The Augustinian Epic, Petrarch to Milton rewrites the history of the Renaissance Vergilian epic by incorporating the neo-Latin side of the story alongside the vernacular one, revealing how epics spoke to each other "across the language gap" and together comprised a single, "Augustinian tradition" of epic poetry. Beginning with Petrarch's Africa, Warner offers major new interpretations of Renaissance epics both famous and forgotten—from Milton's Paradise Lost to a Latin Christiad by his near-contemporary, Alexander Ross—thereby shedding new light on the development of the epic genre. For advanced undergraduate students, graduate students, and scholars in the fields of Italian, English, and Comparative literatures as well as the Classics and the history of religion and literature.
In a discussion of the Renaissance revival of classical culture, Piccolomini considers the period’s mythologizing of Brutus, Caesar’s assassin. He cites Dante as the initiator of an important literary, dramatic, political, and artistic theme and explains how the historical Brutus was changed by literature and theatre into a symbol of the just citizen rebelling against the unjust tyrant.
Piccolomini discusses several Renaissance political conspiracies modeled after Brutus’ act and explores how those conspiracies, in turn, formed the basis for the theme’s recurrence in Italian, French, and English theatre of the period.
What is “Europe,” and when did it come to be? In the Renaissance, the term “Europe” circulated widely. But as Katharina N. Piechocki argues in this compelling book, the continent itself was only in the making in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Cartographic Humanism sheds new light on how humanists negotiated and defined Europe’s boundaries at a momentous shift in the continent’s formation: when a new imagining of Europe was driven by the rise of cartography. As Piechocki shows, this tool of geography, philosophy, and philology was used not only to represent but, more importantly, also to shape and promote an image of Europe quite unparalleled in previous centuries. Engaging with poets, historians, and mapmakers, Piechocki resists an easy categorization of the continent, scrutinizing Europe as an unexamined category that demands a much more careful and nuanced investigation than scholars of early modernity have hitherto undertaken. Unprecedented in its geographic scope, Cartographic Humanism is the first book to chart new itineraries across Europe as it brings France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Portugal into a lively, interdisciplinary dialogue.
Renaissance writer Laura Cereta (1469–1499) presents feminist issues in a predominantly male venue—the humanist autobiography in the form of personal letters. Cereta's works circulated widely in Italy during the early modern era, but her complete letters have never before been published in English. In her public lectures and essays, Cereta explores the history of women's contributions to the intellectual and political life of Europe. She argues against the slavery of women in marriage and for the rights of women to higher education, the same issues that have occupied feminist thinkers of later centuries.
Yet these letters also furnish a detailed portrait of an early modern woman’s private experience, for Cereta addressed many letters to a close circle of family and friends, discussing highly personal concerns such as her difficult relationships with her mother and her husband. Taken together, these letters are a testament both to an individual woman and to enduring feminist concerns.
Feeling Faint is a book about human consciousness in its most basic sense: the awareness, at any given moment, that we live and feel. Such awareness, it argues, is distinct from the categories of selfhood to which it is often assimilated, and can only be uncovered at the margins of first-person experience. What would it mean to be conscious without being a first person—to be conscious in the absence of a self?
Such a phenomenon, subsequently obscured by the Enlightenment identification of consciousness and personal identity, is what we discover in scenes of swooning from the Renaissance: consciousness without self, consciousness reconceived as what Fredric Jameson calls "a registering apparatus for transformed states of being." Where the early modern period has often been seen in terms of the rise of self-aware subjectivity, Feeling Faint argues that swoons, faints, and trances allow us to conceive of Renaissance subjectivity in a different guise: as the capacity of the senses and passions to experience, regulate, and respond to their own activity without the intervention of first-person awareness.
In readings of Renaissance authors ranging from Montaigne to Shakespeare, Pertile shows how self-loss affords embodied consciousness an experience of itself in a moment of intimate vitality which precedes awareness of specific objects or thoughts—an experience with which we are all familiar, and yet which is tantalizingly difficult to pin down.
Epic poets of the Renaissance looked to emulate the poems of Greco-Roman antiquity, but doing so presented a dilemma: what to do about the gods? Divine intervention plays a major part in the epics of Homer and Virgil—indeed, quarrels within the family of Olympian gods are essential to the narrative structure of those poems—yet poets of the Renaissance recognized that the cantankerous Olympians could not be imitated too closely. The divine action of their classical models had to be transformed to accord with contemporary tastes and Christian belief.
