Hairston has constructed a full personal, cultural and literary biography for d’Aragona, using newly discovered letters, archival material of other kinds, and contemporary theory about gender in women’s writing. Footnotes establish the intricacy of Tullia’s intellectual networks and her courting of intellectuals in rhyme. Hairston includes poems written to d’Aragona, including Girolamo Muzio’s long pastoral, Tirrhenia. She addresses with tact the question of how sexual Tullia’s relationships were with her various interlocutors. At times, as she says, one just can’t know, but that the issue is much less important than the poems themselves. I agree wholeheartedly. This is the editor Tullia has been waiting for: an indefatigable researcher, a creative biographer, and a precise and appreciative literary critic.
—Ann Rosalind Jones
Esther Cloudman Dunn Professor of Comparative Literature, Smith College
The figure of Tullia d’Aragona has long fascinated readers as the prototype of the “honest courtesan”, a woman who successfully exploited her physical and intellectual charms to win the adoration and respect of the Italian cultural elite. With Julia Hairston’s richly annotated edition of her collected verse, the product of more than a decade of scholarship, d’Aragona finally comes into focus also as poet. She emerges in this volume as one of the most distinctive protagonists in a key transitional moment in Italian literary history, when the aristocratic tradition of Petrarchist lyric began to be reshaped and democratized by its encounter with print.
Professor of Italian, New York University