"You've Really Got a Hold on Me": The Power and Emotion in Women's Correspondence in Fifteenth-Century Italy
McLean, Nicole Lynn
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This thesis examines the lives of Alessandra Strozzi and Lucrezia de'Medici of Florence. The fifteenth-century in Italy saw women's power declining, and patrician women used letter writing to enter the public sphere and exert power. This study analyzes socially constructed emotional themes in women's correspondence which is in concert with scholars like Barbara Rosenwein in that it seeks to instead situate emotions in specific historical contexts. For Alessandra, we see how she successfully employs the emotions of guilt and shame to manipulate her sons into behaving properly, as these emotions were closely connected to Italian culture. Second, in the patronage letters written to Lucrezia by potential clients, we see the use of motherly emotions by clients in hopes that Lucrezia will essentially fill a mother's role, helping them with their hardships. Even though client's letters represent a "fictive" mother/child relationship, they are a testament to Lucrezia's power as a mother.