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Reviews23 1 by the editor of the contradictory implications of the essays rather than the summaries of the introduction could have added gready to the coherence and focus of this substantial yet diffuse collection. University of PittsburghJerome Schwartz Renaissance Feminism: Literary Texts and Political ModeL·, by Constance Jordan; xi & 319 pp. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990, $42.50 cloth, $12.95 paper. Constance Jordan's extensive survey of European Renaissance feminist and misogynist works testifies both to its author's erudition and to the period's obsession with defining "woman." Limiting her scope to works published in the vernacular (including printed translations of manuscripts and of works originally composed in Latin), Jordan presents a vast body of material, including numerous genres and ideological positions. Many titles will be familiar: Vives's De institutionefoeminaeckristianae; Castiglione1's Libro delcortegiano; Rabelais's Tiers Livre; Sidney's Arcadia. Although Jordan's expositions of such works and their roles in the ongoingdebates about women are valuable, her greatestcontribution is the recovery of the many lesser-known texts that participated in those polemics , works thatin manycases have not been edited since the sixteenth century. We learn, for example, ofMario Equicola's Libro di natura d'amore (Venice, 1526), Jehan Du Pré's Pa^ des nobles dames (1530s?), and Edward Gosynhill's Scholehouse of Women (1541). In presenting these more obscure texts, Jordan relates their arguments to those ofthe more familiar defenders or detractors ofwomen. After the admirable archival research that made possible the assembly of these works, deciding on an organizing principle for their presentation was surely not an easy task. In her "Introduction" and first chapter, "The Terms of the Debate," Jordan presents influential voices from the prehistory of Renaissance feminism and misogyny (Aristode, the Bible, Tertullian, Augustine, for example) as well as contemporary voices reflecting the ideologies of late twentieth-century feminism (MacKinnon, Alexander, Offen, Heath, and others ). While I found the historical foundation necessary and helpful, it is still not clear to me how the somewhat scattered references to political theorists of our own feminism are integrated with the rest of the book. Chapter One ends with a discussion of several prominent sources for the later debates: Boccaccio's 232Philosophy and Literature exemplum history of women, De mulieribus claris (c. 1380), Barbara's De re uxoria (1416), Alberti's Libri dellafamiglia (1441), and Erasmus's Colloquies and Institutio matrimonii christiani (1526). Here, as in her later chapters, Jordan oudines the principal arguments of the works, highlighting their presuppositions and questions about the nature and role of women. In her subsequent chapters (2-4): "Woman and Natural Law," "Sex and Gender," and "Equality," Jordan proceeds in more or less chronological order, moving in each case through Italy, France, and England. Her chapter divisions suggestand she argues, albeitbriefly, that the progress ofthe feminist/misogynist polemic from the late fifteenth through the early seventeenth century moved through three roughly designated periods where the arguments focused on the different preoccupations indicated by the chapter titles. The fidelity of the works to that model is not always clear. However, if the organizing principle is not self-evident, the wealth of the material is endlessly revealing and suggestive . Jordan highlights the main questions raised by each work, showing them in dialogue with each other. In each chapter she relates feminist issues to larger questions of political authority. She ends with a somber afterword, examining the reasons why Renaissance defenses of women never succeeded in effecting social change. Future editions of this work could give scholars a better apparatus for retrieving its riches. A chronological bibliography by country would be extremely helpful. Because her extensive footnotes provide a valuable fund of interdisciplinary documentation, I would also appreciate a separate bibliography of secondary material. Constance Jordan's book opens the door to cultural historians and literary critics and invites them to peruse the individual works that she has marshaled together in this vast and rich panorama. University of VirginiaMary B. McKinley Medieval Misogyny and the Invention of Western Romantic Love, by R. Howard Bloch; ix & 298 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991, $45.00 cloth, $17.95 paper. Misogyny is a veritable discourse that spans all genres, aristocratic and bourgeois , in Latin...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 231-232
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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