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Unit information: The Invention of the Renaissance Woman in 2021/22

Unit name The Invention of the Renaissance Woman
Unit code ITAL20029
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Rhiannon Daniels
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Italian
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

The querelles des femmes was a series of literary debates concerning the nature of women and their position within society that took place across Europe in the pre-modern period. This unit considers some of the key Italian contributions to this debate, using selections of texts composed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and culminating in a study Castiglione’s Cortegiano, an international ‘bestseller’ from the tradition. We will consider not only what these texts tell us about male views of women, and the wider philosophical, theological, and social issues raised by the discussions, but also reflect upon male concerns with their own gendered position. The Italian querelles will be put into literary context through the study of fourteenth-century antecedents, including Boccaccio’s De mulieribus claris, a catalogue of the lives of famous women which directly influenced many of the Renaissance treatises. Throughout the unit we will also consider wider related issues such as female education, female patronage, the nature and power of Renaissance courts, and the impact of the printing press on the success of texts and their readerships.


  • to develop skills in literary analysis and critical thinking through the study of key texts associated with the Italian querelles des femmes;
  • to develop an understanding of gender relations in late medieval and Renaissance Italy, as well as wider contextual issues relating to education, patronage, courts, and print culture;
  • to develop an understanding of the relationship between texts and authors within Italy, and some background knowledge of the broader European context

Intended Learning Outcomes

Successful students will be able to demonstrate:

  1. skills of critical text analysis;
  2. a good understanding of the relationship between the texts and the context in which they were produced;
  3. an ability to evaluate the similarities and differences between literary representations of women and historical constructions of gender;
  4. ability to respond to questions or problems by presenting their independent judgements in an appropriate style and at a high level of complexity;
  5. academic written skills, at a standard appropriate to level I;
  6. skills in oral presentation, at a standard appropriate to level I;
  7. skills of collaborative working to achieve a common project.

Teaching Information

Lectures and seminars

Assessment Information

1 x 20 minute group oral presentation [review of secondary literature] (25%) (ILOs1-4, 6, 7),

1 x 2500 word essay (75%) (ILOs 1-5)


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. ITAL20029).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.