Creating Women: Representation, Self-Representation, and Agency in the Renaissance

Edited by Manuela Scarci - ES31

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This interdisciplinary and diverse collection of articles stems from a conference that centred on the idea of creating women. The verbal adjective in the title was meant to signal a dual meaning: women create and women are created by others. What did they create? What was their sense of themselves? How were their identities created in the early modern era? The purpose of the articles gathered here is to explore the fashioning of feminine identity, the social and psychological construct of woman in the early modern age, both from their own perspective and that of others. As in the case of most collaborative projects of this nature, the volume is eclectic and spans, across several centuries, the boundaries of disciplines and theoretical approaches, but the essays are bound together by their common search to define paradigms of femininity in the early modern period.

Manuela Scarci teaches in the Department of Italian Studies and the Renaissance Studies Program at the University of Toronto. Her research interests are in the fields of  Italian Renaissance, particularly the short story, Renaissance women writers and the representation of women in the literature of early modern Italy, and pedagogy.

205 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-7727-2146-4 softcover
Published: 2013


“This is an excellent collection of essays. As the subtle double meaning of the adjective ‘creating’ in the title of this volume suggests, these essays explore the multiple ways in which women, whether in royal palaces, convents, patrician mansions, or bourgeois households, shaped and altered the values and discourses of their surroundings.” — Giuseppe Mazzotta, Yale University

“The eleven articles in this volume point to women self-fashioning their identity within the social, cultural, religious, and legal constraints of the country and the century in which they lived. I have nothing but praise for the quality of this work. It will fill a void in numerous studies on the status of women.” — Régine Reynolds-Cornell, Agnes Scott College

“The treat of reading this volume lies in the thorough way each article unearths and analyzes the ideas, choices, works, and voices of certain Renaissance women. The articles illustrate, among other things, the changes these women set in motion through the experiences they negotiated for themselves within the shifting political, religious, and social arenas of their patriarchal societies. […] Altogether, the result is a lively and original volume, full of striking details and offering an immersive, sustained analysis of Renaissance female voices across times and cultures. The topics are, in many cases, under-represented in the genre of Renaissance women’s study.” — Pina Palma, Southern Connecticut State University

Early Modern Women’s Journal, 10:1 (2015). pp. 185-188. Reviewed by Maria Teresa Micaela Prendergast.

Letras Femeninas, 40:2, pp. 254-256. Reviewed by Valencia Tamper.

Parergon, 31:2 (2014), pp. 211-212. Reviewed by Susan Broomhall.

Reformation/Renaissance et Réforme 37, no. 1 (Winter/hiver 2014): 175-177. Reviewed by Pina Palma.


Manuela Scarci, “Introduction”

I. Women and Their Fictions
1. "In Joan of Arc’s Shadow: The Maid of Orleans as Identificatory Model in Some Seventeenth-Century Polemical Texts”, Jean-Philippe Beaulieu
2. “Women’s Voices in the Works of Suzanne de Nervèze”, Diane Desrosiers
3. “Speaking of Women and Giving Voice to Women: The Example of Madeleine and Georges de Scudéry’s Femmes illustres ou les harangues héroïques“, Renée Claude Breitenstein

II. Women and Their Writings
4. “Models for Women in the Letters of Huguenot Noblewomen 1560-1620”, Jane Couchman
5. “Early Modern Englishwomen’s Miserere: Ambitious and Penitent Expression”, Patricia Demers
6. “Female Impressions: Some Women Writers in Seventeenth-Century English Print”, Anne Lake Prescott

III. Women and Their Bodies
7. “Honour and Shame: The Construction of Married Women’s Bodies in Fifteenth-Century Spanish Law”, Dana Wessell Lightfoot
8. “From a Manly Knowledge to a Man’s Helpmeet: Changing Conceptions of Midwives’ Roles in Seventeenth-Century France”, Bridgette Ann Sheridan
9. “The Many Faces of Female Discipline: Gender Control, Subversion, and the Nun-Confessor Relationship in Golden Age Barcelona”, Cristian Berco

IV. Women and Their Agency
10. "The Role of Women in Their Kin’s Economic and Political Life: The Sienese Case (End XIV-Mid XV Century)”, Elena Brizio
11. “The Role of Queen Maria Amalia of Saxony in the Planning of the Royal Palace of Caserta”, Francesco Divenuto