Poetry reading highlights feminist Renaissance writer

By Eric Gibble
October 1, 2009

Shannon Keough

The Renaissance period yielded famous artists and writers like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Shakespeare. These names have been engrained in our textbooks and have taken a prominent role in our art and education.

A lesser known, yet also talented, poet from the Italian Renaissance became the center of attention at Cabrini this past week.

On Wednesday, Sept. 16 the poetry of 16th century Italian courtesan Tullia d’Aragona was relived in the Mansion during a poetry reading by Dr. Elizabeth Pallitto, a respected translator and poet. Pallitto is currently engaged in research at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C.

“I feel very welcome here as my father was an Italian immigrant, and I know Mother Cabrini was the patron of immigrants,” Pallitto said.

The event was chiefly organized by Dr. Paul Wright, assistant professor of English and co-director of the honors program. Wright met Pallitto at the Folger Shakespeare Library when he was doing research there over the summer. Wright thought she would be perfect to bring to Cabrini.

“The whole event was a window into a world we have forgotten,” Wright said.

Students are currently studying the works of Tulia d’Aragona in the Honors English Renaissance class alongside other female Italian Renaissance poets.

“It helped to clarify points Dr. Wright taught us in class and she showed the connections between Dante, Petrach and Tullia that I hadn’t realized were there before,” Jessica Gruber, senior English major, said.

However the event proved to be intriguing even for those unfamiliar with her work.

“I think the read was a great success. It was helpful to our class and interesting to anyone else who’s interested in the Renaissance time period or literature in general,” Gruber said.

Several topics involving the theme of Tullia d’Aragona were addressed and discussed by Pallitto. These themes included how d’Aragona’s ideas would be considered feminist even though feminism was just in its infancy.

“I think her work is timeless,” Pallitto said. “Her ideas were feminist even though the word did not exist at the time.”

D’Aragona also believed that people were created in God’s image, a fresh idea for the time period.

After the poetry reading, Wright emphasized why d’Aragona’s work is still relevant hundreds of years later. Many of her writings were Neo-Platonist which asserted women had the right to be emotionally and physically connected to their partner.

“This woman wrote poetry on par with men at the time,” Wright said. “Studying the past is important, it gives us another lens to study our own issues.”

“She wanted to live on through her poems,” Pallitto said.

With the recent poetry reading at Cabrini, d’Aragona certainly has.

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Eric Gibble

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