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The Sword and the Pen

Women, Politics, and Poetry in Sixteenth-Century Siena

Konrad Eisenbichler

Publication Year: 2012

In The Sword and the Pen: Women, Politics, and Poetry in Sixteenth-Century Siena, Konrad Eisenbichler analyzes the work of Sienese women poets, in particular, Aurelia Petrucci, Laudomia Forteguerri, and Virginia Salvi, during the first half of the sixteenth century up to the fall of Siena in 1555. Eisenbichler sets forth a complex and original interpretation of the experiences of these three educated noblewomen and their contributions to contemporary culture in Siena by looking at the emergence of a new lyric tradition and the sonnets they exchanged among themselves and with their male contemporaries. Through the analysis of their poems and various book dedications to them, Eisenbichler reveals the intersection of poetry, politics, and sexuality, as well as the gendered dialogue that characterized Siena's literary environment during the late Renaissance. Eisenbichler also examines other little-known women poets and their relationship to the cultural environment of Siena, underlining the exceptional role of the city of Siena as the most important center of women's writing in the first half of the sixteenth century in Italy, and probably in all of Europe. This innovative contribution to the field of late Renaissance and early modern Italian and women's studies rescues from near oblivion a group of literate women who were celebrated by contemporary scholars but who have been largely ignored today, both because of a dearth of biographical information about them and because of a narrow evaluation of their poetry. Eisenbichler's analysis and reproduction of many of their poems in Italian and modern English translation are an invaluable contribution not only to Italian cultural studies but also to women's studies.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

My expressions of thanks must start in Siena. First and foremost, I wish to thank the staff at the Archivio di Stato di Siena and at the Bi - blioteca degli Intronati di Siena. Everyone at these two wonderful institutions, from their respective directors, Carla Zarrilli and Daniele Danesi, to the reading room personnel, ...

Notes on Texts and Translation

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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. 1-14

In the mid–sixteenth century, as the ancient republic of Siena was coming to an end, torn apart by insoluble internal divisions and by overwhelming external forces, a group of women suddenly appeared on the city’s cultural landscape and began to compose poetry that attracted the attention not only of the local literati but also of prominent writers elsewhere in Italy. ...

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Chapter 1: At Petrarch’s Tomb: The First Bloom of a Short Springtime

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pp. 15-58

The story of women’s poetry in Renaissance Siena begins with a man and a pilgrimage. When Alessandro Piccolomini visited Petrarch’s tomb in August 1540, his journey inspired a number of women to unite virtually with him and enter into a poetic dialogue that stretched across time, space, and the sexes. ...

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Chapter 2: Aurelia Petrucci: Admired and Mourned

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pp. 59-100

Aurelia Petrucci was born in Siena in 1511 and died there in 1542 at just thirty-one years of age.1 Although her life was brief, her renown was not so, at least not among Tuscan writers who praised and remembered her beauty, her charm, and her poetic talent. In her short life, Aurelia enjoyed a number of distinct advantages, ...

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Chapter 3: Laudomia Forteguerri: Constructions of a Woman

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pp. 101-164

One of the most fascinating and possibly controversial women poets of Siena was Laudomia Forteguerri. She was born in 1515 into an old and prestigious Sienese noble family. She married twice, bore three children, composed a number of sonnets, and disappeared from the rec ords around 1555. ...

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Chapter 4: Virginia Martini Salvi: An Indomitable Woman

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pp. 165-214

In previous chapters we met two Sienese women who were both poets and patriots. One was the politically perceptive Aurelia Petrucci, who spoke out against the internecine struggles that were weakening Siena and laying it open to foreign intervention; the other was the determined Laudomia Forteguerri, ...

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Chapter 5: Epilogue

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pp. 215-236

The flowering of women poets in Siena in the mid-sixteenth century is both exceptional and exciting. Certainly other Sienese women, in previous times, had contributed to the intellectual life of the city and, in some cases, Italy—the most famous being Caterina Benincasa, better known as Saint Catherine of Siena (1347– 80), ...

Appendix: Selected Poetry by Sienese Women

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pp. 237-290


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pp. 291-334


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pp. 335-352

Index of First Lines

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pp. 353-356

Index of Names

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pp. 357-371

E-ISBN-13: 9780268078652
E-ISBN-10: 0268078653
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268027766
Print-ISBN-10: 0268027765

Page Count: 400
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 819717310
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Sword and the Pen

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Italian poetry -- 16th century -- History and criticism.
  • Italian poetry -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Women and literature -- Italy -- History -- 16th century.
  • Italian poetry -- Italy -- Siena -- History and criticism.
  • Italy -- Politics and government -- 16th century.
  • Italian poetry -- 16th century.
  • Italian poetry -- Italy -- Siena.
  • Italian poetry -- Translations into English.
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