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Meredith K. Ray

  • Professor of Italian

University of Delaware
107 Jastak-Burgess Hall
Newark, DE 19716

ON SABBATICAL


(302) 831-2036
mkray@udel.edu

Biography:

Currently on Research Leave

Meredith K. Ray is Professor of Italian at the University of Delaware, where she teaches courses in medieval and Renaissance Italian literature, history, and culture as well as Italian composition, Italian music, and Italian detective fiction and film. She regularly offers courses on women writers of early modern Europe, Italy in the age of the Scientific Revolution, and Dante’s Divine Comedy in Italian and in translation. She is affiliated with the Department of Women and Gender Studies and the European Studies program at the Center for Global and Area Studies.

Dr. Ray’s active research agenda includes Italian women’s writing of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, early modern scientific culture, epistolary writing, convent culture, and contemporary fictions of Renaissance Italy. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the American Association of University Women, the Fulbright Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Renaissance Society of America. Dr. Ray is the author of Daughters of Alchemy: Women and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy (Harvard University Press, 2016) and Writing Gender in Women’s Letter Collections of the Italian Renaissance (University of Toronto Press, 2009), winner of a 2009 American Association of Italian Studies Best Book Prize; she is also the co-editor of Arcangela Tarabotti: Letters Familiar and Formal (Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2013), winner of the 2013 Translation Prize from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women.

Dr. Ray’s most recent book is Margherita Sarrocchi’s Letters to Galileo: Astronomy, Astrology, and Poetics in Seventeenth-Century Italy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). Works-in-progress include a translation of Machiavelli’s writings on Florentine history and an edition of Arcangela Tarabotti’s Paradiso monacale, in collaboration with Dr. Lynn Westwater, which is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Dr. Ray welcomes the opportunity to work with students interested in researching early modern topics and she regularly participates in the UD Undergraduate Research and Summer Scholars programs (http://urp.udel.edu).

 

Degrees:

  • Ph.D., University of Chicago

Publications:

  • Books:

  • Margherita Sarrocchi’s Letters to Galileo: Astronomy, Astrology, and Poetics in Seventeenth-Century Italy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)
  • Daughters of Alchemy: Women and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy (Harvard University Press, 2016)
  • Arcangela Tarabotti. Letters Familiar and Formal (Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2012).
  • Writing Gender in Women’s Letter Collections of Renaissance Italy (University of Toronto Press, 2009).
  • Lettere familiari e di complimento (Rosenberg & Sellier, 2005).

Margherita Sarrocchi’s Letters to Galileo: Astronomy, Astrology, and Poetics in Seventeenth-Century Italy

Margherita Sarrocchi’s Letters to Galileo: Astronomy, Astrology, and Poetics in Seventeenth-Century Italy

This book examines a pivotal moment in the history of science and women’s place in it. Meredith Ray offers the first in-depth study and complete English translation of the fascinating correspondence between Margherita Sarrocchi (1560-1617), a natural philosopher and author of the epic poem, Scanderbeide (1623), and famed astronomer, Galileo Galilei. Their correspondence, undertaken soon after the publication of Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius, reveals how Sarrocchi approached Galileo for his help revising her epic poem, offering, in return, her endorsement of his recent telescopic discoveries. Situated against the vibrant and often contentious backdrop of early modern intellectual and academic culture, their letters illustrate, in miniature, that the Scientific Revolution was, in fact, the product of a long evolution with roots in the deep connections between literary and scientific exchanges.

Daughters of Alchemy: Women and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy

Daughters of Alchemy: Women and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy

The era of the Scientific Revolution has long been epitomized by Galileo. Yet many women were at its vanguard, deeply invested in empirical culture. They experimented with medicine and practical alchemy at home, at court, and through collaborative networks of practitioners. In academies, salons, and correspondence, they debated cosmological discoveries; in their literary production, they used their knowledge of natural philosophy to argue for their intellectual equality to men.

Meredith Ray restores the work of these women to our understanding of early modern scientific culture. Her study begins with Caterina Sforza’s alchemical recipes; examines the sixteenth-century vogue for “books of secrets”; and looks at narratives of science in works by Moderata Fonte and Lucrezia Marinella. It concludes with Camilla Erculiani’s letters on natural philosophy and, finally, Margherita Sarrocchi’s defense of Galileo’s “Medicean” stars.

Combining literary and cultural analysis, Daughters of Alchemy contributes to the emerging scholarship on the variegated nature of scientific practice in the early modern era. Drawing on a range of under-studied material including new analyses of the Sarrocchi–Galileo correspondence and a previously unavailable manuscript of Sforza’s Experimenti, Ray’s book rethinks early modern science, properly reintroducing the integral and essential work of women.

Lettere familiari e di complimento

Lettere familiari e di complimento

Leggere oggi le “Lettere familiari e di complimento” vuol dire penetrare con nuova consapevolezza nei monasteri femminili italiani dell’età rinascimentale e barocca: uno spazio che poteva rappresentare per le donne sia una vera e propria “morte al mondo”, sia un luogo adatto per la propria autorealizzazione e promozione sociale. Considerata ora una delle più importanti scrittrici italiane della sua epoca, Suor Arcangela Tarabotti (1604-1652) entrò da ragazza – e contro la propria volontà – nel monastero di Sant’Anna di Venezia, dove passò il resto della vita in stretta clausura. Una delle molte monache forzate nella Venezia seicentesca, Tarabotti visse il monastero come una carcere e un “Inferno de’ viventi”. Ma la sua vera vocazione fu letteraria.

Letters Familiar and Formal (The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series)

Letters Familiar and Formal (The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series)

Co-edited and translated with Lynn Lara Westwater, Arcangela Tarabotti: Letters Familiar and Formal (Toronto, 2013) examines the life and work of a Venetian nun and protofeminist writer. Confined to the cloister, ArcangelaTarabotti fought back against the practice of forced monachization in treatises condemning male treachery and the consignment of unwanted daughters to convents throughout Venice and Italy. Her collected letters serve as a map to the wide net of literary relationships Tarabotti was able to maintain from within the convent and to the rocky path she encountered in asserting her voice in her literary works. The Italian edition of Tarabotti’s letters by Ray and Westwater was published in 2005 (Arcangela Tarabotti, Lettere familiari e di complimento, Turin, 2005).

Writing Gender in Women’s Letter Collections of the Italian Renaissance (Toronto Italian Studies)

Writing Gender in Women’s Letter Collections of the Italian Renaissance (Toronto Italian Studies)

Writing Gender in Women’s Letter Collections of the Italian Renaissance (Toronto, 2009) examines the literary vogue for letters and letter writing during the Italian Renaissance, when early modern writers rushed to publish collections of private correspondence. The book focuses on letters by a diverse array of Renaissance women – including a noblewoman, a courtesan, an actress, a nun, and a male writer who composed letters under female pseudonyms. It argues that these works were a studied performance of pervasive ideas about both gender and genre, and variously reflected and subverted cultural and literary conventions regarding femininity and masculinity. Indeed, the widespread interest in women’s letter collections during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries suggests a deep curiosity about the female experience and a surprising openness to women’s participation in this kind of literary production.

Professional Activities:

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