Feminism and Renaissance Studies

Feminism and Renaissance Studies

Feminism and Renaissance Studies

Feminism and Renaissance Studies

Synopsis

This collection brings together seventeen essays by well-known feminist scholars across the disciplines that make up Renaissance Studies. It forms an accessible introduction to the ways in which feminism has replaced the universal, abstract 'Renaissance Man' of traditional scholarship with strategies for the analysis of the conceptual work of gender in the formation of European modernity.

Excerpt

'Women', wrote Jacob Burckhardt in 1860, 'stood on a footing of perfect equality with men' in the culture of the Italian Renaissance. There was, he went on to claim, 'no question of “woman's rights” or female emancipation, simply because the thing itself was a matter of course…. the same intellectual and emotional development which perfected the man was demanded for the perfection of the woman.' in 1928 Virginia Woolf, writing of the English Renaissance (the age of Shakespeare), expressed a rather different view of its relation to the emancipation of women. 'Woman' in Shakespeare's age, Woolf wrote, 'pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history…. Some of the most inspired words, some of the most profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read, could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband.' This 'queer, composite being' of poetry and social history expresses all the contradictions in the idea of 'Feminism and Renaissance Studies'. For the 'Renaissance' is not so much a historical period—after all, Burckhardt is talking about Italy from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, Woolf about England in the sixteenth and seventeenth—as it is a statement of belief in the civilizing power of certain forms of culture, specifically literature and the fine arts. Yet, as Woolf says, 'in real life' the women who were so full of wit and genius in Shakespeare's plays could scarcely read and write. So how are we to work out the relationship between the poetry and the reality, how are we to judge what women were capable of? the answer Woolf gave lay outside the province of 'Renaissance Studies' as conceived by Burckhardt and his followers. What she called for was more social history:

What one wants, I thought—and why does not some brilliant student at
Newnham or Girton supply it?—is a mass of information; at what age did she
marry; how many children had she as a rule; what was her house like; had she . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.