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Giacomo Casanova: Three Episodes from His Life as a Charlatan

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Abstract:

This paper will analyse three major episodes of Casanova's Histoire de ma vie during which Casanova comes to grips with practices of charlatanism or magic, either as a "patient" or actively:

1. His cure, as a child by the sorceress of Murano to whom he is taken by his beloved grandmother.

2. His guest in the little Italian village of Cesena for a buried treasure whic he prides himself on being able to discover with the help of a sacred knife.

3. His inventive, libertine scenarios elaborated for the particular purpose of "regenerating" (dazzling and pleasuring) the marquise d'Urfé, known as Séramis, an old aristocrat with a passion for occult knowledge.

Casanova's attitude towards all that has to do with gambling, deception, chance, and all the ways to influence it is thoroughly complex and ambiguous. It is one of the features of his Venetian mentality; and it is also a phenomenon of the time, which is wrongly called the "century of the Enlightenment". More narrowly, close scrutiny of these three occasions should allow us to grasp how Casanova saw his place in the couple of the dupe and the trickster. This paper will show how he understood the world and its underlying forces, and what type of intelligence — more baroque than Cartesian in inspiration — was at work in him.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1191/1478003806cs069oa

Affiliations: Directrice de recherche au CNRS, CNRS, UMR LIRE, Institut des Sciences de l'Homme, 14 avenue Berthelot, F69 363 Lyon cedex 07, France

Publication date: September 1, 2006

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