Advertisement

Female Authority and Authorization Strategies in Early Modern Europe

  • Jane Stevenson
Part of the Early Modern Literature in History book series (EMLH)

Abstract

This essay looks principally at a distinctive group of élite European women: those who write poetry in Latin, the language of authority. Since the world of the humanists was an international one, national boundaries are of less significance to women Latinists than to women writing in vernacular languages. The composition of Latin poetry (particularly in classical metres) is a learned, highly specialized skill, entirely independent of the ability to comprehend or translate Latin texts. Any woman who has left an oeuvre of Latin verse is by definition occupying a space normally regarded by men as entirely their own which is far harder to assess than more familiar ‘feminine’ texts such as letters or translations. These women occupy the same authorial space as educated men, and it is extremely interesting to see the effect of this. Constanza Varano, for example, writes a poem of praise to her fellow woman scholar, Isotta Nogarola of Verona (the birthplace of Catullus), which includes the lines,

O Verona, city most abundant in your fruits,

This girl already attracts more praise than the poet Catullus!1

How could a woman write such a thing about another woman in mid-fifteenth-century Italy? How dared she speak as if Isotta were potentially, herself, an authority?

Keywords

Sixteenth Century British Library Woman Writer Authorization Strategy Latin Verse 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    ‘Constantia Varaneia ad dominam Isotam Nogarolam’, Isotae Nogarolae Veronensis Opera quae supersunt omnia, ed. E. Abel, 2 vols (Vienna: Gerold & Cie, 1886), II, pp. 7–8.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Troilus and Criseyde, II.49, ‘myn auctour shal I folwen, if I konne’, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, ed. F.N. Robinson, 2nd edn (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), p. 402: see also I. 393–4, 11.18.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Joan Kelly, ‘Did Women have a Renaissance?’, in Becoming Visible: Women in European History, ed. Renate Bridenthal and Claudia Koonz (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977), pp. 137–64.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See, for example, Rudolf Pfeiffer, A History of Classical Scholarship from 1300 to 1850 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976); and Ann Moss, Ovid in Renaissance France: A Survey of the Latin editions of Ovid and Commentaries Printed in France before 1600, Warburg Institute Surveys 8 (London: Warburg Institute 1982), p. 1: ‘the humanists of the Renaissance regarded themselves first and foremost as rediscoverers, restorers and interpreters of ancient culture’.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Stuart Piggott, Ruins in a Landscape: Essays in Antiquarianism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1976), pp. 87–8.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Reynolds, L.D. et al., 1983, Texts and Transmission: A Survey of the Latin Classics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), p. 424.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    It is edited with a German translation by H. Fuchs, ‘Das Klagelied der Sulpicia’, Discordia Concors, Festgabe fur Edgar Bonjour, 2 vols (Stuttgart: Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1968), I, pp. 32–47.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    De viris illustribus I.18, ‘femina iccirco inter viros ecclesiasticos posita sola’, Opera Omnia, ed. Faustino Arévalo, 7 vols (Rome, 1797–1803), VII, p. 149. Note that some subliminal unease has caused Isidore to use the phrase viri ecclesiastici rather than patres: I have had to use ‘fathers’ in my English version, since ‘men of the church’ suggests far too loose a significance. Patrica Wilson-Kastner et al., A Lost Tradition: Women Writers of the Early Church (Washington DC: University Press of America, 1981), p. 37.