The Invention of the Renaissance Woman: The Challenge of Female Independence in the Literature and Thought of Italy and England / Edition 1

The Invention of the Renaissance Woman: The Challenge of Female Independence in the Literature and Thought of Italy and England / Edition 1

by Pamela J. Benson
     
 

During the Renaissance the nature of womankind was a major topic of debate. Numerous dialogues, defenses, paradoxes, and tributes devoted to sustaining woman's excellence were published, and in them history was rewritten to include the achievements of womankind. Often these texts demonstrate that women are capable of acting with prudence, temperance, fortitude, and

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Overview

During the Renaissance the nature of womankind was a major topic of debate. Numerous dialogues, defenses, paradoxes, and tributes devoted to sustaining woman's excellence were published, and in them history was rewritten to include the achievements of womankind. Often these texts demonstrate that women are capable of acting with prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice, and thus are capable of being independent of male political and moral authority. Pamela Benson argues that the writers use literary means (genre, characterization, narrator, paradox, plot) to defeat the political challenge posed by female independence and to restrain women within a traditional role. The Invention of the Renaissance Woman is a study of the literary strategies used both to create the notion of the independent woman and to restrain her.

Traditionally, the profeminism of most of these texts has not been taken seriously because their playful or extreme styles have been read as a sign that they were nothing but a game. Benson demonstrates that the flamboyant and frequently paradoxical style of these texts is the key to their successful profeminism. She defines the literary and conceptual differences between the Italian and English traditions and argues that two of the greatest literary works of the Renaissance, the Orlando furioso and The Faerie Queene, are major texts in the tradition of defense and praise of women.

The Inventions of the Renaissance Women is the first substantial contextual discussion of the majority of the Italian texts and many of the English ones. Benson uses the insights of feminist theory and of cultural studies without subordinating the Renaissance texts to a modern political agenda. Among the authors discussed are Spenser, Boccaccio, Ariosto, Castiglione, Vespasiano da Bisticci, Thomas More, Thomas Elyot, Juan Luis Vives, Richard Hyrde, Jane Anger, and Henry Howard.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780271008141
Publisher:
Penn State University Press
Publication date:
07/28/1992
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.84(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction1
1Boccaccio's De mulieribus claris: An Ambiguous Beginning9
2From Praise to Paradox: The First Italian Defenses of Women33
3The Literary Containment of the Independent Woman: Capella and Castiglione65
4The Debate about Woman in the Orlando furioso91
5Praise and Limitation of the Independent Woman in the Orlando furioso123
6The New Ideal in England: Thomas More, Juan Luis Vives, and Richard Hyrde157
7Virtue and Politics in Sir Thomas Elyot's The Defence of Good Women183
8The Popular Controversy in England205
9The Defense of Female Regiment: Practical Politics231
10Praise and Defense of Woman in The Faerie Queene251
11Praise and Defense of the Queen in The Faerie Queene281
Works Cited307
Index319

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