Fashioning female identities: embodying learned values in Renaissance Florence
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 14:12 authored by Elizabeth Reid
This study of Florentine rhetoric from the mid-fourteenth to the late-fifteenth centuries interrogates the cultural landscape against which men encouraged women to internalise and embody values related to gender, religion, status and kinship. The dissertation considers a range of settings in which cultural values were debated, taught, learned and embodied. The study begins by considering Renaissance perceptions of the internal gendered body, its moral qualities and sensory capabilities for developing identity. It progresses to consider bodily identity in relation to nudity, moral behaviour, community, etiquette, education, and sartorial expression. These were all domains that marked transitions of female domesticity from daughter to wife, to mother to widow. The embodied expression of virtue was most important for women because their bodies were read as extensions of masculine identities. The study examines philosophical ideals expressed in humanist treatises and weighs them against prescriptive texts and allegorical images that indicate how values should be expressed, and sources including sermons, diaries and letters that reflect on how those expressions were observed and interpreted. The dissertation builds on the work of historians of art, gender, Florence and theology, as well as sociological and neuro-psychological research, to demonstrate the rhetorical role of adornment, comportment and contemplation for fashioning women's nuanced identities in Renaissance Florence.