Arms and the Woman: Classical Tradition and Women Writers in the Venetian Renaissance by Francesca D’Alessandro Behr focuses on the classical reception in the works of female authors active in Venice during the Early Modern Age. Even in this relatively liberal city, women had restricted access to education and were subject to deep-seated cultural prejudices, but those who read and wrote were able, in part, to overcome those limitations.
In this study, Behr explores the work of Moderata Fonte and Lucrezia Marinella and demonstrates how they used knowledge of texts by Virgil, Ovid, and Aristotle to systematically reanalyze the biased patterns apparent both in the romance epic genre and contemporary society. Whereas these classical texts were normally used to bolster the belief in female inferiority and the status quo, Fonte and Marinella used them to envision societies structured according to new, egalitarian ethics. Reflecting on the humanist representation of virtue, Fonte and Marinella insisted on the importance of peace, mercy, and education for women. These authors took up the theme of the equality of genders and participated in the Renaissance querelle des femmes, promoting women’s capabilities and nature.
In the first contemporary single-volume survey of the three arts of Venice—painting, sculpture, and architecture—Norbert Huse and Wolfgang Wolters offer an important counterbalance to the traditional orientation toward painting as the city's preeminent art by focusing on architecture as the essential Venetian art. They begin their study in 1460, when Venice was one of the key powers of Italy, and end with the death of Tintoretto in 1594, a period of waning international power. In the process, they define the distinctly Venetian terms by which the city and its culture should be understood. With over three hundred illustrations and an exhaustive bibliography, this volume makes an impressive contribution to art historical scholarship.
"The historical aspect of this book is splendid, but where it excels is in its fearless and thought-provoking critical judgements. . . . it will lead both beginners and experts to new joys."—David Ekserdjian, Times Literary Supplement
Charged by the Venetian Inquisition with the conscious and cynical feigning of holiness, Cecelia Ferrazzi (1609-1684) requested and obtained the unprecedented opportunity to defend herself through a presentation of her life story. Ferrazzi's unique inquisitorial autobiography and the transcripts of her preceding testimony, expertly transcribed and eloquently translated into English, allow us to enter an unfamiliar sector of the past and hear 'another voice'—that of a humble Venetian woman who had extraordinary experiences and exhibited exceptional courage.
Born in 1609 into an artisan family, Cecilia Ferrazzi wanted to become a nun. When her parents' death in the plague of 1630 made it financially impossible for her to enter the convent, she refused to marry and as a single laywoman set out in pursuit of holiness. Eventually she improvised a vocation: running houses of refuge for "girls in danger," young women at risk of being lured into prostitution.
Ferrazzi's frequent visions persuaded her, as well as some clerics and acquaintances among the Venetian elite, that she was on the right track. The socially valuable service she was providing enhanced this impresssion. Not everyone, however, was convinced that she was a genuine favorite of God. In 1664 she was denounced to the Inquisition.
The Inquisition convicted Ferrazzi of the pretense of sanctity. Yet her autobiographical act permits us to see in vivid detail both the opportunities and the obstacles presented to seventeenth-century women.
In Blood Relations, Janet Adelman confronts her resistance to The Merchant of Venice as both a critic and a Jew. With her distinctive psychological acumen, she argues that Shakespeare’s play frames the uneasy relationship between Christian and Jew specifically in familial terms in order to recapitulate the vexed familial relationship between Christianity and Judaism.
Adelman locates the promise—or threat—of Jewish conversion as a particular site of tension in the play. Drawing on a variety of cultural materials, she demonstrates that, despite the triumph of its Christians, The Merchant of Venice reflects Christian anxiety and guilt about its simultaneous dependence on and disavowal of Judaism. In this startling psycho-theological analysis, both the insistence that Shylock’s daughter Jessica remain racially bound to her father after her conversion and the depiction of Shylock as a bloody-minded monster are understood as antidotes to Christian uneasiness about a Judaism it can neither own nor disown.
In taking seriously the religious discourse of The Merchant of Venice, Adelman offers in Blood Relations an indispensable book on the play and on the fascinating question of Jews and Judaism in Renaissance England and beyond.
