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Reviewed by:
  • Urania, A Romance, and: Flori, A Pastoral Drama: A Bilingual Edition
  • Pamela J. Benson
Giulia Bigolina . Urania, A Romance. Ed. and trans. Valeria Finucci. The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2005. xxxiv + 192 pp. index. bibl. $50 (cl), $21 (pbk). ISBN: 0–226–04877–2 (cl), 0–226–04878–0 (pbk).
Maddalena Campiglia . Flori, A Pastoral Drama: A Bilingual Edition. Ed. Virginia Cox and Lisa M. Sampson. Trans. Virginia Cox. The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2004. xxvii + 348 pp. index. append. illus. bibl. $25. ISBN: 0–226–09223–2.

With the publication of Urania, A Romance and Flori, A Pastoral Drama (1588), the Other Voice series has made it possible for English speakers to discover firsthand women's active presence in Italian literary culture during and after the Council of Trent and, as Virginia Cox and Lisa Sampson argue here — and as Cox argues elsewhere — to become convinced of the falsity of the widely-held assumption that Italian women writers' participation in literary culture consisted only of [End Page 139] their intense involvement in the phenomenon of Petrarchism and petered out at midcentury (Cox, "Fiction, 1560-1650," in A History of Women's Writing in Italy, ed. L. Panizza and S. Wood [2000]). But Bigolina's and Campiglia's works are valuable not just as evidence of continued activity per se; they are complex and skillful experiments in adapting the dominant genres of the age to the interests of women, and, as such, will be of great interest not only to specialists in European women's literature but to specialists in Italian literature of the second half of the sixteenth century. The inclusion of the Italian originals of Flori and of Bigolina's novella makes it possible for those with rudimentary Italian to approach the originals, and also makes these rare texts, not yet published in modern Italian editions, available to Italianists.

The editors do an outstanding job of presenting the authors and their texts. Cox and Sampson give a concise and careful account of Campiglia's life and works, Flori's structure and themes, and the play's reception; and, though their own discussion seems definitive, they generously and usefully point out opportunities for further research and critical analysis, so their lead in exploring Campiglia is certain to be followed by others. Throughout, the introduction draws on Cox's extensive knowledge of the history of women writers of the Italian Renaissance to place Campiglia and her Flori in that tradition as well as in the tradition of pastoral in general; anyone unfamiliar with the works of Italian women writers and their place in the period would be well advised to read this introduction, but those who work in the fields of Italian pastoral and of that country's women writers will also benefit enormously from Cox's erudition. The translation itself is delightful. Cox renders Campiglia's verse as prose — a sensible decision, especially given the Italian-English facing-page format: the result is so fluent and sprightly that it makes plausible Cox and Sampson's suggestion that the original play may have been designed for staging and not just for a closet production. My only complaint about the volume is that it does not include the appendix of commendatory poems that was attached to some copies of the original edition. Cox and Sampson's discussion of these poems begins their account of Campiglia's reception, and, given what an essential part of the paratext of Italian Renaissance volumes such laudatory poetry was, the modern reader who wishes to understand Campiglia is missing a crucial piece.

Finucci is the ideal translator of Urania, steeped as she is in the romance after having produced the first-ever Italian edition in 2002. The volume also includes a facing-page version, oddly omitted from the title page, of Bigolina's "Novella of Giulia Camposampiero and Tesibaldo Vitaliani." Finucci's introductory essay, "Giulia Bigolina and Italian Prose Fiction in the Renaissance," offers a condensed version of the results of her thorough research into the difficult records of Bigolina's life and reputation...


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pp. 139-142
Launched on MUSE
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Archived 2009
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