Book Cover

Arms and the Woman

Classical Tradition and Women Writers in the Venetian Renaissance

Francesca D'Alessandro Behr

6 x 9, 292 pp.

Pub Date: May, 2018

Subjects: Classics
Gender and Sexuality
Medieval Studies

Series: Classical Memories/Modern Identities

Order Hardcover $89.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-1371-1
Order Paperback $34.95   ISBN 978-0-8142-5477-6
Order PDF ebook$29.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-7628-0

“Francesca D’Alessandro Behr brilliantly contributes to the scholarship on Italian Renaissance [epics].…This book launches a new season for Italian gender and renaissance studies, with regard to women’s representation of and through violence and war, a season firmly rooted in the previous scholarship (e.g. Cox, Stoppino, Finucci, Ross), but one that contributes with both innovative thoughts and methodologies, and texts and figures that are still mostly understudied.” —Lucia Gemmani, gender/sexuality/italy

Arms and the Woman is a very worthwhile addition to the literature on Fonte’s and Marinella’s epic poems, one that attests to their importance and to the significance of reception theory. It reveals the long-lasting impact of classical antiquity, and it casts crucial light on early modern texts.” —Maria Galli Stampino, author of Staging the Pastoral: Tasso’s Aminta and the Emergence of Modern Western Theater

Arms and the Woman: Classical Tradition and Women Writers in the Venetian Renaissance by Francesca D’Alessandro Behr focuses on the classical reception in the works of female authors active in Venice during the Early Modern Age. Even in this relatively liberal city, women had restricted access to education and were subject to deep-seated cultural prejudices, but those who read and wrote were able, in part, to overcome those limitations.

In this study, Behr explores the work of Moderata Fonte and Lucrezia Marinella and demonstrates how they used knowledge of texts by Virgil, Ovid, and Aristotle to systematically reanalyze the biased patterns apparent both in the romance epic genre and contemporary society. Whereas these classical texts were normally used to bolster the belief in female inferiority and the status quo, Fonte and Marinella used them to envision societies structured according to new, egalitarian ethics. Reflecting on the humanist representation of virtue, Fonte and Marinella insisted on the importance of peace, mercy, and education for women. These authors took up the theme of the equality of genders and participated in the Renaissance querelle des femmes, promoting women’s capabilities and nature.

Francesca D’Alessandro Behr is Associate Professor of Classics and Italian Studies at the University of Houston and author of Feeling History: Lucan, Stoicism, and the Poetics of Passion (OSU Press, 2007).



Part I  Female Fighters: On Women, War, and Pietas

Chapter 1       Lady Knights and Pietas

Chapter 2       Women and Compassion

Part II Lovers at War: Virgil, Ovid, and Resistance

Chapter 3       Epic and Elegy

Chapter 4       Love and Lamentation

Part III            Women in the Garden: Enchantresses Erina and Circetta

Chapter 5       Ancient and Modern Prototypes

Chapter 6       Away from the City

Chapter 7       Fonte’s Enchantress and Beyond



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