La Retorica delle puttane  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

La retorica delle puttane (Englished as The Whore’s Rhetoric) is a text by Ferrante Pallavicino first published in Italian in 1642, which Edward Muir describes as a "scandalous anti-Jesuit work", which "demonstrates why Pallavicino was the only Italian author of his epoch capable of a coherent vision that integrated satire, skepticism, and naturalistic morality."

La Retorica is written in the form of a dialogue between an aged prostitute and her naive apprentice. The older woman is sick, poor, and miserable because, she explains, she "did not know to stop at rhetoric, wanting to go on to learn philosophy." Muir explains, "By 'rhetoric,' she means the arts of simulation and dissimulation, which would have brought her pleasure and riches, without danger, while philosophy, with its pretension to discovering truth, has brought her the ruin of emotional authenticity." The fifteen lessons of the old whore were based on Cipriano Suarez's De arte rhetorica, the manual used in Jesuit schools. Muir pointedly notes, "By systematically pursuing the parallels between rhetorical persuasion and erotic seduction, Pallavicino demonstrates how the high art of rhetoric has the same instrumental character as the lowly deceptions of the prostitute."

La Retorica delle puttane (1643) proved to be a step too far, and in the autumn of 1643 Pallavicino had to flee Venice for Bergamo.

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