice’s ruling patriciate. Over the years he has written many essays on aspects of this theme, some on the state, some on Venice’s regime, some on masculine roles. But most deal with the ways in which the experiences of wifehood, motherhood, and widowhood influenced the interactions of women with the state, their families, and the individual women and men in their lives. Twelve of these essays have now been gathered in his book, Women and Men in Renaissance Venice (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000).

The ways women and men related to each other, as parents and children and husband and wife, under a blanket of gender-defining laws and customs is the theme of of his current project, “Cateruzza’s Lives: Decades of Wifehood in Renaissance Venice.” This book will explore the way larger structures influenced gender relations, but also the way individual women’s and men’s own actions shaped their married lives, with implications for the direction of large-scale social and political change. It follows the two marriages and two widowhoods of one women as its chief thread, but examines the ways patrician women in general, and their families, experienced their wifehoods. Reconstructing opportunities for individual temperament and personality to express themselves in relationships at a time when behavior was increasingly prescribed by political and religious authority, to say nothing of cultural norms, is a stimulating challenge. Chojnacki’s approach to it is to look closely at the records of private life while tracking the growth of government attempts to shape it in one society, that of Venice. He then compares that information with what historians of have discovered about the same interactions in other Italian and European societies in the period.

Overlapping those interests is his other line of research, the evolution of Venice’s ruling class. In several essays, the most recent of which is “Identity and Ideology in Renaissance Venice,” in Venice Reconsidered, edited by John Martin and Dennis Romano (Johns Hopkins, 2000) Chojnacki has challenged the traditional picture of the patriciate as permanently fixed, in its membership and its social and political culture, from the late thirteenth century. His aim is to describe patricians’ insecurities, conflicts, aims, and patterns of associations, in their private and public lives, and to connect these with changes in the structure of the regime and patricians’ roles in it. His research into gender ideas and behavior nourishes his writing on the patrician regime in important ways, convincing him that political history is profoundly enriched by attention to gender and the associations it influences.

Exploring gender relations and their connection with institutional structures is a theme featured in Chojnacki’s upper-level and graduate teaching. At the graduate level he works with students in both the History of Women and the Late Medieval/Early Modern European fields of concentration in the History Department, as well as with graduate students from other departments who are interested in these themes, notably Art History, English, and Religious Studies.

If you wish to contact Stanley Chojnacki, please e-mail him.

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