Queens, Courtesans, Witches and Wives: Women in the Renaissance

History 103B.008

Fall 2006
Instructor (text): 
108 Wheeler
Day & Time: 
F 10-12

Caterina Sforza's castle was under siege, her six children held hostage, and when the enemy threatened to kill her sons, legend has it that from the battlements she raised her skirts declaring: ";Go ahead, I can make more!"; Everyone is familiar with the concept of the ";Renaissance Man"; - individuals like Michelangelo, Da Vinci, or Shakespeare come to mind - but what about the ";Renaissance Woman?"; In what ways were women's lives affected by the dynamic cultural movement which took place in Europe between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries? Who had more freedoms and legal rights, upper class women, or poorer women? Who was happier, the wife or the nun? We will also look at women who created art, music and literature and examine in what ways they participated in the general cultural trends. How was their work defined by their gender, and in what ways did they manage to transcend traditional roles? And finally, what were the consequences for women who transgressed social boundaries? We will look at weird women who were burned as witches, warrior women who led armies, and wanton women who led men by their noses.

There will be approximately 150 pages of (very enjoyable) reading per week and several films to watch. In addition to regular attendance and lively participation, students will be responsible for one 5-8 page paper and a final research paper of 12-15 pages.

The following books are required and there will also be a course reader:

Women of the Renaissance, Margaret King ( ISBN 0-226-43618-7 )
Giovanni and Lusanna: Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence, Gene Brucker ( ISBN 0-520-24495-8 )
Marriage Wars in Late Renaissance Venice, Joanne Ferraro ( ISBN 0-19-514496-1 )
Selected Letters of Alessandra Strozzi, trans. and ed. Heather Gregory ( ISBN 0-520-20390-9 )
Galileoâ€_Äôs Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love, Dava Sobel ( ISBN 0-8027-1343-2 )
Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy, Judith Brown ( ISBN 0-19-504225-5 )

Lisa Kaborycha completed her B.A. in Comparative Literature, M.A. in Italian Studies and Ph.D. in History, all at the University of California, Berkeley. Her areas of specialty are Medieval and Early Modern Europe, with a focus on the social and cultural history of Renaissance Italy. For her dissertation she examined hundreds of fifteenth-century Florentine manuscripts known as zibaldoni, popular anthologies copied by merchants, artisans, housewives, humanists, priests and nuns, in order to uncover attitudes regarding manners, civility, health care, child rearing, marriage and sexuality that often do not appear in traditional sources.