In late sixteenth-century Venice, nearly 60 percent of all patrician women joined convents, and only a minority of these women did so voluntarily. In trying to explain why unprecedented numbers of patrician women did not marry, historians have claimed that dowries became too expensive. However, Jutta Gisela Sperling debunks this myth and argues that the rise of forced vocations happened within the context of aristocratic culture and society.
Sperling explains how women were not allowed to marry beneath their social status while men could, especially if their brides were wealthy. Faced with a shortage of suitable partners, patrician women were forced to offer themselves as "a gift not only to God, but to their fatherland," as Patriarch Giovanni Tiepolo told the Senate of Venice in 1619. Noting the declining birth rate among patrician women, Sperling explores the paradox of a marriage system that preserved the nobility at the price of its physical extinction. And on a more individual level, she tells the fascinating stories of these women. Some became scholars or advocates of women's rights, some took lovers, and others escaped only to survive as servants, prostitutes, or thieves.
Margaret King shows what the death of a little boy named Valerio Marcello over five hundred years ago can tell us about his time.
This child, scion of a family of power and privilege at Venice's time of greatness, left his father in a state of despair so profound and so public that it occasioned an outpouring of consoling letters, orations, treatises, and poems. In these documents, we find a firsthand account, richly colored by humanist conventions and expectations, of the life of the fifteenth-century boy, the passionate devotion of his father, the feelings of his brothers and sisters, the striking absence of his mother. The father's story is here as well: the career of a Venetian nobleman and scholar, patron and soldier, a participant in Venice's struggle for dominion in the north of Italy.
Through these sources also King traces the cultural trends that made Marcello's century famous. Her work enlarges our view of the literature of consolation, which had a distinctive tradition in Venice, and shifting attitudes toward death from the late Middle Ages onward.
For the depth and acuity of its insights into political, cultural, and private life in fifteenth-century Venice, this book will be essential reading for students of the Renaissance. For the grace and drama of its storytelling, it will be savored by anyone who wishes to look into life and death in a palace, and a city, long ago.
Sarah Gwyneth Ross Harvard University Press, 2016 Library of Congress CB361.R67 2016 | Dewey Decimal 940.21
Revealing an Italian Renaissance beyond Michelangelo and the Medici, Sarah Gwyneth Ross recovers the experiences of everyday people who were inspired to pursue humanistic learning. Physicians were often the most avid professionals seeking to earn the respect of their betters, advance their families, and secure honorable remembrance after death.
Form-fitting dresses, silk veils, earrings, furs, high-heeled shoes, make up, and dyed, flowing hair. It is difficult for a contemporary person to reconcile these elegant clothes and accessories with the image of cloistered nuns. For many of the some thousand nuns in early modern Venice, however, these fashions were the norm.
Often locked in convents without any religious calling—simply to save their parents the expense of their dowry—these involuntary nuns relied on the symbolic meaning of secular clothes, fabrics, and colors to rebel against the rules and prescriptions of conventual life and to define roles and social status inside monastic society.
Calling upon mountains of archival documents, most of which have never been seen in print, Forbidden Fashions is the first book to focus specifically upon the dress of nuns in Venetian convents and offers new perspective on the intersection of dress and the city’s social and economic history.
It is a winter morning in Venice, in 1622. Muted voices drift through a thin wall next door. Her curiosity aroused, a young woman peers through a crack in the door, only to witness a strange and disturbing sight: a woman and a priest secretly celebrating communion. Troubled by what she sees, she reports the incident at confession. Her revelation leads to the arrest, jailing, and arraignment of the two for heresy before the Venetian Holy Office of the Inquisition.
So begins Fulvio Tomizza's absorbing account of the true story of Maria Janis, a devout peasant woman from the mountains north of Bergamo. Too poor to enter a convent, Maria had set out to serve God by relinquishing the little she had, through renunciation of all food but the bread and wine of communion. Encouraged by the restless village priest Pietro Morali, Maria claimed to have existed in this sanctified state for five years. During this time, she, Morali, and the weaver Pietro Palazzi travel from a little village in the Alps to Rome and then to Venice, where their alleged sacrilege is discovered and they are brought to trial. Both revered as a saint and reviled as a fraud, Maria with her "privilege" inspires and threatens believers within the Church. Combining the historian's precision with the novelist's imagination, Tomizza painstakingly reconstructs her story, crafting a fascinating portrait of sublimated love, ambition, and jealousy.
Heavenly Supper alternates a chronological account of the trial with analyses of each protagonist's life history. Along the way, Tomizza gives voice to the minds and hearts of his characters, allowing them to speak for themselves in their own words. The world he recreates resonates with the fervor of the Counter Reformation when faith and its consequences were rigidly controlled by the Church. As suspenseful as a detective novel, Tomizza's story goes beyond the trial to evoke a panoramic view of seventeenth-century Italian culture.
Letters and Orations
Cassandra Fedele University of Chicago Press, 2000 Library of Congress PA8520.F392A27 2000 | Dewey Decimal 875.04
By the end of the fifteenth century, Cassandra Fedele (1465-1558), a learned middle-class woman of Venice, was arguably the most famous woman writer and scholar in Europe. A cultural icon in her own time, she regularly corresponded with the king of France, lords of Milan and Naples, the Borgia pope Alexander VI, and even maintained a ten-year epistolary exchange with Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain that resulted in an invitation for her to join their court. Fedele's letters reveal the central, mediating role she occupied in a community of scholars otherwise inaccessible to women. Her unique admittance into this community is also highlighted by her presence as the first independent woman writer in Italy to speak publicly and, more importantly, the first to address philosophical, political, and moral issues in her own voice. Her three public orations and almost all of her letters, translated into English, are presented here for the first time.
This omnibus edition brings together Nicholas Woodsworth’s critically acclaimed Mediterranean trilogy into a single volume for the first time, allowing readers to fully appreciate the scope of Woodsworth’s search for a distinctively Mediterranean “cosmopolitanism.” Combining travel narrative, history, and reflection on contemporary lives and cultures, Woodsworth finds an intimacy, a garrulous warmth, and an extraordinary sociability as he travels from Alexandria through Venice and finally installs himself in a former Benedictine monastery in Istanbul overlooking the Golden Horn. Responding to this experience, he argues that the sea should not be seen as an empty space surrounded by Europe, Asia, and Africa, but rather as a single entity, a place from whose coastlines people look inwards over the water to each other—for it has its own cities, its own life, its own way of being.
Decorated with the richest, most beautiful mosaics in the world, the Venetian church of San Marco is quite literally a treasure house of medieval art. The domes and walls of the church, encrusted with stone, glass, and gold, have been recognized, over the centuries, as a glorious historical and artistic record. Peopled with hundreds and figures—Adam and Eve, Noah and his progeny, Isaiah, Christ, Mark, of course, and other holy men and women of Venice—these mosaics create a cosmic panorama. The Mosaic Decoration of San Marco, Venice brings these unrivaled mosaics into breathtaking focus, combining a descriptive history of their creation and repair over the ages with close-up photographs revealing their iconographic detail.
Arcangela Tarabotti University of Chicago Press, 2004 Library of Congress BX4220.I8T3713 2004 | Dewey Decimal 305.42
Sharp-witted and sharp-tongued, Arcangela Tarabotti (1604-52) yearned to be formally educated and enjoy an independent life in Venetian literary circles. But instead, at sixteen, her father forced her into a Benedictine convent. To protest her confinement, Tarabotti composed polemical works exposing the many injustices perpetrated against women of her day.
Paternal Tyranny, the first of these works, is a fiery but carefully argued manifesto against the oppression of women by the Venetian patriarchy. Denouncing key misogynist texts of the era, Tarabotti shows how despicable it was for Venice, a republic that prided itself on its political liberties, to deprive its women of rights accorded even to foreigners. She accuses parents of treating convents as dumping grounds for disabled, illegitimate, or otherwise unwanted daughters. Finally, through compelling feminist readings of the Bible and other religious works, Tarabotti demonstrates that women are clearly men's equals in God's eyes.
An avenging angel who dared to speak out for the rights of women nearly four centuries ago, Arcangela Tarabotti can now finally be heard.
