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Food, Wine and Perjury - Freshmen Initiation Rites from the 16th Century in an ebrary e-book

E-resource of the Month - September 2011

Campus is once again filled with energetic and lively new students. In the following weeks we will see lots of rituals and initiation rites aiming to welcome freshmen to the academic world.

Rites like this are not a new phenomenon. In Culture and Power : Tuscany and its Universities 1537-1609, Jonathan Davies tackles the life and rituals of Italian and other European universities in the 16th century.

In the middle ages, food and drinks were a major part of the initiation rites of new students at universities. Freshmen were usually expected to offer their superiors an abundant dinner. As thanks for their generosity, rookies were humiliated both verbally and physically. Humiliation came in many forms, for example forced confessions to crimes and having to recite obscene poetry over dinner. Bribery was a common way out of these hardships.

One of the most detailed descriptions of these rites can be found in Manuale scholarium (1481), which was a guidebook for freshmen at the University of Leipzig in Germany.

… the removal of the initiate’s false horns and teeth, the shaving of his beard, and the forced confession to crimes including theft, rape, and perjury. He is then ordered to buy them dinner with fine wine.” (Davies, Jonathan. Culture and Power : Tuscany and its Universities 1537-1609. Brill Academic Publishers, 2009. pp. 142-143.)

Culture and Power can be found in the ebrary e-book collection which contains over 70 000 books in different fields (including course reading).

E-books can be searched both through the library’s online catalogue JYKDOK and through the Nelli-portal. In JYKDOK you can search for example by the title of the book, then follow the link you find in your search result (access in university network/with university login).

You can also search for a book in the Nelli-portal. First search for ebrary (or other e-book service) in the database search, then perform a search in the database itself. Good tips for using ebrary can be found in the Quick Start Guide.

Jyväskylä University Library does not encourage trying out ideas found in this particular book…

We want to welcome all freshmen to the University of Jyväskylä and the University Library!

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