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    There is a text and translation of the complete Greek Anthology in Loeb Classics, trans. W.R. Paton, Harvard University Press, in five volumes. Some of its poems on women were translated by G.R. Woodward, Epigrams on Sappho and Other Famous Greek Lyric Poetesses (privately printed, London, 1931). Greek women poets themselves are translated in Diane Rayor, Sappho’s Lyre: Archaic Lyric and Women Poets of Ancient Greece (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    Alan Cameron, The Greek Anthology: From Meleager to Planudes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), pp. 164, 178.Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    For the early print-history of Sappho’s poems and fragments, see François Rigolot, ‘Louise Labé et la Redécouverte de Sappho’, Nouvelle Revue du Seizième Siècle 1 (1983), pp. 19–31. See also Mary Morrison, ‘Henry Estienne and Sappho’, Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance 24 (1962), pp. 388–91.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    Pfeiffer, A History, p. 104. Joan DeJean has demonstrated conclusively that a number of male writers in sixteenth-century France were excited by this rediscovery of Sappho and made use of her work in a variety of ways. Joan DeJean, Fictions of Sappho, 1546–1937 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), pp. 30–41.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    Hrosvite Illustris Virginis et Monialis Germano Gente Saxonica Orte Opera Nuper à Conrado Celte Inventa. Celtes wrote a poem on Hrotsvitha, which compares her to both Sappho and Proba: Fünf Bücher Epigramme von Konrad Celtes, II.69, ed. K. Hartfelder, S. Calvary (Berlin, 1881), p. 42.Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    Margaret King, ‘Thwarted Ambitions: Six Learned Women of the Italian Renaissance’, Soundings 59 (1976), pp. 276–304; ‘The Religious Retreat of Isotta Nogarola’, Signs 3 (1978), pp. 807–22; ‘Book-Lined Cells: Women and Humanism in the Early Italian Renaissance’, in Beyond their Sex: Learned Women of the European Past, ed. P.H. Labalme (New York: New York University Press, 1980), pp. 66–90.Google Scholar
  15. 19.
    D.M. Robathon, ‘A Fifteenth Century Bluestocking’, Medievalia et Humanistica 2 (1944), pp. 106–11, p. 109. The text is in Isotae Nogarolae Veronensis Opera, I, pp. 42–45.Google Scholar
  16. 22.
    For catalogues of illustrious women, see Ruth Kelso, Doctrine for the Lady of the Renaissance (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1956), pp. 327–424, which lists 891, and for critical discussion, Glenda MacLeod, Virtue and Venom: Catalogs of Women from Antiquity to the Renaissance (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991), and Pamela Joseph Benson, The Invention of the Renaissance Woman: The Challenge of Female Independence in the Literature and Thought of Italy and England (Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  17. 23.
    Olympiae Fulviae Moratae mulieris omnium erudissime Latina et Graeca, quae haberi potuerunt, monumenta, ed. Coelio Secundo Curio (Basel, 1558), pp. 87–92, 95–6. (He was translating from Greek originals into Latin.) S.F. Will, ‘Camille de Morel: a Prodigy of the Renaissance’, PMLA 51 (1936), pp. 83–119, sketches de Morel’s relationship with Utenhove.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 24.
    See R.L. Hawkins, ‘A Letter from One Maiden of the Renaissance to Another’, Modern Language Notes 22.8 (1907), pp. 243–5. For Weston’s relationship with Melissus, see J.W. Binns, Intellectual Culture in Elizabethan and Jacobean England: The Latin writings of the Age (Leeds: Francis Cairns, 1990), p. 111, and the poems scattered through Parthenicon.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 25.
    Nicolas Grudius, Epigrammata, in Ranutius Gherus Delitiae Poetarum Belgicorum, huius superiorisque aevi illustrius, 3 vols (Frankfurt, 1614), II, p. 586.Google Scholar
  20. 27.
    Georgii Buchanani Scoti Poemata quae extent (Amsterdam 1687), pp. 381–2. See also Ian Macfarlane, Buchanan (London: Duckworth, 1981), p. 329.Google Scholar
  21. 28.
