25 October (T), Civic W510  AT 3:30–4:30PM 


  Accessibility and Agency via Language Choice: Michele Savonarola’s Mothers Manual for the Women of Ferrara  


Dr. Martin Marafioti, Modern Languages and Cultures 

Martin Marafioti has been a faculty member in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at Pace University since 2004. His area of specialization is Italian Medieval and Early Modern literature and the intersections between literature and medicine. He recently has published a translation of Michele Savonarola’s Mother’s Manual for the Women of Ferrara, a Fifteenth Century Guide to Pregnancy and Pediatrics [Ed. Gabriella Zuccolin] with Iter Press, University of Toronto (2022); and a monograph titledStorytelling as Plague Prevention in Medieval and Early Modern Italy (Routledge, 2018).


The presentation outlines the speaker’s numerous (and challenging) steps in translating Michele Savonarola’s fifteenth-century medical treatise, De regimine pregnantium (Mother’s Manual for the Women of Ferrara). The translation has recently been published as part of “The Other Voice” series (texts by and about women in Early Modern Europe), Iter Press, University of Toronto. 

In Savonarola’s era, medical literature was almost exclusively written in Latin and only circulated in the domain of male intellectuals of an elite class. Savonarola’s Mother’s Manual is unique, bold, and even revolutionary in its use of the vernacular. Savonarola’s attempt to make the text more accessible to his contemporary female reader, or listener, required him not only to abandon the convention of writing in Latin but also to adopt colloquial vernacular terms, evoke colorful, visual metaphors and proverbs, and make references to the popular culture with which fifteenth-century Ferrarese women would have been familiar. 

The translator’s goal in translating Savonarola’s treatise was to make the text accessible to a wider audience—an audience not familiar with Quattrocento Italian (specifically, Paduan vernacular with Ferrarese inflections).