Feminism and Renaissance Studies

By Lorna Hutson | Go to book overview

2 Women Humanists: Education for
What?

LisaJardine

Somewhere between 1443 and 1448 the distinguished teacher Lauro Quirini,1 a former pupil of Guarino Guarini of Verona (1374-1460), addressed a letter of advice to the humanist Isotta Nogarola of Verona.2 He was responding to a request from her brother for guidance on appropriate reading for an advanced student of the studia humanitatis in the technical disciplines of dialectic and philosophy:

Your brother, Leonardo … asked me some time ago if I would write some-
thing to you, seeing that at this time you are devoting extremely zealous study
(as he terms it) to dialectic and philosophy. He was anxious for me to impress
upon you, in most solid and friendly fashion, which masters above all you
ought to follow in these higher disciplines.3

Quirini prefaces his detailed suggestions for study with an elaborately dismissive paragraph in which he is at pains to point out that to the learned humanist with a real command of classical Latin (among whom he numbers Isotta, some of whose writing he has been shown), all study of dialectic and philosophy must appear uncouth and clumsy:

For you, who have been thoroughly instructed in the most polished and excel-
lent art of discourse, and who find that elegance in orating and suavity of
speech come naturally, you are able of your own accord to expect the greatest
perfection in eloquent speech. But we semi-orators and petty philosophers
have most of the time to be content with mean speech—generally inelegant.4

He insists, however, that Isotta Nogarola should not therefore be misled by difficulty for its own sake, even though 'now especially we pursue that philosophy which in no way concerns itself with felicity of expression' (eam enim hoc potissimum tempore philosophiam sequimur, quae nullum sequitur florem orationis).5 Technical scholastic dialectic is to be vigorously avoided:

From Anthony Grafton and Lisa Jardine, From Humanism to the Humanists (Duckworth,
1986), 29-57. © Anthony Grafton and Lisa Jardine. Reprinted with permission

-48-

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Feminism and Renaissance Studies
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Notes on Contributors vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Humanism After Feminism 19
  • 1: Did Women Have a Renaissance? 21
  • 2: Women Humanists 48
  • 3: The Housewife and the Humanists 82
  • 4: The Tenth Muse 106
  • Part II - Historicizing Femininity 125
  • 5: The Notion of Woman in Medicine, Anatomy, and Physiology 127
  • 6: Women on Top 156
  • 7: The 'Cruel Mother' 186
  • 8: Witchcraft and Fantasy in Early Modern Germany 203
  • Part III 231
  • 9: Diana Described 233
  • 10: Literary Fat Ladies and the Generation of the Text 249
  • 11: Margaret Cavendish and the Romance of Contract 286
  • 12: Surprising Fame 317
  • Part IV - Women's Agency 337
  • 13: Women on Top in the Pamphlet Literature of the English Revolution 339
  • 14: La Donnesca Mano 373
  • 15: Guilds, Male Bonding and Women's Work in Early Modern Germany 412
  • 16: Language, Power, and the Law 428
  • 17: Finding a Voice 450
  • Bibliography 468
  • Index 475
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