Motherhood and Patriarchal Masculinities in Sixteenth-Century Italian Comedy  book cover
1st Edition

Motherhood and Patriarchal Masculinities in Sixteenth-Century Italian Comedy

ISBN 9781138261587
Published November 15, 2016 by Routledge
160 Pages

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Book Description

Exploring individual and collective formation of gender identities, this book contributes to current scholarly discourses by examining plays in the genre of 'erudite comedy' (commedia erudita), which was extremely popular among sixteenth-century Italians from the elite classes. Author Yael Manes investigates five erudite comedies-Ludovico Ariosto's I suppositi (1509), Niccolò Machiavelli's La Mandragola (1518) and Clizia (1525), Antonio Landi's Il commodo (1539), and Giovan Maria Cecchi's La stiava (1546)-to consider how erudite comedies functioned as ideological battlefields where the gender system of patriarchy was examined, negotiated, and critiqued. These plays reflect the patriarchal order of their elite social milieu, but they also offer a unique critical vantage point on the paradoxical formation of patriarchal masculinity. On the one hand, patriarchal ideology rejects the mother and forbids her as an object of desire; on the other hand, patriarchal male identity revolves around representations of motherhood. Ultimately, the comedies reflect the desire of the Italian Renaissance male elite for women who will provide children to their husbands but not actively assume the role of a mother. In sum, Manes reveals a wide cultural understanding that motherhood-as an activity that women undertake, not simply a relational position they occupy-challenges patriarchy because it bestows women with agency, power, and authority. Manes here recovers the complexity of Renaissance Italian discourse on gender and identity formation by approaching erudite comedies not only as mirrors of their audiences but also as vehicles for contemporary audiences' ideological, psychological, and emotional expressions.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Feminine Fatherhood?, Yael Manes; Chapter 1 What Is a Mother's Worth? The Negotiation of Motherhood and Virtù in Machiavelli's La mandragola (1518), Yael Manes; Chapter 2 Replacing the Father: Negotiating Motherhood and the Battle for Authority in Machiavelli's Clizia (1525), Yael Manes; Chapter 3 Prescribing the Ideal Mother in the Discourse of Humanism and Antonio Landi's Il commodo (1539), Yael Manes; Chapter 4 The Father–Son Conflict and the Dysfunction of Fatherhood in Giovan Maria Cecchi's La stiava (1546) and Ludovico Ariosto's I suppositi (1509), Yael Manes; Chapter 102 Conclusion: Motherhood as Masculine Identity's Object of Desire, Yael Manes;

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Yael Manes received her doctorate from the Department of History at Cornell University. She is currently an Assistant Professor of History at Agnes Scott College.


'... a serious attempt to bring to the fore and shed light on an argument of interest to scholars of various disciplines. Motherhood and Patriarchal Masculinities will surely inspire further scholarship in this important and fertile research area.' Comparative Drama 'A welcome innovation in the scholarly discourse on Renaissance comedy, Manes’s study describes the synergy between weak(ened) father figures and the bifurcation of maternal figures into either strong ones or weak-absent substituted ones. A particular focus is on situations in which the prescribed female roles of wife and mother are brought into conflict by the competing interests of husband and child(ren), the choices of female characters in resolving the conflict, and the response of male characters to the solutions.' Renaissance Quarterly 'Motherhood and Patriarchal Masculinities in Sixteenth-Century Italian Comedy is a penetrating and well-written study that provides a valuable resource for readers interested in Renaissance discourse on gender and identity formation, with focus on family, meanings of paternity and maternity, negotiation of patriarchal power, and male desire.' Sixteenth Century Journal 'Manes manages to look well beyond the entertainment value of these plays, to see how the behaviour and attitude of the principal characters and the interplay between them serve as a valuable insight into the struggles and potential foundering of their real- life equivalents.' Modern Language Review