Carlo Ginsburg, The Cheese and the Worms Renaissance

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Carlo Ginsburg, The Cheese and the Worms, The Cosmos of a Sixteenth Century Miller


Length: 5-6 pages (double-spaced in Times New Roman or any regular font):


  • “The remarkable Menocchio (as he was called by his neighbors) did not fall into the convenient categories of Lutheranism or Anabaptism according to which the inquisition’s prosecutors desperately tried to understand him.  He held that the Holy Scripture had been invented to deceive men and that faith played no role in salvation; rather, man was completely responsible for his own sins.  Turks and Jews were no less chosen than were Christians.  There was no such thing as predestination or rewards and punishments in the afterlife.  He denied the virginity of Mary on the basis of everyday wisdom concerning sexual conception and strongly criticized the church hierarchy, maintaining that trees were as worthy as priests or monks to hear confession.  Menocchio developed a theory of creation in which the world came from chaos and through spontaneous generation coagulated into cheese laced with worms, which were the angels.  His ontology was a radical materialist pantheism, God was ‘nothing but earth, water, and air.’” (Samuel Cohn, Jr. Review of The Cheese and the Worms, in Journal of Interdisciplinary History , vol 12 (1982): 523)


  • Given the above quotation and what we have covered in this course, how does Ginsburg explain a figure like Menocchio?  In the sixteenth century by the time that Menocchio comes to trial in 1584, we have incredibly influential writings by Machiavelli, Luther, Copernicus, and Calvin to name just a few, but yet Menocchio’s conception of religion, the Church, spirituality, and the cosmos seem either completely unaffected or radically different from these works.  What does this say about popular culture in this period?


  • Additionally, discuss the overall main thesis of Ginsburg’s analysis.  And decide whether or not it is convincing to you.



Format and Citation – You should use the Chicago Manual of Style format.  A condensed form of this can be found in Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.  You may use outside sources to augment your discussion if you wish, but it is not required.

Last Updated on May 7, 2019 by EssayPro