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Idealized Woman, Real Women: A Complex Comparison

Posted By Elena Brizio, Thursday, April 20, 2017


In  medieval and Renaissance literature women were idealized according to a strict model of female virtue based on a culture of honor and chastity that was reflected in art as well as in law and daily life. The question that then arises is: how were these idealized women perceived by real women of that time? Did they view them as attainable models or did they strive to accomplish a balance between real and ideal? 

The aim of this session will be to examine local and/or regional examples of both idealized and real women and to compare, where possible, the theory and practice. Papers might focus on (but are not limited to) the following aspects of this comparison across the early modern world from 1400-1700 CE:

- Iconographic representations of idealized women versus their choices as art patrons.

- Idealized women in literature and theatre versus personal representation of the self.

- Sumptuary laws and their importance in 'making or breaking' the image of a woman.

- Manipulation of rules, accommodation of conflicts, social negotiation.

- Daily comparison: mothers versus step-mothers, wives versus widows, lay women versus nuns.

- Personal practices of piety as opposed to the official trend imposed by the church.

Please send a 1-page curriculum vitae, a title and a 150-word abstract of the proposed presentation to Elena Brizio ( 

All presenters must make their own travel arrangements.

The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 24 May 2017.  Subject line: "RSA - Idealized Woman, Real Women"  


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