From Many Gods to One offers the first comparative study of poetic approaches to the problem of epic divine action. Through readings of Petrarch, Vida, Ariosto, Tasso, and Milton, Tobias Gregorydescribes the narrative and ideological consequences of the epic’s turn from pagan to Christian. Drawing on scholarship in several disciplines—religious studies, classics, history, and philosophy, as well as literature—From Many Gods to One sheds new light on two subjects of enduring importance in Renaissance studies: the precarious balance between classical literary models and Christian religious norms and the role of religion in drawing lines between allies and others.
Half Humankind is the first study to provide modernized and annotated editions of the key documents from the controversy about women in Renaissance England. The selections -- ten treatises debating the merits of womankind and six eulogies and condemnations depicting actual women -- range in style from careful logic and studied eloquence to ribald humor and witty parody. Illuminated by an extensive discussion tying the selections to Renaissance society and traditional literature, this volume is an invaluable resource for scholars and students of literature, history, and women's studies.
Although the Renaissance epic was the principal literary means of representing war in its time, modern readers of the epic often lack a basic understanding of the history of warfare. Michael Murrin here offers the first analysis to bring an understanding of both the history of literature and the history of warfare to the study of the epic.
Analyzing English, Italian, and Iberian epics published between 1483 and 1610, Murrin focuses on particular aspects of warfare (cavalry clashes, old and new style sieges, the tactical use of the gun, naval warfare) and the responses to them by authors from Malory to Milton. Throughout, Murrin traces a parallel development in the art of war and in the epic as it emerged from the romance.
Murrin demonstrates that with new technology and increasing levels of carnage, the practice of war gradually drifted from traditional epic modes. But before changes in warfare completely doomed the tradition in which the epic was rooted, this crisis provoked an unprecedented range of experiment which marks heroic narrative in the late Renaissance and ultimately led to the epic without war.
A much-needed introduction to the neglected subject of warfare in epic literature, this work is an uncommonly wide-ranging exercise in comparative criticism that will appeal to historians and students of literature alike.
Avoiding the male-authored model of competing orations, French and Italian women of the Renaissance framed their dialogues as informal conversations, as letters with friends that in turn became epistles to a wider audience, and even sometimes as dramas. No other study to date has provided thorough, comparative view of these works across French, Italian, and Latin. Smarr's comprehensive treatment relates these writings to classical, medieval, and Renaissance forms of dialogue, and to other genres including drama, lyric exchange, and humanist invective -- as well as to the real conversations in women's lives -- in order to show how women adapted existing models to their own needs and purposes.
Janet Levarie Smarr is Professor of Theatre and Italian Studies at the University of California, San Diego.
You would as well look for blood in a corpse as for the least shred of decency in a man . . .
Without help from their wives, men are just like unlit lamps . . .
Just think of them as an unreliable clock that tells you it’s ten o’clock when it’s in fact barely two . . .
A man without a woman is like a fly without a head . . .
These are but a small selection of the quips bandied about at this lively gathering of women. The broad topic at hand is the relative pros and cons of men, and the cases in point range from pick-up artists to locker-room talk, and from double standards to fragile masculinity.
Yet this dialogue unfolds not among ironically misandrist millenials venting at their local dive bar, but rather among sixteenth-century women—variously married, widowed, single, and betrothed—attending a respectable Venice garden party. Written in the early 1590s by Moderata Fonte, pseudonym of the Renaissance poet and writer Modesta Pozzo, this literary dialogue interrogates men and men’s treatment of women, and explores by contrast the virtues of singledom and female friendship. As the women diverge from their theme—discussing everything from astrology to the curative powers of plants and minerals—a remarkable group portrait of wisdom, wit, and erudition emerges.
A new introduction by translator Virginia Cox and foreword by Dacia Maraini situate The Merits of Women in its historical context, written as it was on the cusp of Shakespeare’s heyday, and straddling the centuries between the feminist works of Christine de Pizan and Mary Wollstonecraft. Elegantly presented for a general audience, this is a must-read for baby feminists and “nasty women” alike, not to mention the perfect subtle gift for any mansplaining friend who needs a refresher on the merits of women . . . and their superiority to men.
Leo Steinberg was one of the most original art historians of the twentieth century, known for taking interpretive risks that challenged the profession by overturning reigning orthodoxies. In essays and lectures ranging from old masters to contemporary art, he combined scholarly erudition with an eloquent prose that illuminated his subject and a credo that privileged the visual evidence of the image over the literature written about it. His writings, sometimes provocative and controversial, remain vital and influential reading.
