(University of Chicago Press, May 2005)
At a time when women were generally excluded from scholarly discourse in the intellectual centers of Europe, four extraordinary women proved their parity as they lectured in prominent scientific and literary academies and published in respected journals.
During the Italian Enlightenment, Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Giuseppa Eleonora Barbapiccola, Diamante Medaglia Faini and Aretafila Savini de’ Rossi were afforded unprecedented deference in academic debates and epitomized the increasing ability of women to influence public discourse.
— From the book jacket
The Contest for Knowledge reveals how these women used the methods and themes of their male counterparts to add their voices to the vigorous and prolific debate over the education of women during the 18th century.
In the texts gathered in the book, the women discuss the issues they thought most urgent for the equality of women in Italian society specifically, and in European culture more broadly. Their thoughts on this important subject reveal how crucial the 18th century was in the long history of debates about women in the academy.
“Paula and I decided to write the book in order to make available to scholars in and outside of 18th-century studies highly influential works by and about women from the Italian Enlightenment that have remained in manuscript form,” Messbarger said.
“In my long introduction, I aim to provide a cultural and historical context for the unprecedented institutional authority achieved by these women, unique in Europe at the time, and through our translations of these women’s defenses of the education of their sex, Paula and I sought to give vent to these crucial ‘other voices’ of the Italian Settecento.
“We hope that our volume might benefit scholars in the field and teachers of the history of women and 18th-century studies. None of the texts included in this volume have been published since the 18th century, so this is a wholly new contribution to the field.”
— Neil Schoenherr