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The Case of Valcamonica

What Martin and Romano say of Venice, that its identity is multiple, that its shape transmogrifies depending on which viewing position one occupies, also holds true for the story of Valcamonica. Though the materiality of the event seems to have disintegrated over time, leaving only textual traces tucked away within old catalogues and indices, a certain arrangement of those traces reveals at least two perspectives of the execution. From one angle, Valcamonica’s death appears as a masterstroke of government, deployed so as to maintain inner tranquility within the Republic. From another angle, the same execution unfolds as an act of salvation, an act wrapped within an elaborate spectacle organized for the health of Venetian souls. Though each perspective provides a distinct view of the event, each one concerns itself with governance, understood as “movement in space, material subsistence [... ] the control one may exercise over oneself and others, over someone’s body, soul, and behavior” (Foucault, Security 122). Pastoral power especially sought to move the body, soul, and behavior of its subjects, and the Jesuit brand of pastoral power, visible through their involvement in the case of Valcamonica, motivates an active rethinking of the term “pastoral” as it appears within the constellation of theatre studies. Pastoral theatre’s traditional hallmarks remain intact in this case, but the terrestrial aims of the Jesuit shepherd move the pastoral genre from its poetic and literary milieu into the streets where it wages a highly disciplined and yet excessively spectacular battle for the health of all souls.

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