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Lucrezia Marinella’s Rime sacre [Sacred Verses]: Engendered Spirituality, Devotional Piety, and Affective Poetry in Post-Tridentine Venice

  • Giorgetti, Leonardo
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2023
eScholarship - University of California
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Leonardo Giorgetti - ID # 999483929 This dissertation consists of the first modern edition with an English translation and commentary of the first two main sections of the Rime sacre [Sacred Verses] (Venice, 1603), the thus far understudied collection of spiritual lyric poetry by the Venetian writer Lucrezia Marinella (1571/9–1653), one of the most notable figures within the prodigious cohort of women writers in early modern Italy. Although modern scholars have well recognized this author’s early contribution to the contemporary querelle des femmes, they continue to neglect her religious works, which overwhelmingly outnumber the secular works within her literary production. And yet, the Rime sacre, Marinella’s only published work in the genre of lyric poetry, is significantly one of the most republished works of her career and one of the few female-authored poetic works of the early modern period entirely devoted to spiritual verse. A remarkable case of female variation on that pan-European literary phenomenon called spiritual Petrarchism, the work is a key achievement in Marinella’s artistic development as a female poet carving a place for herself in the male-dominated contemporary literary field. By originally weaving hagiographic, visual, encomiastic, and penitential motifs into an affective mysticism typical of both Franciscan and Ignatian spirituality, Marinella describes the heroic lives of Christ, Mary, and an unprecedented number of female saints in an elegant post-Petrarchan style enriched by a distinctive pre-Baroque tone and Mannerist artifice; in this way, she rewrites the motifs of the Italian Renaissance poetic tradition in order to offer an engendered perspective of saintly heroism and affective mysticism, while also syncretically harmonizing her intellectual competences and her pro-woman program with her personal devotion and adherence to the meditative practices of imitatio Christi. When read within the broader context of Marinella’s production, the Rime sacre offers a coherent vision of the author’s engendered poetry and spirituality; in particular, her conviction that the beauty of divine creation informs the beauty of the Virgin Mary, the saints, and women alike (theology of beauty) is at the core of both Marinella’s notion of women’s moral and intellectual superiority (gynocentric anthropology) and her representation of Mary as empress of the universe and symbol of the empowerment of female physicality and agency in human redemption (glorious Mariology). By embracing the new bi-gender model of post-Tridentine heroic sainthood, the markedly introspective and meditative poetry of the Rime sacre elicits the visual dynamic of the mirroring of the individual soul into the figures of Christ, Mary, or the saints; when describing how sacred images provoke the devotee’s emotional response according to the practice of emphatic meditation, the Rime sacre becomes a notable example of the dialogical interaction among literature, fine arts, and theology in the Counter-Reformation period, thus reflecting the tendency of post-Tridentine culture to channel into the Catholic cultural mainstream perspective the potentially heterodox doctrines absorbed by the eclectic cultural milieu of late sixteenth-century Venice. The highest expression of Marinella’s lyric voice, the Rime sacre may ultimately prompt the rediscovery of a considerable and still neglected corpus of encomiastic and hagiographic poems she composed in different periods of her long career. All these verses contribute to presenting this prolific Venetian author as a lyric poet inexhaustibly writing on religious and non-religious topics in a constant dialogue with the intellectual milieu of her time.

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