School of Humanities and Sciences
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Assistant Professor of French and Italian
BioI am an Italianist, an early modernist and a Michelangelo scholar. My primary research and teaching contributions center on Italian literature and cultural history of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with a special focus on lyric poetry and on the relationship between literature and spirituality.
My first monograph, Michelangelo’s Christian Mysticism: Spirituality, Poetry and Art in Sixteenth-Century Italy (Cambridge University Press, 2014), was awarded the Jeanne and Aldo Scaglione Publication Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies by the Modern Language Association in 2013. Literary, cultural and historical in scope, this study considers the Florentine artist’s poetics and aesthetics in light of medieval and Renaissance Augustinianism, lay religious culture, and the Italian Reformation, respectively, to provide a more nuanced understanding of Michelangelo’s spirituality and how it functioned.
My current book project, Poetics of Piety in Early Modern Italy, builds on this earlier work to consider the ways in which male and female poets of devotional verse engaged the Word in text, image, and imagination in the sixteenth century. Combining diachronic and synchronic approaches to the study of early modern Italian verse, this project examines relations among religious practice and poetic form in the pre-Tridentine and post-Tridentine periods.
Other book-length projects include Friendship and Sociability in Premodern Europe: Contexts, Concepts and Expressions (Toronto: CRRS, 2014), a co-edited volume that explores ideas and instances of friendship in premodern Europe through a well-ordered series of investigations into amity in discrete social and cultural contexts related to some of the most salient moments and expressions of European history and civilization: the courtly love tradition, Renaissance humanism; the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation and the attendant confessionalization and wars of religion; Jesuit missions; the colonization of America; and lastly, expanding trade patterns in the Age of Discovery.
Prior to joining Stanford, I was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of History at Harvard University and at the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies at Victoria University in the University of Toronto, where I designed and taught early modern cultural history courses and lectured on Italian language and literature.
In parallel to my scholarly pursuits, I am completing a work of historical fiction inspired by my academic research. Taking the dramatic events of the French invasion of Italy in the fall of 1494 as its context, Imminence: Florence, 1494 recounts the riveting and tumultuous history of the dangerously divided Florentine city-state through the experiences of a lay female visionary temporarily resident in an elite nunnery tied to the highest echelons of political power. An imagined female story seamlessly inserted into a famously documented male history, Imminence weaves strands of verisimilitude with threads of reality, to offer a tapestry of fiction and non-fiction that touches on persistent human challenges – personal, social, and political. An exercise in empathic historical imagination, this novel explores women’s political, social, cultural, and religious history during the exciting and pivotal moment of the Italian Renaissance.
You can learn more about my academic and creative pursuits at www.sarahprodan.com.