About the author: Clive Hart, a Research Professor at the University of Essex, has published widely on James Joyce, the prehistory of flight, and early modern attitudes to women. His most recent book is Genitalia: Rhetoric and Reticence in the Early Modern Period (Gilliland Press, 2001).1998 0-7734-8280-6
A generally misogynistic contribution to the querelle des femmes, the Disputatio explores theological debates of long standing: do women have souls; If so, are their souls identical to those of men? If not, are women merely higher animals? Are they made in the image of God as men are? Will women be saved? The accompanying commentary examines these questions in relation to early modern feminism, Catholic/Protestant theological debate of the 16th century, relevant literary texts, and popular belief. The tract, probably written in eastern Germany, caused a stir out of proportion both to its size and to the cogency or originality of its arguments. The Vatican twice placed the Disputatio on the Index of Prohibited Books, first in 1651 and then again as late as 1714. This book offers the first complete English translation, together with a commentary which includes extracts from other treatises either written in direct response or addressing similar issues. It includes a translation of an essay on related themes published two and a half centuries later as an addendum to Anne Gabriel Meusnier de Querlon's French version of the tract. An Appendix includes the Latin text of the Disputatio, edited from a copy of the first edition collated with the only surviving manuscript. A full set of textual notes follows.2003 0-7734-6541-3
The anonymous tract Disputatio nova contra mulieres, qua probatur eas hominess non esse (A new argument against women, in which it is demonstrated that they are not human beings), first published in 1595, rapidly grew notorious, and was reprinted many times during the 17th and 18th centuries. By selectively quoting scriptural passages, along with a few references to other works, the author attempted to prove that women have no souls, and, being little better than higher animals, will have no afterlife. Although a degree of anti-feminine spite is evident, he was less intent to denigrate women that to advance an absurd argument parallel to what he took to be the equally absurd theological propositions of the Socinian sect, that Christ was not divine. It was nevertheless inevitable that most readers would take the tract at face value. Many refutations appeared. This new edition, with complete translation, collated text, and copious quotations from many references to it, ranging from the 16th to the 20th centuries, offers the first full assessment of its impact on early modern feminist thought.