Treatise on the Question Do Women Have Souls and are They Human Beings?:disputatio Nova

Author: Hart, Clive
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.


Professor Hart’s edition of the Disputatio Nova can serve as a model for scholarly editions of texts from the borderland of literature, history, philosophy and theology. Not only does it provide a textual basis which is as close to being reliable as it can be under the circumstances, but also a crisp translation in the – probably unintentionally – ambiguous spirit of the original, together with a considerable number of contemporary sources in the appendices – indispensable material for the valuation of this treatise….The user of this edition thus gets a solid basis for research and does not need to spend valuable time unearthing remote sources. The bibliography alone is a treasure trove for any scholar who does research in this field.” – Harald Beck, Augsburg

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
1. Introduction: do women have souls? Opinions from the middle ages to the nineteenth century
2. The Disputatio nova: a history of its publication and reception
3. The Disputatio nova: translation
4. The Disputatio nova: commentary, with identification of allusions and sources
5. Essai sur l’ame des femmes: translation of the anonymous essay of 1744
6. The Disputatio nova: Latin text
Appendix 1: An admonition to students: translation
Appendix 2: Further references to the Disputatio nova and to the belief that women have no souls
Bibliography; Index