Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Guest Post by Anna: A Literary Canon of Women Writers, Part Eight: The Sixteenth Century

(Echidne's note: Earlier parts of this series can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 ,part 5, part 6 and part 7.)

Marguerite de Navarre (French: Marguerite d'Angoulême, Marguerite
d'Alençon, or Marguerite de France) (11 April 1492 – 21 December 1549),
also known as Marguerite of Angoulême and Margaret of Navarre, was the
queen consort of King Henry II of Navarre. As an author and a patron
of humanists and reformers, she was an outstanding figure of the French
Renaissance. Samuel Putnam called her "The First Modern Woman".

Marguerite wrote many poems and plays. Her most notable works are a
classic collection of short stories, the Heptameron, and a remarkably
intense religious poem, Miroir de l'âme pécheresse (Mirror of the
Sinful Soul). This poem is a first-person, mystical narrative of the
soul as a yearning woman calling out to Christ as her

Her work was passed to the royal court of England, suggesting that Marguerite had influence on the Protestant Reformation in England. The Heptameron is available in English as "The Heptameron: Margaret, Queen of Navarre ; Translated From the Old French Into English With Eight Original Etchings by Leopold Flameng (1881) by King of Navarre, Queen Marguerite consort of Henry II." The Mirror of the Simple Soul is available in English as "The Mirror of the Sinful Soul: A Prose Translation From the French of a Poem by Queen Margaret of Navarre (1897) by Queen, consort of Henry II, King of Navarre, Marguerite."

Marguerite Briet (c. 1510, Abbeville - after 1552), who wrote under the
pen name Hélisenne de Crenne, was a French novelist, epistolary writer
and translator during the Renaissance. Her three original works are:
Les Angoisses douloureuses qui procèdent d'amours ("The Torments of
Love") (1538), Les Epistres familières et invectives ("Personal and
Invective Letters") (1539), and Le Songe ("The Dream") (1540). She was
also responsible for the first (partial) French prose translation of
Virgil's Aeneid: Les Quatre premiers livres des Eneydes du treselegant
poete Virgile, traduictz de Latin en prose Françoyse (1542).

Hélisenne de Crenne's novel "The Torments of Love" is a unique blending of
sentimental and chivalric elements (at the end of the novel, Athena—who
sees the work in terms of battles and combats—and Venus—who sees the
work in terms of love—fight over the book), humanist scholarship,
orality and eloquence. The work is divided in three books and an
epilogue all told in the first person, and the first person narrations
and the justifications given for the existence of the book are unique
in French literature of the period. Furthermore, the three sections of
the novel are extremely different in tone and genre: the first book is
sentimental (and judgements made by the female narrator about her lover
Guenelic in the first book are modified by his actions in the second
part), the second chivalric; the final epilogue shows both the
influence of Hélisenne's translation of the Aeneid and her interest in
"dream" tales. It is available in English as "The Torments of Love",
from the University Of Minnesota Press.

Tullia d'Aragona (1510–56) was a famous courtesan, renowned more for
her intelligence than her beauty; in fact she was considered quite
plain, but won over many rich and famous men, and became financially
independent, a rare thing for a woman in her day.

Her book "Dialogue on the Infinity of Love", first published in 1547, casts a woman rather than a man as the main arguer on the ethics of love. She argues that sexual drives are fundamentally irrepressible and blameless, challenging the Platonic and religious orthodoxy of her time, which condemned all forms of sensual experience, denied the rationality of women, and relegated femininity to the realm of physicality and sin.

Human beings, she argues, consist of body and soul, sense and intellect, and honorable love must be based on this real nature. This book is available in English as "Dialogue on the Infinity of Love (The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe)", translated by Rinaldina Russell and Bruce Merry.

Louise Labé, (c. 1520 or 1522, Lyon – April 25, 1566, Parcieux), also
identified as La Belle Cordière, (The Beautiful Ropemaker), was a female French poet of the Renaissance, born at Lyon, the daughter of a rich ropemaker, Pierre Charly, and his second wife, Etiennette Roybet.

Thanks to her acclaimed volume of poetry and prose published in France in 1555, Louise Labé remains one of the most important and influential women writers of the Continental Renaissance, best known for her exquisite collection of love sonnets.

Her works are available in English as "Complete Poetry and Prose: A Bilingual Edition (The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe)", translated by Deborah Lesko Baker and Annie Finch. A recent book by a female scholar has argued that the poetry ascribed to her was a feminist creation of a number of French male poets of the Renaissance, but this is highly debated.

Gaspara Stampa (1523?-1554) is one of the finest female poets ever to
write in Italian. Although she was lauded for her singing during her
lifetime, her success and critical reputation as a poet emerged only
after her verse was republished in the early eighteenth century. She
was believed to have been involved in a love affair with Count
Collaltino di Collalto, and it was to him that she eventually dedicated
most of the 311 poems she is known to have written. The relationship
broke off in 1551, apparently resulting from a cooling of the count's
interest, and perhaps in part due to his many voyages out of Venice.
Stampa was devastated.

The first complete translation of Stampa into English, as well as the first modern critical edition of her poems, is available as "The Complete Poems: The 1554 Edition of the 'Rime,' a Bilingual Edition (The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe)", translated by Troy Tower and Jane Tylus.

Modesta Pozzo (1555–92), who used the pen name Moderata Fonte, was a
Venetian woman who produced literature in genres that were commonly
considered "masculine"—the chivalric romance and the literary dialogue.

Her book "The Worth of Women: Wherein Is Clearly Revealed Their
Nobility and Their Superiority to Men" is an imaginary conversation
among seven Venetian noblewomen. The dialogue explores nearly every
aspect of women's experience in both theoretical and practical terms.
These women, who differ in age and experience, take as their broad
theme men's curious hostility toward women and possible cures for it.
In this work, Fonte seeks to elevate women's status to that of men,
arguing that women have the same innate abilities as men and, when
similarly educated, prove their equals.

The book is available in English as "The Worth of Women: Wherein Is Clearly Revealed Their Nobility and Their Superiority to Men (The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe)", translated by Virginia Cox.