New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies
Choosing Battles? Women's War Poetry in Renaissance Italy: Olivia E. Sears 79
Choosing Battles? Women's War Poetry in Renaissance Italy Olivia E. Sears The war poetry of Renaissance Italy has more to recount than mere tales of glory and patriotism that demonstrate the renewed popularity of martial literature among humanists or the prevalence of military propaganda in the Cinquecento. Discussions of war inevitably invoke societal values and ideologies of war and gender. In an anthology of women poets published in 1726, 1 one finds close to fifty Italian women poets who addressed the topic of war in their poetry. Written between the years 1500 and 1650, these poems often provide a new angle on the cultural context of the Renaissance poet as well as the perspectives of some women on war. Focusing a discussion on women's poetry invites us, as Elaine Showalter has theo- rized, "to plot the precise cultural locus of female literary identity and to describe the forces that intersect an individual woman writer's cultural field. "2 Such an analysis of women's war poetry and its context can in turn serve to clarify not only the ideologies specific to the Renaissance but also those structures common to the genres of war literature and love lyric. Traditional gender ideology constitutes a crucial organizing principle in the war system. 3 The story goes that men depart for battle to fight for their honor and glory and to protect what they leave at home. Women preserve the fabric of their home life, what is left behind, what requires male protection. They weave and...
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