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A collection of inventive writings in letter form from a sixteenth-century star of commedia dell'arte.

Isabella Andreini (1562–1604) was a commedia dell’arte diva who toured Italy and France as part of the Compagnia dei Comici Gelosi. Letters is a collection of epistles written by Andreini in fictional, anonymous, male, and female voices, a “hermaphroditic” alternation of gender unlike any that had been seen in letter writing to that time. In her letters, Andreini remade the humanistic epistolary genre into a distinctive fusion of literary and dramatic performance. The guise of epistolary intimacy cedes to a knowing artificiality, which allows for the emergence of Andreini’s modern critique of the gendered self as a uniform entity. The collection centers on love and examines—from surprising perspectives—pertinent issues such as death, the birth of a girl, prostitution, patriarchal marital practices, love in old age, courtiership, country and city life, human nature, and defenses and critiques of both sexes.

334 pages | 2 color plates | 6 x 9

The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series

History: European History

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages

Women's Studies

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Table of Contents



The Other Voice
Life, Works, and Authorship
Isabella Andreini and Women’s Writing in Early Modern Italy
The Question of Genre: Pushing the Boundaries of the Letterbook
Summary and Analysis of the Letters
Love as the Beginning, Middle, and End of the Letters
A Discordant Harmony: Paired and Thematically Grouped Letters
The Actress as Writer: Thematic and Stylistic Aspects of the Letters
Rhetoric and the questione della donna in the Letters
Reception and Afterlife
Translators’ Note

Letters of Isabella Andreini
Dedicatory Letter
Encomiastic Verses and Anagrams
Table of All the Letters Contained in the Work

Comparative Table of the Letters’ Summaries: 1607 Edition and This Edition
Gender Designations of Letter Writers and Recipients


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