Widow City: Widowhood and Politics in Italian Renaissance Literature

We are very pleased to announce a guest lecture by Anna Wainwright, Assistant Professor of Italian Studies at University of New Hampshire. The lecture is open for everyone.

Anna Wainwright

Anna Wainwright.


The widow, by her very definition, is associated with death and mourning—identified by the loss of her husband, and relegated to a particular category of woman.

In medieval and Renaissance Italy, their particular societal role as designated mourners led to rich literary engagement with widows, from the determined mourning widows of Dante’s Purgatorio, who tirelessly pray their husbands’ way to heaven, to the dangerous “merry” widows of Boccaccio’s Decameron, who engage in sexual escapades that threaten the stability of the social order.

What happened, then, when widows themselves began to write in great numbers in the publishing boom of sixteenth-century Italy—when women like Vittoria Colonna, Veronica Gambara, and Francesca Turina used their pens to prove not only their literary talent, but also their valor as exceptional widows?

How did this change the way widows, and women, were viewed in the changing culture of early modern Italy and Europe? In this talk, I present my book project, Widow City, and offer a snapshot of what widowed life can tell us about the relationship between gender, politics, and the performance of mourning in Italian literature and culture.

About Anna Wainwright

Dr. Anna Wainwright is Researcher on the project The Legacy of Birgitta of Sweden: Women, Politics, and Reform in Renaissance Italy, funded by the Research Council of Norway, and Assistant Professor of Italian Studies at the University of New Hampshire. Her work examines, gender, race, politics and identity in early modern Italy.

A light lunch will be served.

Published Oct. 25, 2019 2:33 PM - Last modified Oct. 25, 2019 2:33 PM