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Italy, poetry, Venetian salon


During the mid-sixteenth century in Italy, when a remarkable number of women joined in the production of poetry, one of the channels open to their pursuit of intellectual life and fame was the Venetian saloon. There music and poetry mingled as poems were frequently sung or recited before an audience rather than read privately in silence. The poetry of Gaspara Stampa was produced for this milieu. Published in 1554, a year after her death, her collection of more than three hundred poems has been approached in two main ways: as the autobiographical self-expression of a passionate woman and more recently as the work of a writer well assimilated into contemporary literary circles. Scholars in the last twenty years, who take her literary skill and ambition seriously, emphasize Stampa's use of the dominant male poetic traditions to subvert male values and too empower the female creator despite her apparent self-abasement. A further enriched appreciation of her work may come from exploring its social and performative contexts, for Stampa was a performer as well as a poet, and indeed a performer of poetry.