For half a century, Steinberg delved into Michelangelo’s work, revealing the symbolic structures underlying the artist’s highly charged idiom. This volume of essays and unpublished lectures elucidates many of Michelangelo’s paintings, from frescoes in the Sistine Chapel to the Conversion of St. Paul and the Crucifixion of St. Peter, the artist’s lesser-known works in the Vatican’s Pauline Chapel; also included is a study of the relationship of the Doni Madonna to Leonardo.
Steinberg’s perceptions evolved from long, hard looking. Almost everything he wrote included passages of old-fashioned formal analysis, but always put into the service of interpretation. He understood that Michelangelo’s rendering of figures, as well as their gestures and interrelations, conveys an emblematic significance masquerading under the guise of naturalism. Michelangelo pushed Renaissance naturalism into the furthest reaches of metaphor, using the language of the body to express fundamental Christian tenets once expressible only by poets and preachers.
Michelangelo’s Painting is the second volume in a series that presents Steinberg’s writings, selected and edited by his longtime associate Sheila Schwartz.
Mirabile Dictu covers in six separate chapters the works of Virgil, Dante, Boccaccio, Ariosto, Tasso, and Spenser. Its broad aim is to provide a select cross-section of works in the Middle Ages and Renaissance in order systematically to examine and compare for the first time the marvelous in the light of epic genre, of literary and critical theory (both past and present), and of historically and culturally determined representational practices.
Douglas Biow organizes this volume around the literary topos of the bleeding branch through which a metamorphosed person speaks. In each chapter the author takes this "marvellous event" as his starting point for a broad-ranging comparison of the several poets who employed the image; he also investigates the ways in which a period's notion of "history" underpins its representations of the marvelous. This method offers a controlled yet flexible framework within which to develop readings that engage a multiplicity of theories and approaches.
Mirabile Dictu offers not only an insightful survey of the literary connections among this group of important poets, but also a useful point of departure for scholars and students intrigued by the reuse of epic conventions, by the peculiar role of "marvellous" events in dramatic poetry, and by the later history of classical literature.
Monstrous Kinds is the first book to explore textual representations of disability in the global Renaissance. Elizabeth B. Bearden contends that monstrosity, as a precursor to modern concepts of disability, has much to teach about our tendency to inscribe disability with meaning. Understanding how early modern writers approached disability not only provides more accurate genealogies of disability, but also helps nuance current aesthetic and theoretical disability formulations.
The book analyzes the cultural valences of early modern disability across a broad national and chronological span, attending to the specific bodily, spatial, and aesthetic systems that contributed to early modern literary representations of disability. The cross section of texts (including conduct books and treatises, travel writing and wonder books) is comparative, putting canonical European authors such as Castiglione into dialogue with transatlantic and Anglo-Ottoman literary exchange. Bearden questions grand narratives that convey a progression of disability from supernatural marvel to medical specimen, suggesting that, instead, these categories coexist and intersect.
A gifted poet, a women's rights activist, and an expert on moral and natural philosophy, Lucrezia Marinella (1571-1653) was known throughout Italy as the leading female intellectual of her age. Born into a family of Venetian physicians, she was encouraged to study, and, fortunately, she did not share the fate of many of her female contemporaries, who were forced to join convents or were pressured to marry early. Marinella enjoyed a long literary career, writing mainly religious, epic, and pastoral poetry, and biographies of famous women in both verse and prose.
Marinella's masterpiece, The Nobility and Excellence of Women, and the Defects and Vices of Men was first published in 1600, composed at a furious pace in answer to Giusepe Passi's diatribe about women's alleged defects. This polemic displays Marinella's vast knowledge of the Italian poetic tradition and demonstrates her ability to argue against authors of the misogynist tradition from Boccaccio to Torquato Tasso. Trying to effect real social change, Marinella argued that morally, intellectually, and in many other ways, women are superior to men.
Departing from conventional views of the pastoral genre as an Arcadian escape from urban sophistication, The Pipes of Pan highlights its genesis in the allusive and polemical literary cultures of Alexandria and Rome. Both cities placed great emphasis upon learned invocation and reformulation of poetic models. The pastoral metaphor provided Theocritus and Vergil with tools for representing the contests and confrontations of poets and genres, the exchange of ideas among poets, and poets' reflections on the efficacy of their works.
