Moral Combat: Women, Gender, and War in Italian Renaissance Literature
The Italian sixteenth century offers the first sustained discussion of women’s militarism since antiquity. Across a variety of genres, male and female writers raised questions about women’s right and ability to fight in combat. Treatise literature engaged scientific, religious, and cultural discourses about women’s virtues, while epic poetry and biographical literature famously featured examples of women as soldiers, commanders, observers, and victims of war.
Moral Combat asks how and why women’s militarism became one of the central discourses of this age. Gerry Milligan discusses the armed heroines of biography and epic within the context of contemporary debates over women’s combat abilities and men’s martial obligations. Women are frequently described as fighting because men have failed their masculine duty. A woman’s prowess at arms was asserted to be a cultural symptom of men’s shortcomings. Moral Combat ultimately argues that the popularity of the warrior woman in sixteenth-century Italian literature was due to her dual function of shame and praise: calling men to action and signaling potential victory to a disempowered people.
- Series: Toronto Italian Studies
- World Rights
- Page Count: 344 pages
- Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.1in x 9.3in
"Milligan’s rich and dynamic investigation forges new intellectual approaches and offers important new insights to the study of women, gender, and war in the Italian Renaissance."
Victoria G. Fanti, John Hopkins University
gender/sexuality/italy, 5 (2018)
"Milligan offers a very detailed, well-documented, and illuminating study on gender and war in Renaissance Italy, and brilliantly illustrates how the proliferation of textual representations of warrior women impacted the culture, society, and moral norms of that age."
Lilia Campana, Texas A&M University
"This is a very rich, layered book in its range of sources, its historical scope, and its synthesis of the considerable secondary literature on the subject. Moral Combat offers a persuasive blend of male and female voices from such sources as Catherine of Siena’s letters, Laura Terracina’s poetic discourse on the Orlando furioso, and Chiara Matraini’s ‘Oration in Praise of War,’ which, as Milligan argues, was probably the first such work written by a woman.
George McClure, Department of History, University of Alabama
"Moral Combat is a very important piece of scholarship that sheds new light on the early modern Italian imaginary of women in war and thus opens new interpretive venues for early modern Italian literature."
Konrad Eisenbichler, Department of Italian Studies, University of Toronto
Author InformationGerry Milligan is an associate professor at the College of Staten Island-CUNY.
Table of contents
- The Philosophical History of the Armed Woman
- The Poetic and the Real: The Chivalric-Epic Commentary of the Armed Woman
- Women Writers Demanding Warrior Masculinity: Catherine of Siena, Laura Terracina, Chiara Matraini and
- sabella Cervoni
- Illustrious Warring Women: From Plutarch to Boccaccio
- The Noble Warrior Woman (1440-1550)
- The Fame of Women and the Infamy of Men in the Age of Warring Queens (1550-1600)
2017 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication Award (Italian Literary Studies).- Commended in 2017
Subjects and Courses