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Don't have an ? It begins by exploring the mechanics of reading as a homoerotic exchange between a male author and a male reader through the guise of a personified female text, and it documents the evolution of such a theme in the age of Dante, with the flourishing of a rather independent form of female lyric textuality. In creating an embodied text that moves about, speaks, cries out in joy or sorrow, but also writes and re itself, and, most importantly, opens itself up to the plurality of interpretation, poets promote a very nuanced image of textuality, which defies gender barriers and stereotypes.
Keywords: Women and textualityornatustextual personificationcongedoliterary parenthood.
In this enigmatic sonnet, Dante commends a poem to his friend Brunetto, whom manuscripts identify as the Florentine magnate Betto Brunelleschi. The act of reading is thus represented as some sort of seduction. According to the most common interpretation, Lippo is supposed to cover the poem in music, but the clothing might also refer to interpretation, commentary, copying, or poetic collaboration. In this regard, Giunta recalls that female circulation and ceremonial instances of dressing a woman were both regulated by men in medieval Florence.
In both texts, however, the notion of reading occasions the seamless interlacing of the normative, written aspect of the text and the non-fixed, mobile, oral idea of textuality, and both genders partake of both aspects. Once read and understood, her need and right to circulate might be forfeited. The fruition of the poem whether it is a matter of reading or performance is two-directional: interpretation requires the female text to be brought to a secluded, quiet place to be unveiled, whilst in circulation a naked text is dressed up for show.
In these two texts, Dante gathers an image of textuality as female that has roots in Roman oratory and early patristic thought, and that plays out in several different modes in ancient and medieval thought. However, Dante and the lyric poets of his times not only receive such a theme, but they innovate it to the point of imagining some rather active figures of feminized textuality, and of reinventing their own gender role as authors of such texts.
There are several key issues in play with regards to this theme in ancient and medieval thought. Gradations of clothes, ornaments, and sequences of dressing and undressing or dressings up and strippings away, veilings and unveilingsal the stages of writing and reading. Nakedness is threatening and dangerous but also rewarding and crucial to understanding. It paradoxically embodies both the superficial layer p. The naked truth is embedded in the naked letter, which at times needs to be veiled and sometimes revealed. However, like matter and the body, the letter becomes threatening and transgressive when left to itself, and when it is disconnected from form, spirit, reading, and interpretation.
Interpretation takes the form both of the protection and clothing of the naked truth, and even of a precious accessory to it in the form of the addition of narrative, language, and even the ornaments of rhetoric and of the cleansing and undressing of those very clothes and ornaments, which are deemed to be a necessary cover to her blinding beauty, but also, at times, an excessive, and even risible, display.
The multiplicity, and even the divergence, of biblical interpretations comes to be seen as a varied set of clothes and ornaments that enrich the already attractive littera. Contrasts between pagans and Christians, initiates and the uneducated, literal and interpretative readers are all played out on the body of the text-as-woman. As expected, two knowledgeable men handle the female body-text: on the one hand, the male author who clothes his text in the necessary language rhetoric, Real woman to textand, on the other hand, the male reader who is able to unveil the truth and to divest rhetoric.
The original text gives instruction on how to cleanse and purge, both physically and spiritually, a foreign captive that an Israelite desires to marry:.
And she shall take off the clothes in which she was captured and shall remain in your house and lament her father and her mother a full month. After that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. But if you no longer delight in her, you shall let her go where she wants. But you shall not sell her for money, nor shall you treat her as a slave, since you have humiliated her. Although this custom was initially deed to address the issue of rape in war it is not entirely clear whether to prevent it or sanction it10 its emphasis on excision, divesting, reclothing, and cutting the ties with a culture and society easily makes it an apt image for the appropriation of non-Christian texts and their domestication through exegesis.
The marriage with the beautiful captive is then described as a necessity that, although compromising the Christian spouse it is compared with biblical cases of marrying a prostituteallows the begetting of servants of Christ, possibly new Christian texts. The ornatus is central to the discourse of rhetoric; excessive care of the self and ornament being typically female and feminized, and, therefore, getting in the way of the virility of speech.
Nam ut mulieres pulchriores esse dicuntur nonnullae inornatae quas id ipsum deceat, sic haec subtilis oratio etiam incompta delectat; fit enim quiddam in utroque quo sit venustius, sed non ut appareat. Tum removebitur omnis inis ornatus quasi margaritarum; ne calamistri quidem adhibebuntur.
Fucati vero medicamenta candoris et ruboris omnia repellentur; elegantia modo et munditia remanebit. Also, all noticeable ornament, pearls as it were, will be excluded; not even curling irons will be used; all cosmetics, artificial white and red, will be rejected; only elegance and neatness will remain. The beauty of ornatus must, then, go together with its utility useful ornatus being compared to agriculture, while merely beautiful ornatus is like gardening, ibidem.
It must denote a healthy body, as opposed to a made-up one, and comely, dignified dress. Eloquence herself is more concerned with her healthy body than with p. The transition from oratory to rhetoric entails the move from the masculine to the feminine. Thus, the theme of female ornatus trickles down in encyclopaedias and manuals of rhetoric in a rather more positive way. The feminine text enjoys quite a lot of agency in Tre donne. Gendered textual personification retains several aspects of the more widespread gendered personification of a city, concept, virtue or vice: but with it, the line between concept, discourse, and text is even finer.