Pastoral poetry highlights the didactic relationship of older and younger shepherds, whether as rivals or as patron and successor. As such it is an ideal form for young poets' self-representation vis-à-vis their elders, whose work they simultaneously appropriated and transformed, even as the elder poets were represented in the new texts. This influence is reenacted in every generation: Theocritus vs. his Alexandrian forebears, Vergil vs. Theocritus, Calpurnius vs. Vergil, Nemesianus vs. Vergil and Calpurnius, Petrarch vs. Vergil, Boccaccio vs. Petrarch, Spenser vs. Vergil, along with Chaucer and Milton vs. Spenser.
The Pipes of Pan combines multiple strands of contemporary intertextual theory with reception aesthetics and Harold Bloom's theory of intersubjective conflict between generations of poets. It also provides one of the first systematic studies of intertextual and intersubjective dynamics within a whole genre.
This work will be of interest to classicists, students of literary theory, comparative literature, medieval and Renaissance literature, Italian humanism, and English literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. All texts are translated.
Thomas Hubbard is Associate Professor of Classics, University of Texas at Austin.
Looking at more than two hundred Italian medieval and Renaissance mural cycles, Lavin examines—with the aid of computer technology—the "rearranged" chronologies of familiar religious stories found therein.
"Like many masterpieces, Lavin's book builds upon a simple idea . . . it is possible to do a computer analysis of . . . visual narratives. . . . This is the first computer-based study of the visual arts of which I am aware that illustrates how those technologies can utterly transform the study of old master art. An extremely important book, one likely to become the most influential recent study of art of this period, The Place of Narrative is also a beautiful artifact."—David Carrier, Leonardo
"Covering over a millennium and dealing with the whole of Italy, Lavin makes pioneering use of new methodology employing a computer database . . . [and] novel terminology to describe the disposition of scenes of church and chapel walls. . . . We should recognize this as a book of high seriousness which reaches out into new areas and which will fruitfully stimulate much thought on a neglected subject of very considerable significance."—Julian Gardner, Burlington Magazine
We have become used to looking at art from a stance of detachment. In order to be objective, we create a “mental space” between ourselves and the objects of our investigation, separating internal and external worlds. This detachment dates back to the early modern period, when researchers in a wide variety of fields tried to describe material objects as “things in themselves”—things, that is, without the admixture of imagination. Generations of scholars have heralded this shift as the Renaissance “discovery” of the observable world.
In Poetry in a World of Things, Rachel Eisendrath explores how poetry responded to this new detachment by becoming a repository for a more complex experience of the world. The book focuses on ekphrasis, the elaborate literary description of a thing, as a mode of resistance to this new empirical objectivity. Poets like Petrarch, Spenser, Marlowe, and Shakespeare crafted highly artful descriptions that recovered the threatened subjective experience of the material world. In so doing, these poets reflected on the emergence of objectivity itself as a process that was often darker and more painful than otherwise acknowledged. This highly original book reclaims subjectivity as a decidedly poetic and human way of experiencing the material world and, at the same time, makes a case for understanding art objects as fundamentally unlike any other kind of objects.
Whereas previous studies of poverty and early modern theatre have concentrated on England and the criminal rogue, Poverty and Charity in Early Modern Theatre and Performance takes a transnational approach, which reveals a greater range of attitudes and charitable practices regarding the poor than state poor laws and rogue books suggest. Close study of German and Latin beggar catalogues, popular songs performed in Italian piazzas, the Paduan actor-playwright Ruzante, the commedia dell’arte in both Italy and France, and Shakespeare demonstrate how early modern theatre and performance could reveal the gap between official policy and actual practices regarding the poor.
The actor-based theatre and performance traditions examined in this study, which persistently explore felt connections between the itinerant actor and the vagabond beggar, evoke the poor through complex and variegated forms of imagination, thought, and feeling. Early modern theatre does not simply reflect the social ills of hunger, poverty, and degradation, but works them through the forms of poverty, involving displacement, condensation, exaggeration, projection, fictionalization, and marginalization. As the critical mass of medieval charity was put into question, the beggar-almsgiver encounter became more like a performance. But it was not a performance whose script was prewritten as the inevitable exposure of the dissembling beggar. Just as people’s attitudes toward the poor could rapidly change from skepticism to sympathy during famines and times of acute need, fictions of performance such as Edgar’s dazzling impersonation of a mad beggar in Shakespeare’s King Lear could prompt responses of sympathy and even radical calls for economic redistribution.
The Mendoza family was one of Spain's most prominent Renaissance dynasties, and this collection, a groundbreaking overview of two hundred years of Spanish history, provides in-depth portraits of eight of its female members.
