The Landscape of Women: Myth, Gender, and Environment in Renaissance Italy.

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My dissertation explores how early modern Italian poets rethink myths from Ovid’s Metamorphoses to offer exemplary models of interconnectivity between the corporeal body and the environment. The authors examined – Francesco Petrarca, Gaspara Stampa, Torquato Tasso, Moderata Fonte – destabilize and refashion traditional conceptualizations of symbolic natural elements such as the fixed tree and flowing water. For these poets the mythical notion of metis (transformation) proves essential for the disruption of the human / nonhuman dichotomy and is crucial for the construction of their authorial identity. In close readings of representative texts, I provide original interpretations and develop theoretical arguments in light of the recent field of new materialism(s). Chapter 1 focuses on Petrarch’s Rerum vulgarium fragmenta 23. Petrarch positions himself both as a poet modeled after the god of poetry Apollo (owner of the laurel tree) and as his own poetic object by taking also the role of Daphne (the laurel tree). I claim that he also casts himself as the shapeshifter god of poetry Proteus. Chapter 2 considers how Stampa elaborates her interpretation of an intertwined human, natural, and mythical landscape in her poems Rime. She redefines the image of the weeping woman as a productive individual whose tears correspond with writing itself. In opposition to the figure of Daphne as laurel, Stampa identifies with the tearful generative woman-tree Myrrha and with the weeping woman-spring Byblis. Chapter 3 uncovers how Tasso challenges customary divides in his epic Gerusalemme Liberata [Jerusalem Delivered]. He moves beyond an anthropocentric, male-centric and author-centric perspective. As he references Ovidian myths, he devotes special attention to how women’s bodies relate with water and trees. Tasso, whose family name signifies yew tree, establishes his authorial identity by emphasizing the interconnections between humanity and environment. Chapter 4 conveys a woman’s perspective on the epic genre through analysis of Fonte’s Floridoro, also disruptive of the human / nonhuman demarcation. Fonte reworks the woman-tree figure, critiques the misogynistic representation of sirens, and refashions the Circe myth. She identifies with these mythical figures who possess the arts of creation and transfiguration, as well as the power to create art.

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202 pages


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Migiel, Marilyn

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Lorenz, Philip
Kennedy, William John

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Romance Studies

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Ph. D., Romance Studies

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


dissertation or thesis

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