U is for University of Bologna

Ah, the well-intentioned blog post for which I had planned to do research. Thanks, adulthood, for keeping me too busy to properly research this topic by April 26th! Booo…

Okay, so it may have been Blogging Challenge Letter B, which seems like years ago, when I mentioned that I set the first two books in my novel series in Bologna because their university accepted women.

This was exciting! A medieval woman attending university!


So apparently, while I was not reading closely enough, I saw that a woman lectured at the University in the thirteenth century. No wait, she was allowed to lecture in the street outside the university. Maybe with a veil over her face, though that detail seems rather apocryphal.

But no women students.

Okay, so when? Ah. Mid-eighteenth century, around the time that Laura Bassi became one of the first women professors to hold a chair in Europe. And two hundred years after The Journeymen is set.

This illustration from a fourteenth-century manuscript shows Henry of Germany delivering a lecture to university students in Bologna.

Fourteenth Century manuscript illustration of a lecture by Henry of Germany at the University of Bologna. I SWEAR that person in the front row center is a woman! And that guy sleeping in the third row is clearly one of my students in a past life. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Nancy L. Turner, http://people.uwplatt.edu/~turnern/classroomFull.html)

Crap. Cue the proverbial crumpling of papers outlining a key plot point in La Dotta.

This is where decisions must be made. In my book, newly widowed Giuliana Bruni, living with her brother Niccolo and his wife Emilia, would love nothing more than to go to university and read philosophy. Niccolo, who is well-whipped by his beloved wife, may even let her. But can she? And what would the logistics be?

Sometimes, the historical research writes your story for you. It did that quite often in my first book, Shadow of the Portico, which is still in editing Purgatory as we speak. So I do hope I can relate an authentic story here somehow, even if it is not perfectly historically accurate.

It is like being the midst of A Tale of Two Bachelor Degrees. The English major in me bellows, “Go for it, Becca! It’s all about the story.” The History major in me cringes and says, “Hooooonestly, Becca. Plot no further, woman, until you do the research!”

Then the adult in me says, “You were going to get this done by when?” and laughs uproariously.



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