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Insinuatio in Lucrezia Marinella’s Essortationi alle donne (1645): Exhorting Marital Harmony And Insinuating Feminist Critique

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Lucrezia Marinella (c.1579–1653) is a pivotal figure in the history of early modern women’s writing. Yet her final non‐fiction contribution to the querelle des femmes, a book of exhortations for women entitled Essortationi alle donne (1645), has received little critical attention. The Essortationi’s ostensibly conservative volte face on the feminist principles that characterise the author’s earlier works has perplexed and divided modern scholars. This article provides a new reading of the Essortationi drawing on the classical rhetorical technique of insinuatio. Through close textual analysis of Marinella’s exhortation to marital harmony as an example, I trace the author’s rhetorical posture of deference to traditional authorities and ideas about marriage and the wife’s role. I show how, as an exercise in insinuatio, this works to ingratiate her audience and mitigate resistance before exposing those authorities and precepts to critical scrutiny. Contextualising the Essortationi within mid‐Seicento Venice reveals how this strategy responded to a cultural climate defined by antifeminism and literary dissimulation. This article both sheds new light on Marinella’s complex, ground‐breaking contribution to the male‐authored Renaissance conduct literature tradition and reveals the sophistication of her rhetoric as she challenges women’s subordination to male authority.
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Keywords: Essortationi alle donne; Lucrezia Marinella; dissimulation; insinuatio; querelle des femmes; rhetoric

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2020

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