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Women Writers of In Morte Poetry: Negotiating Grief in Renaissance Italy



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Monti, Simone 


This thesis focuses on in morte poetry by Renaissance women writers, examining the cases of Vittoria Colonna, Veronica Gambara, Laura Battiferri, Chiara Matraini, and Francesca Turina. It explores how these women negotiated space and legitimacy for their poetic voices in relation to the previous literary tradition, longstanding cultural representations of female mourning, and individual self-fashioning, but also how they dialogued with and influenced each other, reshaping the in morte genre. After a discussion of the previous scholarship in the Introduction, Chapter 1 opens by tracing a brief history of the debate on the legitimacy of grief within Christian culture and the association between women and inappropriate mourning in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. It then analyses the socio-cultural condition of widows and the regulation of their behaviour in consolation letters and conduct books for women. Lastly, the chapter introduces the case studies and tackles the issue of the relationship between biography and poetry in reading the work of women writers. The following three chapters offer close readings and macro-textual analysis of the work of these women writers in relation to the context previously delineated and male-authored in morte poetry. Chapter 2 examines displays of grief and the discussion of its legitimacy, making use of Fra Remigio de’ Girolami’s categories of maerere, gemere, flere, plorare, plangere, and lugere. Chapter 3 analyses the justification of literary mourning and meta-poetic reflections, pointing out how they are intrinsically connected with both the justification of grief and the issue of its display. Chapter 4 explores the moment when weeping ends, consolation strategies, and spiritual conversion. The Conclusion presents the results of this analysis in relation to the wider perspective of Renaissance women’s writing. It also traces future research avenues to explore further the relationship between grief, gender, and poetry in Renaissance Italy.





Brundin, Abigail


Women's Writing, Italian Renaissance, Mourning, Lyric Poetry, Petrarchism


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge