Jessica Goethals

Jan 20, 2024

Margherita Costa, Diva of the Baroque Court

University of Toronto Press 2023

The Roman singer, courtesan, and writer Margherita Costa won prominence and fame across the courts of Italy and France during the mid-seventeenth century. She secured a steady stream of elite patrons – including popes, queens, grand dukes, and influential cardinals – while male poets and librettists wrote celebratory poetry on her behalf. In addition to her appearances as a soprano on the opera stage, Costa published a remarkable fourteen full-length texts across an expanse of genres: burlesque comedy, drama, equestrian ballet, pastoral opera, amorous letters, lyric poetry, and history.

Margherita Costa, Diva of the Baroque Court (U Toronto Press, 2023) brings together close textual readings of Costa’s numerous publications with archival materials detailing her performance itinerary and social-cultural networks. The book progresses chronologically through her life, geographically along the routes she travelled, and thematically via the genres in which she experimented. Jessica Goethals illuminates how Costa was unafraid to leap over the boundaries of decorum that delimited what women should and did write about. More than merely a literary biography, this book is also a portrait of seventeenth-century courts, their concerns, and their entertainments.

Kate Driscoll is Assistant Professor of Italian and Romance Studies at Duke University. She is a specialist of early modern Italian and European literary and cultural history, with interests in women’s and gender studies, performance history, and the cultures of diplomacy and reception. Email: kate.driscoll@duke.edu.

Listen to more episodes on:

Your Host

Kate Driscoll

Kate Driscoll is Assistant Professor of Italian and Romance Studies at Duke University. She is a specialist of early modern Italian and European literary and cultural history, with interests in women’s and gender studies, performance history, and the histories of diplomacy and sociality. Email: kate.driscoll@duke.edu.

Learn More

Also Hosted By Kate Driscoll