It is often claimed that Italian humanists disapproved of the study of rhetoric for women, seeing it as transgressing the social-ethical norms that reserved the public virtue of eloquence for men. A key piece of evidence adduced for this view is a passage in Leonardo Bruni's De studiis et litteris, which appears to exclude the study of rhetoric for women on precisely these grounds. This paper challenges the conventional interpretation of this passage, arguing instead for a satirical reading. Far from proscribing rhetorical study for women in De studiis, it is suggested here, Bruni advocates an innovative humanistic model of rhetorical education, using the choice of a female addressee to underline the novelty of this ideal.
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