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Women, Language and Grammar in Italy, 1500-1900$
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Helena Sanson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780197264836

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264836.001.0001

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Knowledge and language ‘for the ladies’

Knowledge and language ‘for the ladies’

(p.188) 4 Knowledge and language ‘for the ladies’
Women, Language and Grammar in Italy, 1500-1900

Helena Sanson

British Academy

Across Europe, as early as the seventeenth century (and even more so in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries) women became the target of scientific treatises which aimed to explain new scientific knowledge to an unspecialized audience. Women were the privileged recipients of popularizing works of science and literature, and therefore indirectly contributed to introducing the new philosophers. In view of women's limited education, and their ignorance of Latin, works ‘for the ladies’ became synonymous with something adapted so as to become elementary and easy to grasp. Knowledge ‘for the ladies’ extended also to language, with the production across various countries of grammatical works which claimed to be, according to their titles and prefaces, expressly meant for the female sex. In agreement with the viewpoint that saw women as being incapable of real intellectual efforts, authors of these grammars shunned dry, boring, and taxing ways of learning, in favour of quicker and more pleasant and entertaining ones.

Keywords:   women, scientific treatises, scientific knowledge, science, grammatical works

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