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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2005

E 392M • Did Women Have a Renaissance?

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
33695 TTh
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
PAR 305

Course Description

The myth of the Renaissance as an era of universal enlightenment and progress has been challenged in a variety of ways over the last three decades, but especially as that myth relates to the history of women. Did women actually have a Renaissance, asked the historian Joan Kelly in a seminal essay. She suggests, in fact, that they did not, and that the status of women in Europe began to decline after the medieval period. According to her argument, one need not assume that the rise of humanism, capitalism, and the modern state affected the lives of most women in particularly positive ways, contrary to the assertions of earlier historians. Members of this course will attempt to evaluate in a number of contexts the status of women in early modern Europe. What claims have been made, for example, about the economic and political standing of women at various times and various places during the early modern period? Moreover, to what extent did representations of women in the literature, theology, science, and social theory of the time reflect or determine the historical reality of their situations?

In addition, (and this is new to this course), we will analyze the situations of non-European womeni.e., women in Africa, Asia, and the Americas--during the sixteenth century. It has become increasingly clear to the current generation of early modernists that the apparent great leap forward in sixteenth-century Europe was made possible by colonial and/or slave labor. In this course we will look at the particular contributions of certain groups of non-European women to the new global economies of Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and England. This is a rich and intriguing field of study, and Im excited about adding this dimension to the course.

Participants in the course will avail themselves of a large body of new research as they approach both canonical texts and less well known works. The aims of the course (in addition to those suggested above) are to promote original research in a topical area of Renaissance studies, and also to approach the past and its artifacts with a self-conscious understanding of the methods of inquiry available.


Mary Sidney, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus

Elizabeth Cary, The Tragedy of Mariam

Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World

Veronica Franco, Poems and Selected Letters

Marguerite de Navarre, Heptameron

Teresa of Avila, Life of St. Teresa

Vives, Instruction of a Christian Woman

Kramer and Sprenger, The Malleus maleficarum

Columbus, Diary

Vespucci, Letters from a New World

Raleigh, The discovery of the large, rich, and beautiful empire of Guiana

Leo Africanus, A Geographical History of Africa

Linschoten, Travels of Jan van Linschoten

SECONDARY SOURCES The secondary literature on topics relating to women in the early modern period is vast. I will likely assign four or five books providing overviews of the field(s), and then compile a packet of twenty essays or book chapters.


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