Torquato Tasso among the Muses: Gendered Communities of Readership and Response in Early Modern Italy


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Italian Studies


Torquato Tasso has long been seen as a solitary figure, lionized by the Romantics as an individual tormented by genius and madness. However, scholars have not yet investigated in detail Tasso's vital role as a coordinator of cultural networks, many of which encouraged participation by women. This dissertation reads Tasso in dialogue with communities of women writers, performers, and patrons, and traces how the poet’s artistically innovative interactions with women reflect social and gendered dynamics inherent in Tasso’s writings, intended readership, and literary legacy. Through an interdisciplinary methodology informed by literary analysis, women's and gender studies, musicology, and cultural and performance history, this project demonstrates the centrality of Tasso’s contacts with women in various contexts, bringing these gendered communities to the foreground in order to enhance critical understanding of the sixteenth-century rise of new opportunities for men and women to collaborate as cultural protagonists.