We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Women's Writing in Italy, 1400–1650

Virginia Cox

Publication Year: 2008

This is the first comprehensive study of the remarkably rich tradition of women’s writing that flourished in Italy between the fifteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Virginia Cox documents this tradition and both explains its character and scope and offers a new hypothesis on the reasons for its emergence and decline. Cox combines fresh scholarship with a revisionist argument that overturns existing historical paradigms for the chronology of early modern Italian women’s writing and questions the historiographical commonplace that the tradition was brought to an end by the Counter Reformation. Using a comparative analysis of women's activities as artists, musicians, composers, and actresses, Cox locates women's writing in its broader contexts and considers how gender reflects and reinvents conventional narratives of literary change.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Front Matter

pdf iconDownload PDF (97.3 KB)

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (55.1 KB)
pp. ix-x

This book pulls together the findings and musings of almost twenty years of teaching and researching the literary history of women’s writing in Italy. My intellectual debts are correspondingly vast, and I cannot hope to summarize them adequately here. The field has expanded and developed beyond measure since I first started to interest myself in it in the late 1980s. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (133.3 KB)
pp. xi-xviii

Did women have a renaissance? In the three decades since Joan Kelly posed this question in her now classic essay of that title, an immense volume of work has been devoted to examining the position of women in the cultural era to which the slippery but convenient chronological label of “Renaissance” still clings.1 This recent work has added vastly to our knowledge of...

read more

Chapter One. Origins: (1400‒1500)

pdf iconDownload PDF (221.4 KB)
pp. 1-36

The bulk of the present volume is occupied with a “long sixteenth century,” comprising the years from around 1490 to1610: the effective life cycle of the tradition of vernacular women’s writing that forms the main subject of the book. This tradition cannot, however, be studied adequately without a consideration of the century or so prior to its inception. It was ...

read more

Chapter Two. Translation: (1490‒1550)

pdf iconDownload PDF (251.1 KB)
pp. 37-79

As chapter 1 documents, the fifteenth century was crucial for the emergence of the figure of the secular female intellectual in Italy: barely visible at the beginning of the century, by its end she was an established, if still exotic, cultural type. The diffusion of exemplary discourses on “famous women” in Latin and the vernacular had familiarized at least the literate ...

read more

Chapter Three. Diffusion: (1540‒1560)

pdf iconDownload PDF (253.6 KB)
pp. 80-120

Out with the old, in with the new. Only months after the Florentine Academy had assembled to take leave of Colonna, the first secular poetic collection by a woman other than Colonna to be published was brought out by Gabriele Giolito in Venice, under the title of Rime della Signora Tullia diAragona et di diversi a lei (1547). The author, the famed courtesan Tullia ...

read more

Chapter Four. Intermezzo: (1560‒1580)

pdf iconDownload PDF (101.6 KB)
pp. 121-130

One ofthe most interesting and original of mid-sixteenth-century Italian women writers, mentioned briefly toward the end of the last chapter, was the Paduan Giulia Bigolina, author of a romance, Urania, and a novella collection seemingly of quite considerable ambition and scale. Bigolina’s work anticipates women’s writing in the later Cinquecento in its experi-...

read more

Chapter Five. Affirmation: (1580‒1620)

pdf iconDownload PDF (228.4 KB)
pp. 131-165

The phase in the history of early modern Italian women’s writing that we are moving on to consider in the present chapter is in many ways the most remarkable of all those examined in this study. In the twenty-three years between 1538 and 1560, twenty new works authored by women were published in Italy, thirteen of which were collections of lyric and occasional ...

read more

Chapter Six. Backlash: (1590‒1650)

pdf iconDownload PDF (340.4 KB)
pp. 166-227

In 1593, in Bergamo, Muzio Manfredi, whom we encountered in the last chapter as a poet, academician, and professional flatterer of “the ladies,” published what must probably be considered his most ambitious and serious work, the tragedy Semiramis.1 The play had been written some years earlier and had attained a degree of fame as one of the plays short-listed ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (88.5 KB)
pp. 228-234

Looking back over this volume’s examination of women’s literary contribution during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Italy, it is hard not to be struck by the uncanny likeness between the social profile of the most representative and successful women writers in a given period and the type of the poetic donnato whom male writers of the time most characteristi-...

Appendix A. Published Writings By Italian Women, Fifteenth to Seventeenth Centuries

pdf iconDownload PDF (93.0 KB)
pp. 235-246

Appendix B. Dedications of Published Works By Women

pdf iconDownload PDF (82.6 KB)
pp. 247-254


pdf iconDownload PDF (618.4 KB)
pp. 255-376


pdf iconDownload PDF (340.5 KB)
pp. 377-446


pdf iconDownload PDF (2.0 MB)
pp. 447-464

E-ISBN-13: 9780801895432
E-ISBN-10: 080189543X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801888199
Print-ISBN-10: 0801888190

Page Count: 496
Publication Year: 2008