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Who Is Mary?

Three Early Modern Women on the Idea of the Virgin Mary

For women of the Italian Renaissance, the Virgin Mary was one of the most important role models. Who Is Mary? presents devotional works written by three women better known for their secular writings: Vittoria Colonna, famed for her Petrarchan lyric verse; Chiara Matraini, one of the most original poets of her generation; and the wide-ranging, intellectually ambitious polemicist Lucrezia Marinella. At a time when the cult of the Virgin was undergoing a substantial process of redefinition, these texts cast fascinating light on the beliefs  of Catholic women in the Renaissance, and also, in the cases of Matraini and Marinella, on contemporaneous women’s social behavior, prescribed for them by male writers in books on female decorum.  
            Who Is Mary? testifies to the emotional and spiritual relationships that women had with the figure of Mary, whom they were required to emulate as the epitome of femininity. Now available for the first time in English-language translation, these writings suggest new possibilities for women in both religious and civil culture and provide a window to women’s spirituality, concerning the most important icon set before them, as wives, mothers, and Christians.

312 pages | 10 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2008

The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe

History: European History

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages

Religion: Christianity

Women's Studies

Table of Contents


Series Editors’ Introduction

Volume Editor’s Introduction

Volume Editor’s Bibliography

I Vittoria Colonna’s The Plaint of the Marchesa di Pescara on the Passion of Christ

II Chiara Matraini’s Brief Discourse on the Life and Praises of the Most Blessed Virgin and Mother of the Son of God

III Lucrezia Marinella’s The Life of the Virgin Mary, Empress of the Universe

Appendix: The Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55)

Series Editors’ Bibliography



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