    Cecil wrote a memorandum on his wife’s death: ‘since her death [it] is manifestly known to me and confessed by sundry good men (whose names and ministries she secretly used) that she did charge them most strictly that while she lived they should never declare the same to me nor to any other.’ Conyers Read, Lord Burghley and Queen Elizabeth (London: Jonathan Cape, 1960), pp. 446–7.Google Scholar
  22. 29.
    See for example, Ijsewijn, J., Tourney, G., and de Schepper, M., 1985 ‘Jean Dorat and his Tumulus Iani Bryononis’, in Neo-Latin and the Vernacular in Renaissance France, ed. Grahame Castor and Terence Cave (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984), pp. 129–55.Google Scholar
  23. 30.
    Mary Delariviere Manley (ed.), The Nine Muses, or, Poems written by nine Severall Ladies upon the Death of the Late Famous John Dryden, esq. (London, 1700).Google Scholar
  24. 31.
    Charles Utenhove, Epitaphium in Mortem Henrici Gallorum Regis Christianissimi (Paris 1560).Google Scholar
  25. 32.
    Annae, Margaritae, Janae, sororum virginum, heroidum Anglarum, in Mortem Margaritae Valesiae, Navarrorum Reginae, Hecatadistichon, ed. N. Denisot (Paris, 1550).Google Scholar
  26. 33.
    See, for example, John Harington, Orlando Furioso in English Heroical Verse (London, 1591), p. 314.Google Scholar
  27. 34.
    Ecclesiasticus 24.9, and generally 24 and 25. ‘Wisdom’ was not inevitably a feminine figure: to St Paul, St Augustine Wisdom was Christ (as the Logos: ‘Word’). Eugene F. Rice, Jr., The Renaissance Idea of Wisdom (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958), p. 21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 35.
    Caroline Walker Bynum, Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), pp. 234, 244.Google Scholar
  29. 36.
    See Philippa Berry, Of Chastity and Power: Elizabethan Literature and the Unmarried Queen (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 9–37, p. 10. The picture is now in the Louvre, but originally painted for Isabella d’Este, Duchess of Mantua, in 1502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 37.
    Giordano Bruno, Opera Latina, ed F. Fiorentino, 8 vols (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Friedrich Frommann Verlag, 1962), 1.1, p. 13.Google Scholar
  31. 38.
    Joseph L. Blau, The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press Inc., 1965), pp. 15, 46. See also Du Perron’s neo-Platonic ‘discours spirituel’: Frances A. Yates, The French Academies of the Sixteenth Century (London: Routledge, 1988), p. 179.Google Scholar
  32. 39.
    Giovanni Boccaccio, Genealogie deorum gentilium libri, ed. Vincenzo Romano, 2 vols (Bari: Giuseppe Laterza & figli, 1951), I, pp. 72–3, and Rice, The Renaissance Idea of Wisdom, p. 67.Google Scholar
  33. 40.
    Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 252.Google Scholar
  34. 42.
    Claude de Taillemont, Le Discours des champs faez, à l’honneur, et exaltation de l’amour et des dames. Contenant plusieurs chansons, quatrains, dialogues, complaintes, & autre joyeusetez d’amours, (Paris, 1557), discussed in Constance Jordan, Renaissance Feminism: Literary Texts and Political Models (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), p. 189.Google Scholar
  35. 46.
    Lewalski has explored Anne’s construction of resistance. Barbara Lewalski, Writing Women in Jacobean England, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), pp. 15–43, p. 21. On James, see Jonathan Goldberg, James I and the Politics of Literature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983).Google Scholar
  36. 48.
    Aemilia Lanyer, The Poems of Aemilia Lanyer ed. Susanne Woods (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), ‘Potentissimi Principis Friderici Comitis Palatini Rheni, S. Rom. Imp. Electoris Ducis Bavariae &c, et Elizabethae Jacobi, Regis magnae Britanniae, Filiae Epithalamion’, Carminum diversorum libri duo (Strasbourg, 1616), I., sigs. b4r–c2v.Google Scholar
  37. 51.
