With beauty and song, or with magic wand and book, the enchantress sways man from his goals—rational discourse and familial, civic, and religious duty—indeed, from responsibility to the good of his own soul. From classical to Renaissance* times, she appears in various guises (siren, Circe, charming beauty, sorceress), sometimes merely confusing and disorienting her beholders and listeners, sometimes rendering men her fawning lovers, and sometimes turning men into animals. In Italian
literature, this figure makes its most notable appearance in Dante*’s Comedy, where in Purgatorio 19 the pilgrim sees a hag-like woman transform into a beautiful enchantress before his eyes, only to have her exposed again as a deformed being. The ‘‘enchantress-turned-hag’’ was an especially popular topos in the Italian Renaissance epic. Falerina in Matteo Maria Boiardo’s Orlando innamorato (1494), Alcina in Ludovico Ariosto*’s Orlando furioso (1532), and Acratia in Gian Giorgio Trissino’s Italia liberata da’ Goti (Italy liberated from the Goths, 1547–1548) are all entrancing women who manage briefly to distract men from their mission, but are ultimately unmasked as detestable.
While some writers use the figure of the enchantress to reinforce traditional notions of sexual difference and truth, others offer a glimmer of a critique. Resisting the idea that the enchantress is responsible for fostering wayward and irrational beliefs, the Circe of Giovan Battista Gelli’s dialogue by the same name (La Circe ) is hardly deceitful; if she is threatening, it is because she, like the animals who for the most part side with her, challenges all unenlightened interpretations of the dignity of man. Feminist readers have examined how the enchantress-turned-hag is a prime figure for hermeneutics, revealing ‘‘truth’’
Beneath falsehood, ‘‘essence’’ beneath appearance. They have also brought to our attention Italian Renaissance writers who question this model. Teofilo Fol-engo, for example, reveals in his macaronic romance epic Baldus (1552) not the ‘‘truth about woman,’’ but the truth about models of sexual difference; Torquato Tasso* encourages us to reflect on our constructions of truth when he refuses to expose Armida as a hag in his Gerusalemme liberata [Jerusalem delivered, 1581).
See also: Ariosto, Ludovico; Epic; Renaissance; Witch.
Bibliography: Migiel, Marilyn. ‘‘The Dignity of Man: A Feminist Perspective.’’ In Refiguring Woman: Perspectives on Gender and the Italian Renaissance. Ed. Marilyn Migiel and Juliana Schiesari. Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991. 211–32; Spackman, Barbara. ‘‘Inter musam et ursam moritur: Folengo and the Gaping ‘Other’ Mouth.’’ In Refiguring Woman: Perspectives on Gender and the Italian Renaissance. Ed. Marilyn Migiel and Juliana Schiesari. Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991. 19–34; Migiel, Marilyn. Gender and Genealogy in Tasso’s ‘‘Gerusalemme Liberata.’’ Lewiston, N. Y.: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1993.
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Franco, Veronica (1546–1591) In reexamining Veronica Franco and her work from a feminist perspective, readers have appreciated not only the Venetian courtesan that traditional readers have highlighted, but also the writer, the citizen, and the public intellectual. Franco has won particular admiration among feminist readers today because, among the Italian women writers of the Renaissance,* she was perhaps Nobel Prize Since its inception in 1901, the Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to five Italian writers: Giosue` Carducci (1906), Grazia Deledda (1926), Luigi Pirandello* (1934), Salvatore Quasimodo (1959), and Eugenio Montale (1975). Deledda, one of a handful of women ever to receive the Nobel Prize, was honored mainly for her 1920 novel La madre Tasso, Torquato (1544–1595) In comparison with Ludovico Ariosto,* whose protofeminism has won him the interest and appreciation of feminist readers of Renaissance* Italian literature, Torquato Tasso and his work are wont to make many readers of the feminist persuasion highly uncomfortable, because the transgressive power of the women in his poetry is consistently undercut. This is especially true Epic The epic poem has traditionally been considered a male genre because it celebrates man as hero in battle, as founder of cities, and as father of sons to whom he will bequeath his power. Mihoko Suzuki has provided an alternate feminist reading of epic, in which she focuses on how male poets have used representations Deconstruction Originating from the influential writings of the contemporary French philosopher Jacques Derrida, deconstruction inscribes itself in the poststructuralist theoretical tradition. Claiming that Western metaphysics rests on a series of artificially resolved binary oppositions, Derrida identifies logo-centrism as the underlying factor that postulates philosophy’s common reliance on concepts of presence, truth, reason, and the word (Logos)
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