Macquarie University
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Fashioning female identities: embodying learned values in Renaissance Florence

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posted on 2022-03-28, 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.


Table of Contents

Chapter One. The sensate body -- Chapter Two. Florentine religious community -- Chapter Three. Wealth and charity -- Chapter Four. Fashioning beauty and honesty -- Chapter Five. Gendered education -- Chapter Six. Marriage -- Chapter Seven. Motherhood -- Chapter Eight. Widowhood -- Conclusion.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 349-372

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Department, Centre or School

Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Nicholas Scott Baker


Copyright Elizabeth Reid 2016. Copyright disclaimer:






1 online resource (372 pages) colour illustrations

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