Experientia feminae: References to Experience in Early Modern Women’s Writing in France and Italy
Christina Schaefer specializes in French and Italian Literature. She received her doctoral degree in Romance Literature from Freie Universität Berlin where she has been teaching and doing research since 2003. In her 2012 PhD thesis, she investigated the epistemological aspects of the twentieth-century French New Novel (Nouveau Roman) and its relationship to contemporary constructivist theories. In her recent monograph entitled Talking about House and Family, she focused on the discourse on 'oikonomia' in Italian Renaissance literature from Leon Battista Alberto to Torquato Tasso.
In the early modern age, experience (lat. experientia) is generally valued as complementary to theoretical knowledge. Yet, female authors in particular seem to refer to it to support their arguments or legitimize their writing. The project focuses on the different modes and functions of the recourse to experientia in the writings of French and Italian women between 1400 and 1800. Its main focus is on: a) the impact of gender, class, age, and education; b) the interface between life experience and empirical knowledge of the sciences; and c) the literary and rhetorical strategies that authors adopt when dealing with experience as a type of elusive knowledge that cannot be easily put into words.