Aileen Feng Awarded Newberry Fellowship

September 28th, 2023

Aileen A. Feng, Associate Professor of Italian and Director of Italian Studies, has received a nine-month residential fellowship at the Newberry Library in Chicago, where she will have research access to a collection of rare books dating to the 15th and 16th centuries.


At the Newberry, Feng will complete her second monograph, Feminism’s First Paradox: Female Misogyny & Homosociality in Early Modern Italy, which situates the first generations of Italian women writers (ca. 1400-1645) within a longer tradition of misogynist writings about women and views their engagement with and in it as fundamental to the creation of a female voice and discursive space.


“From explicitly denouncing misogyny, to ventriloquizing its ‘lessons’ through the female voice, or reinscribing its tropes into positive and productive forms of female creativity, early women writers found their voice in the gray area between misogynist and pro-woman literature,” Feng said. “Feminism’s First Paradox thus seeks to contextualize female misogyny within the broader cultural and literary traditions that predate, coincide with, and continue on from it.”


Feng’s research will center on 12 rare, early printed books in the Newberry Library’s Special Collections. She said that she is “particularly excited to examine the compendia of illustrated biographies of women and fashion books, published in Italy between 1497 and 1598, that are part of the Newberry’s collections in Medieval-Renaissance Italian studies.”


Founded in 1887, the Newberry Library houses collections and exhibitions dating from the 15th century to the present. The Newberry is a renowned resource for historians, genealogists, visual and performing artists, writers, and teachers and students in a variety of subjects.


Feng is one of 11 scholars awarded a long-term Newberry Fellowship this year, and one of five supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Feng said the Newberry’s Center for Renaissance Studies “is an important intellectual hub for me” and her fellowship will coincide with an impressive line-up of events and exhibitions.