Lo strano caso di Cornelia Bandi (1731). Un dibattito sulla «combustione spontanea» nel XVIII secolo

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This paper reconstructs the medical-scientific debate triggered by an episode that happened in Cesena in 1731, when the partially incinerated body of the noblewoman Cornelia Bandi was found in a bedroom with no apparent traces of a fire. The resulting discussion in the scientific and scholarly world involved some of the most influential cultural figures of the time, from Giuseppe Bianchini to Scipione Maffei, Ludovico Antonio Muratori and even Immanuel Kant. Subsequently, in a radically different cultural context, it also aroused the interest of Giacomo Leopardi and Charles Dickens. There were some clear differences in the interpretations provided. On the Italian peninsula, attempts were made in the first half of the century to explain the phenomenon in a scientific way – albeit with many limits – unencumbered by the hermeneutical constraints of the behavioural matrix. Instead, in France and above all in America, from the late eighteenth century onwards the question had growing resonance because it was deemed to be closely related to the trend of alcoholism: now devoid of remaining doubts, temperance theories had identified overweight alcoholic women as the subjects most likely to die in this unusual way.
Original languageItalian
Pages (from-to)913-950
Number of pages38
JournalRivista Storica Italiana
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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