“Giovane donna in mezzo ’l campo apparse”. Figure di donne guerriere nella tradizione letteraria occidentale.
Latella, Cecilia (2011) “Giovane donna in mezzo ’l campo apparse”. Figure di donne guerriere nella tradizione letteraria occidentale. Tesi di Dottorato, Università degli Studi di Napoli L'Orientale.
“Giovane donna in mezzo ’l campo apparse”. Warrior women in Western literary tradition
This thesis analyses the theme of warrior women from ancient times until the start of XVII century, mainly from a narrative and philological point of view.
Chapter I dwells on the narrowing of the Amazonian myth from describing an aberrant community, built in reverse to Greek society, to exploring single characters, as Penthesileia and Camilla, whose death can stir the audience’s emotional reaction.
Chapter II observes the modifications occurred to the theme in French medieval literature, as a consequence to the intervening Christianity and feudalism. Courtly culture drew authors to include warrior women as participants to the love relationships that are to be found in romans d’antiquité and chansons de geste. Following conversion and marriage to a Christian knight, the war activities of a woman may be intended positively, in support of the approved faction within the war.
Chapter III shows how textual motifs destined to a long success, such as the sex change, the male disguise, the fallen helmet and pre-nuptial duel, take roots in Italian popular chivalric poetry as it begins to develop independently from the French sources.
Chapters IV and V, covering the three main Italian romances (Pulci’s Morgante, Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato and Ariosto’s Furioso), follow the raising status of warrior women as they are created ancestors to ruling dynasties. In the Furioso, Bradamante and Marfisa are employed as speakers for the querelle des femmes, intervening about the superiority of one sex on another and about the performance of gender roles in a public as well as in a private context.
The shift from romance to epic poetry causes a renewed display of warrior women’s death, as a mean to expel romantic deviations from the army-centred plot. In the Gerusalemme Liberata (discussed in chapter VI), the death of Clorinda becomes the crossing point between the undercurrent issues of the poem – incommunicability, lies, deceits – as she finds herself torn amidst unexpressed desires on one hand, and desires projected on other people that the self on the other.
The last three chapters survey the adaptations of Ariosto’s and Tasso’s schemes in France, England and Spain. The device of using warrior women as dynasties’ ancestors is exploited in both the Espagne Conquise, by Nicolas de Montreux (chapter VII) and The Faerie Queene by Spenser (chapter VIII). Here, lady knight Britomart is introduced into an allegorical setting where she embodies the virtue of active Chastity and Equity.
Chapter IX summarises the fortune of warrior women in Spanish libros de caballerías. Spanish authors are particularly interested in reminding their readers of the necessity for normative restoration, as it is evident in the deconstruction of Ismenia as a warrior queen in Lope de Vega’s Jerusalén Conquistada.
The study ends outlining the new trends present in stories about warrior women at the beginning of XVII century. A large bibliography concludes the volume.
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