Calliope's daughters. Women, epic, and occasional poetry in the early modern Ibero-American world, 1556-1756

Start - End 
2020 - 2023 (ongoing)



Epic poetry has traditionally been considered a male genre, written by and for men. This project seeks to contest this view by drawing attention to a corpus of epic poetry and heroic verse written by and for women in the early modern Ibero-American world. Women writers in the Spanish and Portuguese empires not only wrote full-length epics but also participated alongside men in 'poetic jousts' for which they wrote heroic verse. In some cases, they were even commissioned to write poetry or to collaborate with male writers. This project argues that these texts have tended to be overlooked for two reasons. First, many of these works were written for local festivities and have thus been considered occasional poems rather than epics, despite their heroic features. Unlike traditional epics, these poems often offer second-degree reflections: they recount historical events of transnational significance but do so indirectly by evoking local acts of commemoration. The second reason is that many of these works playfully combine features of different genres, which makes them more difficult to classify. By recuperating the works of these women writers, who came from different regions (Spain, Portugal, the New World) and circumstances (nuns, wives, widows, of noble and more humble origins), I seek to show the inclusiveness and dynamism of a genre, which was considerably more open than has traditionally been thought.