Thesis

The making of a female revolutionary during the Neapolitan Republic of 1799: the life and work of Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel

Thesis (M.A., History)--California State University, Sacramento, 2016.

Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel was no ordinary woman. Eighteenth-century Neapolitan intellectuals recognized her passion for learning and her poetic talent and welcomed her into their salons and academies at a very early age. Even the Bourbon monarchs of the Kingdom of Naples were impressed by her skill and appointed her as court librarian. Pimentel was able to infiltrate the masculine world of learning due the unique circumstances of the Italian Enlightenment, which was more open to permitting exceptional women an advanced education, and it allowed them to pursue their studies further than any other women of the eighteenth century outside of the Italian peninsula. However, as political events began to shift in Naples in response to the French Revolution, many of the enlightened intellectuals, along with Pimentel, turned to revolutionary democratic ideals to improve the social, economic, and political condition of their state. Pimentel became increasingly involved in political affairs due to her advanced education and her notable reputation, as well as her lack of familial obligations that originated from her abusive husband and their eventual separation, allowing the intellectual community of Naples to accept Pimentel within the public political masculine sphere. 
 
 In Italy, Pimentel’s story has been retold in the form of historical novels, theatrical productions, and to a lesser extent, scholarly research, which has often romanticized her image as a victim or martyr. Pimentel’s life and work has largely been ignored outside of Italy. This study sheds light on the historical context that gave rise to such a revolutionary female figure, whose life and work should be studied on an international level.
 
 The changing political circumstances in Naples, stemming from the events of the French Revolution created the perfect environment for Pimentel to emerge in her political role as writer, editor, and director of the newspaper Il Monitore Napoletano. Pimentel far surpassed even the most exceptional women of her time due to her political works and translations, her public role during the Neapolitan Republic of 1799, and her continuous fight to gain the support of the Neapolitan citizens, becoming a true revolutionary heroine of the eighteenth century.

Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel was no ordinary woman. Eighteenth-century Neapolitan intellectuals recognized her passion for learning and her poetic talent and welcomed her into their salons and academies at a very early age. Even the Bourbon monarchs of the Kingdom of Naples were impressed by her skill and appointed her as court librarian. Pimentel was able to infiltrate the masculine world of learning due the unique circumstances of the Italian Enlightenment, which was more open to permitting exceptional women an advanced education, and it allowed them to pursue their studies further than any other women of the eighteenth century outside of the Italian peninsula. However, as political events began to shift in Naples in response to the French Revolution, many of the enlightened intellectuals, along with Pimentel, turned to revolutionary democratic ideals to improve the social, economic, and political condition of their state. Pimentel became increasingly involved in political affairs due to her advanced education and her notable reputation, as well as her lack of familial obligations that originated from her abusive husband and their eventual separation, allowing the intellectual community of Naples to accept Pimentel within the public political masculine sphere. In Italy, Pimentel’s story has been retold in the form of historical novels, theatrical productions, and to a lesser extent, scholarly research, which has often romanticized her image as a victim or martyr. Pimentel’s life and work has largely been ignored outside of Italy. This study sheds light on the historical context that gave rise to such a revolutionary female figure, whose life and work should be studied on an international level. The changing political circumstances in Naples, stemming from the events of the French Revolution created the perfect environment for Pimentel to emerge in her political role as writer, editor, and director of the newspaper Il Monitore Napoletano. Pimentel far surpassed even the most exceptional women of her time due to her political works and translations, her public role during the Neapolitan Republic of 1799, and her continuous fight to gain the support of the Neapolitan citizens, becoming a true revolutionary heroine of the eighteenth century.

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