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Talk by Deanna Shemek: “Neither Hope Nor Fear: Isabelle d’Este as Regent”

Thu, February 9, 2012 | ART 1.102

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Two key moments in the public life of the Marchesa of Mantua, Isabella d'Este (1474-1539) illustrate the formidable political challenges Italian noblewomen could face, and the crucial role of written correspondence in Isabella's practices as a governor. From August 1509 to July 1510, Isabella’s consort, the Marchese Francesco II Gonzaga, was held captive by the Venetians. The Marchesa preserved Gonzaga solvency by fixing herself in the city, enlisting key ambassadors, and conducting a vigorous letter campaign to free her husband. This was a successful, if nerve-wracking, strategy. In 1529 Isabella got the chance to rule under ostensibly peaceful circumstances, when she purchased the small court of Solarolo and commenced to govern the town as sole authority. In the case of Solarolo, however, the marchesa governed from afar, using her epistolary network to convey orders to appointed government officers. A central point in this comparison of the two instances will be the different efficacies of letters emanating from a center of power and letters that aim to maintain a distant locus of power by writing to it.

Dr. Deanna Shemek (UC, Santa Cruz) is the author of Ladies Errant: Wayward Women and Social Order in Early Modern Italy (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1998) and the co-editor of Phaethon's Children: The Este Court and its Culture in Early Modern Italy (Tempe: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies (MRTS), 2005) andWriting Relations: American Scholars in Italian Archives (Florence: Olschki, 2008). She is currently completing an edition of Isabella d’Este’s correspondence for the series ‘The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe’ (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies). She is just beginning a project to digitalize Isabella d'Este's correspondence, create a visualization of her social network, and construct a virtual studiolo based on that of Isabella d'Este.

This talk is free and open to the public

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