Accompanying a recent newspaper article on the Grano Salon Speakers Series in Toronto were photos of individuals who have spoken (or will soon be speaking) at the Salon in the last 10 years since its inception. I found it strange that only 4 of the 40 photos accompanying the article were of women, and I suspected that there had been a journalistic error. Perhaps, I thought, there were in fact many more speakers over the past decade, and someone had not bothered to offer a representative sampling of photos from both sexes. But then I looked on the Salon Speakers Series website, where the prominent blurb reads: “Leading thinkers discussing the pressing issues of our times.” I learned that, indeed, only 4 of the total of 40 speakers have been women. It seems that only 10% of the leading thinkers in the world today are women, if the selection of invited speakers made by the Grano series’ organizers over the past decade demonstrates any commitment on this question.
Two weeks after that disappointing discovery, I came across a book of Marguerite de Navarre’s (1492-1549) selected writings (2008), edited and translated by Rouben Cholakian and Mary Skemp. The last I had read of Marguerite was many years earlier in an undergraduate French course, and I wanted to look more closely into what she had written. It is proving to be a fascinating read, with Marguerite’s Middle French on the left-hand page facing the contemporary American English translation on the right, and including many works prior to her masterpiece, The Heptameron, a collection of 72 short stories exploring love and battles between the sexes.
But what this book lead me to is really the point of this post: the discovery of the existence of an impressive series of books, founded 20 years ago, called The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe, published by The University of Chicago Press. The series includes 61 titles by female thinkers in Europe from 1300-1700, and concluded publication with Marguerite de Navarre’s full text of The Heptameron in 2012. There are titles by other well-known female early modern European writers, such as Christine de Pizan, Madeleine de l’Aubespine, Madeleine de Scudéry, and Gaspara Stampa. But there are many titles by female writers lesser known by today's readers, but well-known in their own time. I look forward to reading other volumes in this series. (After 2012, Victoria University of the University of Toronto has continued with publishing books in a series inspired by the Chicago founding series).
And, in a fitting juxtaposition of photographic portrait arrays, what one notices first on the Other Voice website are 58 portraits of the authors of the series volumes, each visage completely filling the space available on the cover of her book. Each a leading thinker discussing the pressing issues of her time.
Marguerite de Navarre. (1492-1549). (2008). Selected writings: A bilingual edition. Cholakian, R. & M. Skemp (Eds. & Trans.) Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.