This book examines a pivotal moment in the history of science and women's place in it. Meredith Ray offers the first in-depth study and complete English translation of the fascinating correspondence between Margherita Sarrocchi (1560-1617), a natural philosopher and author of the epic poem, Scanderbeide (1623), and famed astronomer, Galileo Galilei. Their correspondence, undertaken soon after the publication of Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius, reveals how Sarrocchi approached Galileo for his help revising her epic poem, offering, in return, her endorsement of his recent telescopic discoveries. Situated against the vibrant and often contentious backdrop of early modern intellectual and academic culture, their letters illustrate, in miniature, that the Scientific Revolution was, in fact, the product of a long evolution with roots in the deep connections between literary and scientific exchanges.
Daughters of Alchemy: Women and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy
The era of the Scientific Revolution has long been epitomized by Galileo. Yet many women were at its vanguard, deeply invested in empirical culture. They experimented with medicine and practical alchemy at home, at court, and through collaborative networks of practitioners. In academies, salons, and correspondence, they debated cosmological discoveries; in their literary production, they used their knowledge of natural philosophy to argue for their intellectual equality to men.
Meredith Ray restores the work of these women to our understanding of early modern scientific culture. Her study begins with Caterina Sforza’s alchemical recipes; examines the sixteenth-century vogue for “books of secrets”; and looks at narratives of science in works by Moderata Fonte and Lucrezia Marinella. It concludes with Camilla Erculiani’s letters on natural philosophy and, finally, Margherita Sarrocchi’s defense of Galileo’s “Medicean” stars...
During the Italian Renaissance, dozens of early modern writers published collections of private correspondence, using them as vehicles for self-presentation, self-promotion, social critique, and religious dissent. Writing Gender in Women's Letter Collections of the Italian Renaissance examines the letter collections of women writers, arguing that these works were a studied performance of pervasive ideas about gender as well as genre, a form of self-fashioning that variously reflected, manipulated, and subverted cultural and literary conventions regarding femininity and masculinity.
Meredith K. Ray presents letter collections from authors of diverse backgrounds, including a noblewoman, a courtesan, an actress, a nun, and a male writer who composed letters under female pseudonyms. Ray's study includes extensive new archival research and highlights a widespread interest in women's letter collections during the Italian Renaissance that suggests a deep curiosity about the female experience and a surprising openness to women's participation in this kind of literary production.
Winner of the American Association for Italian Studies Book Prize for Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque (2009)
(Co-edited and translated with Lynn Lara Westwater). Coerced into taking the veil, Venetian writer Arcangela Tarabotti (1604-1652) spent her life protesting the practice of forcing girls into convents. Her fearless defense of women and attacks on patriarchal Venetian society earned her renown and access to presses. Her publications, however, invited constant controversy. Tarabotti published her Letters Familiar and Formal to protect and enhance her literary reputation while also chronicling contemporary literary society and material existence in an early modern convent. The Letters flaunted Tarabotti's literary accomplishments, humiliated her critics, and advertised her powerful network of allies in Northern Italy and France. The Letters document how Tarabotti established herself as one of the most forceful proponents for women's self-determination in early modern Europe. Winner of the Society for Early Modern Translation Prize.