The Italian Consulate General in Philadelphia

The Center for Italian Studies, University of Pennsylvania

The Order Sons of Italy, Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania

The Cavalier Society of Philadelphia

The Italian Cultural Institute of Washington






Valeria Finucci

Professor of Italian, Duke University


‘There’s the Rub’:
Searching for Sexual Remedies
in the New World





5:00 pm

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Cherpack Conference and Seminar Room

543 Williams Hall

University of Pennsylvania

Reception will follow



“Sometime in the year 1608, Vincenzo Gonzaga I (1562-1612), fourth Duke of Mantua and Monferrato and munificent sponsor of art, music, and theater—a new prince in every sense of the word—realized that he had a physical difficulty that required secrecy or, alternatively, a creative and perhaps radical solution. He was approaching forty-seven, the very age that Dante had declared as delimiting the onset of senility. This paper will look at the events that surrounded Vincenzo’s search for a remedy to his predicament—the difficulty, needless to say, was sexual—which made him send in secret an unknown apothecary, Evangelista Marcobruno, on a two-year journey by coach, boat, galleon, mule, llamas, and foot from Mantua to Genoa, and then to Barcelona, Madrid, Segovia, Seville, and Cadiz in Spain, and later to numberless stops in the New World—including Cartagena, Portobelo, Panama, and Manta in Ecuador; Callao, Lima, Cuzco, and Potosì in Peru, and Chuquiabo (La Paz) in Bolivia to find a Viagra-like remedy in that expanse of lands where all marvels were contained……”

Valeria Finucci received a "Laurea" summa cum laude from the University of Rome and a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her main interests are Renaissance literature and culture, theater, women's work, early modern medicine and pharmacy, psychoanalysis, and genre studies. And she loves everything connected to Venice. She has written on femininity and power in Renaissance discourses in The Lady Vanishes: Subjectivity and Representation in Castiglione and Ariosto (Stanford, 1992) and on issues of masculinity and paternity in The Manly Masquerade: Masculinity, Paternity, and Castration in the Italian Renaissance (Duke, 2003). She is the editor of Renaissance Transactions: Ariosto and Tasso (Duke, 1999); and co-editor of Desire in the Renaissance: Psychoanalysis and Literature (Princeton, 1994) and of Generation and Degeneration: Tropes of Reproduction in Literature and History (Duke, 2001). Building on her interest in genre and gender study, she has edited a 16th century female verse epic, Moderata Fonte's Tredici canti del Floridoro (Mucchi, 1995); now in English too as Floridoro, a Chivalric Romance (U. of Chicago P., 2006); has brought out the manuscript of the only female prose romance of the Italian Renaissance, Giulia Bigolina's Urania (Bulzoni, 2002), which she then translated in English as Urania, a Romance (U of Chicago P, 2005); and is presently working on the genre of female tragedy. She is co-editor of the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies and has also edited two special issues: In the Footsteps of Petrarch (Fall 2005) and Mapping the Mediterranean (Winter 2007). Petrarch is also the subject of her collection, Petrarca: Canoni, Esemplarità (Bulzoni, 2006). Most recently, her love of Venetian costume books and alba amicorum has resulted in a co-edited book in English and Italian, Mores Italiae: Costume and Life in the Renaissance // Costumi e scene di vita del Rinascimento (Biblos 2007).

(215) 898-6040