Sarra Copia Sulam: A Jewish Salonnière and the Press in Counter-Reformation Venice
Published: December 2019© 2020
384 Pages, 6.50 x 9.25 x 1.25 in, 22 b&w illustrations
For nearly a decade at the height of the Counter-Reformation in Italy, the Jewish poet and polemicist Sarra Copia Sulam (ca. 1592–1641) hosted a literary salon at her house in the Venetian ghetto, providing one of the most public and enduring forums for Jewish-Christian interaction in early modern Venice. Though Copia Sulam built a powerful intellectual network, published a popular work on the immortality of the soul, and gained fame for her erudition, her literary career foundered under the weight of slanderous charges against her sexual, professional, and religious integrity.
This first biography of Copia Sulam examines the explosive relationship between gender, religion, and the press in seventeenth-century Venice through a study of the salonnière’s literary career. The backdrop to this inquiry is Venice’s tumultuous religious, cultural, and political climate and the competitive world of its presses, where men and women, Christians and Jews, alternately collaborated and clashed as they sought to gain a foothold in Europe’s most prestigious publishing capital.
Note on the Text
1. The Birth of a Salon (1618–21)
2. A Rupture in the Salon (1619–21)
3. The Salon and the Venetian Presses (1621)
4. Copia Sulam Compromised (1622–23)
5. Friends and Enemies (1621–26)
6. The Salon’s Afterlife (post 1626)
"The first comprehensive English-language biography of Sarra Copia Sulam, this book effectively argues that Copia Sulam merits our attention for her exceptional life as well as for her literary achievements. Westwater provides a compelling and well-researched narrative, artfully placing Copia Sulam’s writings within the context of her life as well as within the contemporary debates surrounding theology and gender. Readers will be fascinated by the biography of an extraordinary person as well as by the descriptions of Jewish culture in Italy at the beginning of the seventeenth century."Gerry Milligan, Department of World Languages and Literatures, College of Staten Island (CUNY)
"As we expand the geographical span of early modernity, this monograph reminds us that we still have plenty to uncover when it comes to diverse voices in what seem to be the most studied areas. Sarra Copia Sulam’s life, salon, and works are one of these ‘blind spots,’ and Westwater’s book fills a lacuna that many did not even know existed."Maria Galli Stampino, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, University of Miami
- 2021 Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation Book Prize in Renaissance Venetian Studies