    For a discussion of this poem, see Susan Bassnett, ‘Revising a Bibliography: A New Interpretation of the Life of Elizabeth Jane Weston (Westonia) Based on her Autobiographical Poem on the Occasion of the Death of her Mother’, Cahiers Elizabethains 37 (1990), pp. 1–9. The only exception to this silence which is known to me is Lady Russell’s verses on the deaths of her daughters composed for their tomb in her family chapel at Bisham, Berks., collected by Elias Ashmole in The Antiquities of Berkshire, 2 vols (London, 1719), II, pp. 470–1.Google Scholar
  38. 55.
    This trope resurfaces in the Renaissance: the impure Sappho is compared with the pure Catherine des Roches in 1582. See Ann Rosalind Jones, ‘Contentious Readings: Urban Humanism and Gender Differences in La Puce de Madame des-Roches (1582)’, Renaissance Quarterly 48 (1995), pp. 109–28. In the next century, Madeleine de Scudéry, who was referred to as ‘Sapho’ by contemporaries, has that name with the rider that she ‘eclipsed [Sappho] with her virtue’: DeJean, Fictions of Sappho, p. 105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 56.
    Howard Jacobson, Ovid’s Heroldes (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974), p. 297. Florence Verducci, Ovid’s Toyshop of the Heart: Epistulae Heroidum (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), p. 137.Google Scholar
  40. 57.
    Caroline Jameson, ‘Ovid in the Sixteenth Century’, Ovid, ed. J.W. Binns (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973), pp. 210–42, esp. pp. 213–14; Moss, Ovid in Renaissance France, p. 1.Google Scholar
  41. 59.
    An attack on Isotta Nogarola includes this appeal to common knowledge: ‘[the saying] of many wise men I hold to be true: that an eloquent woman is never chaste,’ in (Margaret L. King and Albert Rabil, Jr, Her Immaculate Hand: Selected Works by and about the Woman Humanists of the Quattrocento (Binghampton, NY: Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, 1983), p. 18.Google Scholar
  42. 60.
    H.I. Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity (London: Sheed & Ward, 1956), pp. 286–7, 342.Google Scholar
  43. 61.
    In Renaissance Latin, ed. Perosa and Sparrow (London: Duckworth, 1979), pp. 261–4, from the Milan, 1563 and Paris, 1576 editions of Molza’s verse.Google Scholar
  44. 63.
    Victor Thoren, The Lord of Uraniborg: A Biography of Tycho Brahe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 150.Google Scholar
  45. 64.
    Thoren, Lord of Uraniborg, pp. 208, 213, and F.R. Friis, Sofie Brahe Ottesdatter: En biografisk Skildring (Copenhagen: E.C. Gad’s Universiteitsboghandel, 1905), pp. 57–9.Google Scholar
  46. 65.
    [Anonymous], ‘Esterretning om den Iaerde Fru Sophia Brahe, Tyges Søster’, Danske Magazin 3 (1747), pp. 12–32, 43–52, p. 18Google Scholar
  47. 67.
    Peter Zeeberg, ‘Alchemy, Astrology and Ovid: A Love Poem by Tycho Brahe’, Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Hafniensis, International Association for Neo-Latin Studies VIII, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 120, pp. 997–1007. The poem survives in manuscript (discussed below), and was also printed, by Petrus Johannis Resenius, Inscriptiones Hafniensis Latinae Danicae et Germanicae (Hven, 1668), pp. 410–29.Google Scholar
  48. 70.
    Pietro Bembo, Gli Asolani, trans, with intro. Rudolf B. Gottfried (Bloommgton: Indiana University Press, 1954), p. 122. This was written c. 1500.Google Scholar
  49. 71.
    Benson, Invention, pp. 158–9. See also Lee Cullen Khanna, ‘Images of Women in Thomas More’s Poetry’, Quincentennial Essays on St Thomas More, ed. Michael J. Moore (Boone, NC: Albion, 1978), pp. 78–8. The text is printed in Dominici Baudii Amores, ed. Petrus Scriverius (Amsterdam, 1638), pp. 281–88, together with other works on the sort of wife best suited to a man of letters: the anonymous Dissertatio de literati matrimonio speaks warmly in favour of marrying educated women (pp. 371–2).Google Scholar
  50. 73.
    [A.G. Smith], Olympia Morata: Her Times, Life, and Writings, 2nd edn (New York, 1834), p. 241.Google Scholar
  51. 75.
    Catalogue of the State Papers (Foreign Section) of the Reign of Mary, 1553–1558, HMSO, London 1861, p. 549.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane Stevenson

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations