London Times Literary Supplement
a comprehensive anthology.... [these poets] react with a kind of instinctive feminism to the Petrarchan model, which they shift so as to redress the balance of power between the sexes.
This volume is destined to become a focus of discussion and a precise point of reference for English translations from now on.
Choice, March 28, 1999
Reviewed by C. Fantazzi, University of Windsor
The Italian women poets collected here call to mind the ideal Renaissance woman described in Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier. Among their number also are several cortigiane honorate, or upper-class courtesans, whose salons equaled or even surpassed the intellectual circles of courtly women. The 16th century saw the blossoming of these women poets, the greatest of whom were Vernonica Gambara, Vittoria Colonna, and Gaspara Stampa. The first two wrote primarily in the Petrarchan modes, but Gaspara Stampa wrote of her love for Count Collaltino di Collalto in lyrics that tell of her passionate, carnal relationship in an open manner unheard of in her day, Her Rime, comprising 311 poems, is one of the largest and richest Canzonieri in Italian literature. The Venetian courtesan Veronica Franco also expressed her feelings in a spontaneous, sensual style, rejecting the conventional forms and tenets of Petrarchism for a racier, more candid style.
Stortoni provides a brief, informative introduction and a short biography for each poet. Whenever possible, the Italian texts have been taken from critical editions. In their transla-tion of the verse, Stortoni and Lillie have succeeded marvelously in reproducing the individual style of each poet in fluent and unforced iambic pentameters. An excellent introduction to this important body of literature, infinitely superior to those in the Feminist Press The Defiant Muse series. All collections.