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Staging the Imagined City: Aretino in Rome and London

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Kate De RyckerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


This article explores the theme of ‘cityscapes’, and Aretino as a writer of the urban experience, by focussing on the city as an unknowable and anonymous space, especially to social outsiders. It will first examine how Aretino portrays Rome in his early comedy Cortigiana (1525) as a confusing and socially stratified space when experienced from its peripheries. A key factor in achieving this is in his mapping of the imagined spaces of the city (the ‘locus’) onto the theatrical stage-space (the ‘platea’) so that the stage represents the street and the back-stage represents a hidden world from which both Cortigiana's main characters and indeed the audience are locked out. Those desired spaces of the city are often coded in sexual terms, and so the second half of this article will explore the way in which i modi (the ephemeral erotic images which would shape Aretino's posthumous reputation as a pornographer) would become a visual trope used by seventeenth-century English writers to conjure up the unseen and imagined interiors of London's suburban brothels and aristocratic boudoirs.

Publication metadata

Author(s): De Rycker K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Renaissance Studies

Year: 2023

Volume: 37

Issue: 2

Pages: 268-291

Print publication date: 01/04/2023

Online publication date: 08/02/2023

Acceptance date: 02/04/2018

Date deposited: 13/06/2023

ISSN (print): 0269-1213

ISSN (electronic): 1477-4658

Publisher: Wiley


DOI: 10.1111/rest.12858


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