Appel à communication : « Seduction and Courtship Rituals in Renaissance Italy », RSA 2021, Dublin, date limite le 10 août 2020

Session du Congrès de la Renaissance Society of America – Dublin, 2021

Temptation and seduction are somewhat gendered words. In the context of the premodern courtship ritual, the more passive temptation part, allowing oneself to be looked at, is mostly played by women, whereas the seduction part, actively doing something to seduce the other, such as following them around or serenading them, is mostly played by men.This is, however, not exclusively the case. Sometimes women use active seduction techniques such as sending letters and gifts (in Italian novella stories), or impressing the other with martial skill (in romance epics). Likewise, young men may sometimes be described as tempting others by means of their clothes and hairstyles (although this is mostly within a homosexual context).

The behavioral codes for love affairs appear to be gendered as well. The code of conduct for women prescribed them to resist their suitors for as long as they could, in order to test their lovers, turning sex into an instrument of power, but also in order to appear chaste and modest. Men on the other hand were advised that in order to be successful in love, they had to be persistent and resilient – eventually, their beloved would give in, and if all else failed they were allowed to use force. Gendered behavioral codes that may have given rise to what is now called a rape culture.

With this panel, I would like to invite fellow scholars to engage with this topic, and open mindedly discuss the gendered nature of seduction rituals in Renaissance Italy. Who took the initiative in these affairs? What type of techniques were women believed to use to “tempt” men, and what techniques did men use to “seduce” women? What behavioral codes existed for these rituals? Who took the initiative to have sex, and who was passive, and who was active during sex? And, finally, how much agency do we think men and women had in these affairs? Through these questions, this panel will engage with discussions on gender identity and agency, as well as issues of consent and the normalization of a rape culture.

The goal of this panel is to gather a diverse group of scholars working with different types of source material, including literary genres such as romance, theater plays, novella collections, treatises on love, pornography/erotica, but also visual sources, personal correspondence and legal documents. It would be interesting to reconstruct and compareassumptions about the “sexual nature” of men and women (and how they were likely to behave), with behavioral codes about how men and women should behave, and, if possible, with examples of how men and women actually behaved. Of course, “men” and “ women”should not be seen as universals here. Much rather, it might be valuable to look for diversity in men and women of different ages, social classes, ethnicity, and within homo- as well as heterosexual relationships.

Please send paper proposals to Marlisa den Hartog by 10 August 2020. The submissions must include:

  • paper title (15-word maximum);
  • abstract (150-word maximum);
  • curriculum vitae (.pdf or .doc, no longer than 5 pages);
  • PhD completion date (past or expected; as per the RSA guidelines, PhD students must be ABD);
  • full name, current affiliation, and email address.

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