‘Return’ is the theme of the summer for me (not in the equivocal sense!). I’ve worked out how to turn my doctoral dissertation into a book, and I seem to have the stomach for writing it now, too, so I’m returning to some familiar material and of course taking quite a new angle. I’m heading to Italy to do some archival research—back to Italy, back into archives after what feels like a long break. I’ve also been revisiting one of the primary sources I began to look at during my Marie Curie fellowship. (One of the chapters I’d planned to include in a monograph on music & eroticism in 16th-century Rome that I think will fit better in the villotta book.) I’m racing to have my introduction, sample chapter and book proposal ready to send off by the time teaching resumes in early September. Gulp.
My contribution to Sexualities, Textualities, Art and Music in Early Modern Italy ed. Melanie L. Marshall, Linda L. Carroll and Katherine A. McIver (Ashgate, 2014) is now available to the public courtesy of UCC’s institutional repository. Please do download and read it!
‘I will do what I want’, so Toni, a young woman, informs her father about his plans for her marital future. This line from a sixteenth-century villotta by a little-known actor-musician, Alvise Castellino, confounds much of the scholarly consensus around early modern female autonomy. Popular entertainment like Castellino’s villotte bears out the findings of recent archival studies by Linda L. Carroll, and Emlyn Eisenach, that women from the lower echelons of society had significant input into their marriages. Castellino appears to have specialised in solo performances of multi-character songs, and his women characters are outspoken and challenge patriarchal norms. His 1541 collection of villotte—his only known publication, and the only collection of its type to contain so many songs with women’s speech—was dedicated to Duke Ercole II d’Este and may have had particular significance at the ducal court of Ferrara, where the duke and Duchess Renée de France were engaged in battles over her authority and speech. The comic treatment of songs in women’s voice resonates with the fraught relationship between the duke and duchess, in particular Ercole’s struggle to control René and thereby control his relationship with France.