Prosopopeia or conformatio is a figure that pervades Western literature and poetry. The complexities of the relationship between personification and gender are enhanced by the question of the voice. This aspect is emphasized by Quintilian Institutio Oratoria 9, ii, 29—37who deems the voice to be so central that it drives the fictionalization of the character itself. An interesting mode of ventriloquization takes place in female Real woman to text, whereby a male orator or writer speaks through the body and voice of a woman, thus voiding woman of the traditional stigma of being gossipy and chatty, and endowing her with masculine power and authority of speech.
As Newman has shown, this is often a way to find a safer space for Real woman to text expression and discussion of p. Thus, Rome or Nature but also Luxuria and Invidiafor that matter speak with solid eloquence and rational discourse. The physicality of the classical and medieval text—from it being an embodiment of orality to the somatic hardship of writing, from the animal nature of the material support to the deeply bodily experience of writing and reading—lends itself easily to personification.
Turning now to the young girls and women that Dante and his contemporary poets sent to their readers in the late Duecento, we shall see how they embody several discourses about gender and textuality, such as the relation between content wisdom and form beautythe role of ornament, the superimposition of p.
Importantly, such texts convey the positive aspects of both woman as text natural beauty, the attraction of colour and of text as woman authority, affectivityand league with their imaged female readers, to conjure up an image of female textuality that transforms and mobilizes the positions of both author and reader, in relation to both their masculinity and authority.
Two main poetic forms are frequently gendered in the Italian Duecento and Trecento: while the ballata is represented as a younger, more instinctual, and less adorned woman, the venerable matron of all poetic texts is, of course, the canzone. If the courtly lady is stationary, silent, and somewhat irresponsive, the ballata and canzone are mobile, talkative, readable, and interpretable. Although it is not uncommon to read an entirely personified text, it is within the envoy that the image of woman as text recurs most frequently.
Mostly, the envoy is a liminal place, which enjoys greater freedom in both form and content than other, more regulated parts of the text. It represents a stasis that is also momentum: the full stop that ends the movement of the poem and also als the beginning of its circulation.
In this sense, the congedo is an Real woman to text metatextual moment, in which, p. The immediate predecessor of the Italian personified canzone is the personified canso in the troubadour tornada. The envoy in the last stanza of the song develops in the second generation of troubadours, and in it the occasionality and orality of the text are most remarked.
In abito di saggia messaggeraa ballad attributed to Dante in which the entire text is attired as a messenger and requested to reach the lady, seems to be playfully alluding to such a topos :.
In personifying their texts as women or girls, the Italian poets realize a fascinating example of aurality, where orality and the written text mix seamlessly. In early Italian poetry, the congedo begins to appear intermittently with the Sicilian poets. When it appears, it retains the occasionality of the tornadaand is mostly a space in which to address either the woman or the explicit reader of the canzone directly.
It is, however, with the communal poets of central Italy that the congedo acquires full status within the poem, as Keen points out. At the end of the song, the poet looks at the text that he has just written as a female creature. Textually, mobility is linked to both written and oral circulation. The Real woman to text thus acquires the male prerogative of circulation as well as describing a moment of textual instability or indecision, or freedom in which the poem is neither quite oral nor quite written.
From the material standpoint, female textual mobility is also an acknowledgement, in my view, of the openness and the vagaries of reading and interpretation. The living message from the lover is mostly a request for reciprocation, mercy, or forgiveness. The canzone is also required to avoid bad readers, those who would misunderstand her because of their lack of erotic—philosophical knowledge.
The journey is initiated by the poet, deeming his text to be completed and ready to be read. At times, the anxiety of bad reading is so overwhelming that the poet bids a short journey to his poetic creature or, in a twist developed mostly by Cino da Pistoia and Petrarch, bids her not to go, but rather to stay with him and become his confidante.
On reaching its destination, the canzone or ballata is often asked to stay and dwell, further conversing with the reader, or returning to her textual and written status. Perhaps you will see Florence, my city, that shuts me out from her], 76—8. When on the road, the female text enjoys ificant freedom of movement, agency, and independence. Indeed, the second main feature of the female text is her orality.
The personified canzone, however, also bears traces of being a written text, the message, as well as the messenger. With the help of a text-made-flesh the poet dematerializes himself and gives himself as a textual gift to the beloved. Here, transcribing and writing become crucially material acts. The female poetic text seems to be able to address both the aural reader and the reader—writer. Thus, the examples from Cavalcanti and Cino show how the feminized text fosters the transformation of the lyric authorial self, who forfeits control over its text in the moment he incarnates and genders it.
Instead of being a figure of the control exerted by the male author and reader, the female text appears as an alter ego of the poet, a textual reconstruction of his dissolved self. Alongside the interplay between orality and writing, the woman canzone displays another enriching contradiction. In this case very much like some courtly ladies, she is beautiful and, indeed, adorned by the poet as well as wise. The female presence in the congedo seems to have escaped such critics. Although the agency and the making and clothing of the canzone rests in the hands of the male author, both the input and the outcome of this poem are female.
This is not the first time, however, that a woman—canzone is deemed able to demonstrate and to act as a written, rational text.Real woman to text
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