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February 15: The Manifesto of Sarra Copia Sullam

February 15, 2016

sullam-ritrattoSarra Copia Sullam, described by Howard Tzvi Adelman at the Jewish Women’s Archive as “the most accomplished, and thus the least typical, Jewish woman writer of early-modern Italy,” died at 48 on this date in 1641. She was best known as a Venetian poet and a passionate correspondent with a Genoese playwright and monk Ansaldo Cebà, who kept beseeching her to become a Christian. “Copia Sullam,” writes Adelman, “gathered around her a salon of men of letters who gave her lessons in exchange for her financial backing and intellectual camaraderie. Because so many of these same men were involved in the Accademia degli Incogniti, a Venetian literary salon, during the 1630s, she may have played a pivotal role in its formation during the 1620s.” When one of her entourage publicly accused her of not believing in the immortality of the soul, she wrote a manifesto defending herself against charges of heresy. Faced with the possibility of being investigated by the Inquisition, she was abandoned by most of her circle. That manifesto and several of her sonnets are all that survive of her active literary career.

“[A] favorite of the muses, Sara Copia charmed youth and age.” —Gustave Karpeles