Renaissance Woman: The Life of Vittoria Colonna

Ramie Targoff. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-374-14094-6
Targoff (Common Prayer), professor of English and cochair of Italian studies at Brandeis University, paints Vittoria Colonna (1492–1547) as an embodiment of the Italian Renaissance in this enjoyable narrative, noting Colonna’s intense religiosity and role as the first published female Italian poet. Humble despite her family’s high stature, Colonna was shocked when her literary work was published. But her romantic paeans to her late husband and religious sonnets encouraged other women to publish and inspired established male poets to ask for her elegant literary critiques of their work. Targoff provides several helpful translations of Colonna’s poems, accompanied by clear explications of her struggles with mourning and spirituality, which her letters also documented. Like her poetry, Colonna’s life centered on both the secular and the sacred; her friendship with Michelangelo and occasional political involvement contrasted with her frequent convent stays. Colonna also became part of the failed Catholic reformation movement; as a result, the Vatican compiled Inquisition documents listing her “heretical beliefs.” The unpublished documents and other contemporary sources Targoff presents, along with lines from the sonnets, illuminate Colonna’s reformist tendencies. Targoff’s well-researched, thoughtful biography reveals Colonna as a complex woman who turned grief and a spiritual quest into a renowned literary reputation. Illus. Agent: Jill Kneerim, Kneerim & Williams. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/11/2017
Release date: 02/20/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-5414-6394-3
Ebook - 978-0-374-71384-3
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