Piazza San Marco
Iain Fenlon, Iain Harvard University Press, 2009 Library of Congress NA9072.V45F46 2009
The Piazza San Marco, one of the most famous and instantly recognizable townscapes in the West, if not the world, has been described as a stage set, as Europe's drawing room, as a painter's canvas. This book traces the changing shape and function of the piazza, from its beginnings in the ninth century to its present day ubiquity in the Venetian, European, as well as global imagination.
William H. McNeill University of Chicago Press, 2009 Library of Congress DG675.6.M23 | Dewey Decimal 945.31
In this magisterial history, National Book Award winner William H. McNeill chronicles the interactions and disputes between Latin Christians and the Orthodox communities of eastern Europe during the period 1081–1797. Concentrating on Venice as the hinge of European history in the late medieval and early modern period, McNeill explores the technological, economic, and political bases of Venetian power and wealth, and the city’s unique status at the frontier between the papal and Orthodox Christian worlds. He pays particular attention to Venetian influence upon southeastern Europe, and from such an angle of vision, the familiar pattern of European history changes shape.
“No other historian would have been capable of writing a book as direct, as well-informed and as little weighed down by purple prose as this one. Or as impartial. McNeill has succeeded admirably.”—Fernand Braudel, Times Literary Supplement
“The book is serious, interesting, occasionally compelling, and always suggestive.”—Stanley Chojnacki, American Historical Review
Nestled between Santa Monica and Marina del Rey, Venice is a Los Angeles community filled with apparent contradictions. There, people of various races and classes live side by side, a population of astounding diversity bound together by geographic proximity. From street to street, and from block to block, million dollar homes stand near housing projects and homeless encampments; and upscale boutiques are just a short walk from the (in)famous Venice Beach where artists and carnival performers practice their crafts opposite cafés and ragtag tourist shops. In Venice: A Contested Bohemia in Los Angeles, Andrew Deener invites the reader on an ethnographic tour of this legendary California beach community and the people who live there.
In writing this book, the ethnographer became an insider; Deener lived as a resident of Venice for close to six years. Here, he brings a scholarly eye to bear on the effects of gentrification, homelessness, segregation, and immigration on this community. Through stories from five different parts of Venice—Oakwood, Rose Avenue, the Boardwalk, the Canals, and Abbot Kinney Boulevard— Deener identifies why Venice maintained its diversity for so long and the social and political factors that threaten it. Drenched in the details of Venice’s transformation, the themes and explanations will resonate far beyond this one city.
Deener reveals that Venice is not a single locale, but a collection of neighborhoods, each with its own identity and conflicts—and he provides a cultural map infinitely more useful than one that merely shows streets and intersections. Deener's Venice appears on these pages fully fleshed out and populated with a stunning array of people. Though the character of any neighborhood is transient, Deener's work is indelible and this book will be studied for years to come by scholars across the social sciences.
Venice from the Ground Up
James H MCGREGOR Harvard University Press, 2006 Library of Congress DG674.2.M44 2006 | Dewey Decimal 945.31
Venice came to life on mudflats at the edge of the habitable world. Protected in a tidal estuary from invaders and Byzantine overlords, the fishermen and traders who settled there crafted a way of life unlike anything the Roman Empire had ever known. In an astonishing feat of narrative history, James H. S. McGregor recreates this world, with its waterways rather than roads and its livelihood harvested from the sea. The narrative follows both a chronological and geographical organization, so that readers can trace the city's evolution by chapter and visitors can explore it by district on foot and by boat.
For the past generation, most historical work on the Italian Renaissance has been devoted to the ways in which city states such as Venice transformed their captured territories into a regional state during the fifteenth century. The territorial state approach de-emphasizes the persistence of communal politics and the communal identities of the subject cities of the new territorial states. Bowd’s study is an important corrective to this argument. Based on extensive archival research in Brescia and Venice, Venice’s Most Loyal City explores the creation of a civic identity based on local politics, religion, and ritual. Communal identity flourished in Brescia in ways that reveal the strength of local autonomy and the limits of state building in the triumphal age for Venice. It is especially sophisticated in the analysis of the treatment of Brescia’s Jews and alleged witches. By employing the most recent methods of historical analysis derived from ritual and religious studies, Bowd manages to return to an older conception of Renaissance Italy that has been eclipsed in recent years.