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Conduct Literature for and about Women in Italy

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Conduct Literature for and about Women in Italy, 1470-1900: Prescribing and Describing Life 

Thursday 20 March and Friday 21 March 2014 Alison Richard Building, Cambridge

A conference entitled Conduct Literature for and about Women in Italy, 1470-1900: Prescribing and Describing Life will take place on Thursday 20 and Friday 21 March 2014 in the Alison Richard Building, Sidgwick Site, University of Cambridge. 

This 1.5-day event will mark the conclusion of an 18-month Leverhulme Trust-Newton Trust co-funded project on the little-studied production of printed conduct literature for and about women in Italy between the end of the fifteenth century and the end of the nineteenth. 

With the diffusion of the printing press and the establishment of the vernacular as a language of culture, Italy saw a wide production of texts that aimed to define the nature of women, their role in society and their conduct in everyday life. Fluctuating between prescription and description of life and conduct, on the one hand these works embody the static voice of tradition and seem to offer a high degree of homogeneity in terms of the feminine ideal they present across the centuries; on the other, they defy homogeneity by reflecting and adapting to the changing philosophical, cultural and literary trends across the centuries, thus offering a fascinating account of, and insight into, the changing role of women according to the needs of society.

Speakers are early career researchers and well-known scholars from different fields (Italian studies and literature, as well as women's history, gender studies, cultural history, history of ideas, history of the book, history of education), who have published extensively on subjects pertaining to conduct literature and women's role in society.

An exhibition of conduct books held in Cambridge University Library will take place between 17 February and 23 March 2014.

The conference is generously sponsored by the Department of Italian and the Centre for Gender Studies, both at Cambridge University, the Italian Cultural Institute in London and the Society for Italian Studies.


Conference speakers: 

Federica Boldrini (Università di Catanzaro)
Inge Botteri (Archivio storico della Resistenza bresciana e dell'età contemporanea, Università Cattolica, sede di Brescia)
Adriana Chemello (Università degli Studi di Padova)
Beatrice Collina (Università di Bologna)
Carmela Covato (Università degli Studi Roma Tre)
Silvia Evangelisti (University of East Anglia)
Ann Hallamore Caesar (University of Warwick)
Lucy Hosker (University of Cambridge) 
Francesco Lucioli (Clare College, University of Cambridge)
Elena Musiani (Università di Bologna)
Letizia Panizza (Royal Holloway, University of London)
Tiziana Plebani (Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venezia)
Brian Richardson (University of Leeds)
Helena Sanson (Clare College, University of Cambridge) 


Please see the full programme here.



Registration is now open. The full fee is £35, and we are happy to offer a reduced rate for students of £20. There will be a conference dinner at Clare College on the evening of March 20th. Please use the link to register online as well as to book for the dinner if you wish to join us: Conference Registration

The closing date for registration for the conference and for the dinner has been extended to 17 March 2014.


The conference will be held in the Alison Richard Building which is on the Sidgwick Site, Cambridge


For information about various accommodation possibilities (all price ranges), you may find the following sites useful:

  • For rooms in one of Cambridge's many colleges, go to this page
  • For the University's accommodation page (B & B's, hotels), go to this page



Cambridge is readily accessible from various locations. For information on how to get here, please go to this page.


An exhibition of conduct books held in Cambridge University Library will take place between 17 February and 23 March 2014. 


Conduct Literature Organising Committee

Dr Helena Sanson (Clare College, University of Cambridge)
Dr Francesco Lucioli (Clare College, University of Cambridge)

If you have any queries, please contact: