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The Lady Cornaro: Pride and Prodigy of Venice Hardcover – June 1, 1999

7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

A praiseworthy if perfunctory biography of Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, the ``first woman in the world'' to receive a university doctorate. Elena Cornaro was not only beautiful, brilliant, and of good family, but chaste, compassionate, generous and so dedicated to her Roman Catholic religious beliefs that she wore a monk's habit under her elaborate silk gowns. Born in 1646, by the time she was 11 years old, she had learned Latin, Greek, French, and Spanish, and was studying art, music, philosophy, and history. She went on to become proficient in four more languages as well as mathematics, astronomy, and physics. She had also taken vows of chastity that put her in conflict with her father, who wanted her to make an advantageous marriage. They compromised: she would remain a virgin, but give up her dream of entering a convent. He continued to support her studies and frequently showed off her erudition at parties and gatherings of distinguished scholars. Elena's academic reputation grew until she was recommended as a candidate for a degree at the University of Padua, passing her final exam when she was 30 years old. However, she had punished her health with ``extreme penance,'' wearing hair shirts and starving herself (a condition called ``holy anorexia''), and died at 38. After many funeral honors, she was buried in a chapel in Padua, now called the Cornaro Chapel. In the US, she is venerated by a stained glass window at Vassar College. Unfortunately, very few of Elena's own writings survived, so freelance writer and editor Guernsey tries to give dimension to Elena's life by describing her extended family, the tutors and notables who influenced her, as well as depicting life in Venice in the late 17th century. Limited introduction to a woman who is a heroine of Vassar graduates and other women scholars. (55 b&w illustrations) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Review

"...carefully researched and highly readable...Elena Cornaro should be nominated one of the hundred most important people of the last thousand years." -- Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, Spring 2000

"Fascinating volume" -- Gladys Dratch, Librarian, Harvard University

"Handsome and dignified . . . a splendid evocation" -- Leonard Boyle, Prefect, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Rome

"In THE LADY CORNARO, Jane Howard Guernsey has produced a lively, amply illustrated, and richly informed account of the life of the first woman Ph.D." -- New Oxford Review, November 2000

"THE LADY CORNARO provides new insight into the life of 'La Prima Donna Laureata nel Mondo' ('The First Woman Graduate in the World'). Elena Cornaro's prodigious intelligence and fervent faith are luminous constants in this warmly human story of her brief, conflicted life." -- E. Maxine Bruhns, University of Pittsburgh

"This first, full-length study in English beautifully conveys the life, ambiance and achievements of Elena Cornaro." -- Benjamin G. Kohl, Vassar College

Elena Cornaro should be nominated one of the hundred most important people of the last thousand years. -- Professor Betty Rizzo, City University of New York

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 276 pages
  • Publisher: College Ave Pr; 1 edition (June 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1883551447
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883551445
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,380,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By "bettyr2k" on September 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Although it is unlikely to happen, Elena Cornaro really should be nominated one of the hundred most important people of the last thousand years. In this carefully researched and highly readable book, Jane Howard Guernsey has successfully reconstructed the story of the Lady Cornaro's astonishing achievements and raised the questions they invite. The author has added to the recoverable information about the life of "The Cornaro," as she was affectionately known to her fellow Venetians, valuable contextual details about the life and milieu of Venice and Padua and about her tutors and contemporaries. These details elucidate both the uniqueness of the opportunities granted her and the enormous stress under which she lived as she labored to do the will of her earthly and her heavenly fathers. (Professor Rizzo's more extensive review of "The Lady Cornaro: Pride and Prodigy of Venice" may be found in "Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature," Vol. 19, No. 1, Spring 2000.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is a must-read for anyone who has studied under the Cornaro Window in Thompson Library at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY. As you may know, the stunning Cornaro Window at Vassar celebrates Lady Elena Cornaro, the first woman to be awarded a Ph.D (University of Padua in 1678). This book describes Elena's life in 17th century Venice, including her relationships with her parents, teachers, and friends. It was refreshing to read a biography about a humble and formidable person. I highly recommend The Lady Cornaro - Pride and Prodigy of Venice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cristina Canziani on April 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Given the subject matter, this could have been an interesting read. This book is meant to be the biography of a Venetian woman (a member of the influential Cornaro family) who was the first ever female to be granted a university degree. She was held in great esteem throughout Europe. She was a virgin with an eating disorder. She wore a hairshirt under her silk gowns. Her mother was a trashy parvenu and her father was a Republican. You now know everything I learned by reading this book, which, though it does not consist of many pages, took a whole week to get through.
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By Lorenzo on July 8, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book, a great deal of detail information on Venice and the remarkable life of Elena Piscopia. Elana was an exceptially talented woman, born into a family of extravagant wealth and opportunity for education. However, she was a very humble person, very much interested in helping the sick and poor. In many ways she rebelled again the excessive wealth surrounding her, yet was obedient in accepting the social role of her family. I was not certain about the book, when I ordered it, because there were only a few reviews, one very negative. In that review, the person had some bias, like from a university education of political correctness. I do not think that person was able to objective look back at the 17th century and appreciate the political and culture. However, I believe that the book was fascinating and I did not want to put it down. I learned so much about the culture and life of Elena that I would highly recommend the book. I was looking for information on the math that Elena studied and I found some references to a book written specifically for math studies by ber tutor. I was able to find a copy of the book. Elena was an amazing person, fluent in Italian, Spanish, German, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. She was instructed by native speakers and the best classical scholars. It may be a surprise to modern readers of her life that in 17th-18th century Italy that there were opportunities for women to be educated,
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