These essays explore the lives of powerful women whose lineage gave them status within a patriarchal society designed to keep women from public life. Each of the influential and literary women discussed in this volume handled her status differently, and their concerns were not dissimilar from the concerns of feminists today: the blurring of the personal and the political, public versus private space, language and voice, and property.
Spanning the two centuries between Juana Pimentel, a widow who manipulated the patronage system to her own ends, and Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza, who rejected both convent and marriage in favor of missionary work, Power and Gender in Renaissance Spain reveals a complex society in which women were limited by law, and yet their social status made those laws negotiable.
These women found that their personal agendas had a broad societal impact, challenging the laws of the land and patriarchal assumptions about women's inferiority.
In this fortieth volume of Renaissance Drama, we pause again, not with the idea that we could define, or even describe, what might be, ought to be, or is included in the study of Renaissance drama (or if it is even always or ever the Renaissance, or the drama, that we study). But this does not even seem to have been what moved the first conversations that became "Research Opportunities" and Renaissance Drama. Rather, as they seem to have felt, we want to look at where we are and where our studies might lead us, and we too think we might as well make a beginning. For this issue, the editors invited a number of scholars working on different kinds of Renaissance drama, in a variety of ways and in several languages, to contribute brief essays addressing the state of the field of Renaissance drama, "the field" being convenient shorthand for the practical but productive indefinition under which we carry out our research and publish Renaissance Drama. In particular we asked them to consider these questions:
How and with what effects has the study of Renaissance drama (or early modern performance) changed over the past half-century?
What now is Renaissance drama? What could Renaissance drama become?
What do you see as the most exciting (or least productive) development in the field?
How have other developments in literary studies, performance studies, or other historical periods affected work in the field?
What is missing from work in the field that it would be desirable to include or revive?
Are there strategies you would propose for working through the divisions in the field based on national boundaries, between languages and traditions, or between canonical figures like Shakespeare, Molière, and other kinds of work? What kinds of distinctions do you see in the field? How are they useful or misleading?
What new avenues in the field should open up further? Where should we look now?
What is the most important work being done, or remaining to be done?
In 1345, when Petrarch recovered a lost collection of letters from Cicero to his best friend Atticus, he discovered an intimate Cicero, a man very different from either the well-known orator of the Roman forum or the measured spokesman for the ancient schools of philosophy. It was Petrarch’s encounter with this previously unknown Cicero and his letters that Kathy Eden argues fundamentally changed the way Europeans from the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries were expected to read and write.
The Renaissance Rediscovery of Intimacy explores the way ancient epistolary theory and practice were understood and imitated in the European Renaissance.Eden draws chiefly upon Aristotle, Cicero, and Seneca—but also upon Plato, Demetrius, Quintilian, and many others—to show how the classical genre of the “familiar” letter emerged centuries later in the intimate styles of Petrarch, Erasmus, and Montaigne. Along the way, she reveals how the complex concept of intimacy in the Renaissance—leveraging the legal, affective, and stylistic dimensions of its prehistory in antiquity—pervades the literary production and reception of the period and sets the course for much that is modern in the literature of subsequent centuries. Eden’s important study will interest students and scholars in a number of areas, including classical, Renaissance, and early modern studies; comparative literature; and the history of reading, rhetoric, and writing.
Juxtaposing the insights of feminism with those of marxism, psychoanalysis, and deconstruction, this unique collection creates new common ground for women's studies and Renaissance studies. An outstanding array of scholars—literary critics, art critics, and historians—reexamines the role of women and their relations with men during the Renaissance. In the process, the contributors enrich the emerging languages of and about women, gender, and sexual difference.
Throughout, the essays focus on the structures of Renaissance patriarchy that organized power relations both in the state and in the family. They explore the major conequences of patriarchy for women—their marginalization and lack of identity and power—and the ways in which individual women or groups of women broke, or in some cases deliberately circumvented, the rules that defined them as a secondary sex. Topics covered include representations of women in literature and art, the actual work done by women both inside and outside of the home, and the writings of women themselves. In analyzing the rhetorical strategies that "marginalized" historical and fictional women, these essays counter scholarly and critical traditions that continue to exhibit patriarchal biases.
Who during the Renaissance could have dissented from the values of reason and restraint, patience and humility, rejection of the worldly and the physical? These widely articulated values were part of the inherited Christian tradition and were reinforced by key elements in the Renaissance, especially the revival of Stoicism and Platonism. This book is devoted to those who did dissent from them. Richard Strier reveals that many long-recognized major texts did question the most traditional values and uncovers a Renaissance far more bumptious and affirmative than much recent scholarship has allowed.
