Luna-Fabritius, Adriana: Courted or Interpolated: A Discussion on Women’s Exclusion from the Civil Society in Early-eighteenth Century Neapolitan Political Thought

Whilst it has been established that civil conversation in early-modern time has been commonly used as a tool of pleasing one’s interlocutors, as the art ‘to eschue all things which make the talke lesse delightfull to the hearers’ (Guazzo 1574), as means of civilization (Peltonen 2003, Richards 2003), negotiation, manipulation and transformation of social relations in some European contexts (Larson 2011), this paper will show how in the Kingdom of Naples it was also considered as a crucial part of the construction of knowledge and the development of civil society. This is a contribution to the intellectual history of civil conversation in Europe in three different means, first, by showing the ways in which this rhetorical practice was not exclusively seen as a women’s practice in the Kingdom of Naples, but actually as a privileged space for the interaction between genders that, contemporary authors believed, produced, on the one hand, a different kind of knowledge and on the other, a civil society with more egalitarian relations. Second, this paper contributes to formulating an explanation of the exclusion of this rhetorical practice from the civil space by the advent of the scientific revolution by the mid-seventeenth century. It will explain how the emergence of new forms of scientific knowledge during the scientific revolution substituted this rhetorical practice that came to be considered antithetical to philosophy, truth and knowledge and thus needed to be excluded as well from the construction of the civil life. Third, it will show that the process of exclusion of this rhetorical practice in early-modern time had strong political implications, as it signified the exclusion of women from the civil life. Situation that the new scientific method could not prevent.