The Unrepentant Renaissance counters the prevalent view of the period as dominated by the regulation of bodies and passions, aiming to reclaim the Renaissance as an era happily churning with surprising, worldly, and self-assertive energies. Reviving the perspective of Jacob Burckhardt and Nietzsche, Strier provides fresh and uninhibited readings of texts by Petrarch, More, Shakespeare, Ignatius Loyola, Montaigne, Descartes, and Milton. Strier’s lively argument will stir debate throughout the field of Renaissance studies.
Love poetry dominated European literature during the Renaissance. Its attitudes, conventions, and values appeared not only in courtly settings but also in the transatlantic world, where cultures were being built, power exercised, and policies made. In this major contribution to our understanding of both the Age of Exploration and early modern lyric, Roland Greene argues that love poetry was not simply a reflection of the times but a means of cultural transformation.
European encounters with the Americas awakened many forms of desire, which pervaded the writings of explorers like Columbus and his contemporaries. These experiences in turn shaped colonial society in Brazil, Peru, and elsewhere. The New World, while it could be explored, conquered, and exploited, could never really be "known"—leaving Europe's desire continually unrequited and the project of empire unfulfilled.
Using numerous poetic examples and extensive historical documentation, Unrequited Conquests rewrites the relations between the Renaissance and colonial Latin America and between poetry and history.
Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, a brilliant historian of the Annales school, skillfully uncovers the lives of ordinary Italians of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Tuscans in particular, young and old, rich, middle-class, and poor. From the extraordinarily detailed records kept by Florentine tax collectors and the equally precise ricordanze (household accounts with notations of events great and small), Klapisch-Zuber draws a living picture of the Tuscan household. We learn, for example, how children were named, how wet nurses were engaged, how marriages were negotiated and celebrated. A wealth of other sources are tapped—including city statutes, private letters, philosophical works on marriage, paintings—to determine the social status of women. Klapisch-Zuber reveals how women, in their roles as daughters, wives, sisters, and mothers, were largely subject to a family system that needed them but valued them little.
Women of the Renaissance
Margaret L. King University of Chicago Press, 1991 Library of Congress HQ1148.K56 1991 | Dewey Decimal 305.4094
In this informative and lively volume, Margaret L. King synthesizes a large body of literature on the condition of western European women in the Renaissance centuries (1350-1650), crafting a much-needed and unified overview of women's experience in Renaissance society.
Utilizing the perspectives of social, church, and intellectual history, King looks at women of all classes, in both usual and unusual settings. She first describes the familial roles filled by most women of the day—as mothers, daughters, wives, widows, and workers. She turns then to that significant fraction of women in, and acted upon, by the church: nuns, uncloistered holy women, saints, heretics, reformers,and witches, devoting special attention to the social and economic independence monastic life afforded them. The lives of exceptional women, those warriors, queens, patronesses, scholars, and visionaries who found some other place in society for their energies and strivings, are explored, with consideration given to the works and writings of those first protesting female subordination: the French Christine de Pizan, the Italian Modesta da Pozzo, the English Mary Astell.
Of interest to students of European history and women's studies, King's volume will also appeal to general readers seeking an informative, engaging entrance into the Renaissance period.
Gender equality and the responsibility of husbands and fathers: issues that loom large today had currency in Renaissance Venice as well, as evidenced by the publication in 1600 of The Worth of Women by Moderata Fonte.
Moderata Fonte was the pseudonym of Modesta Pozzo (1555–92), a Venetian woman who was something of an anomaly. Neither cloistered in a convent nor as liberated from prevailing codes of decorum as a courtesan might be, Pozzo was a respectable, married mother who produced literature in genres that were commonly considered "masculine"—the chivalric romance and the literary dialogue. This work takes the form of the latter, with Fonte creating a conversation among seven Venetian noblewomen. The dialogue explores nearly every aspect of women's experience in both theoretical and practical terms. These women, who differ in age and experience, take as their broad theme men's curious hostility toward women and possible cures for it.
Through this witty and ambitious work, Fonte seeks to elevate women's status to that of men, arguing that women have the same innate abilities as men and, when similarly educated, prove their equals. Through this dialogue, Fonte provides a picture of the private and public lives of Renaissance women, ruminating on their roles in the home, in society, and in the arts.
A fine example of Renaissance vernacular literature, this book is also a testament to the enduring issues that women face, including the attempt to reconcile femininity with ambition.