School of Humanities and Sciences
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Rosina Pierotti Professor in Italian Literature, Emerita
BioProfessor Carolyn Springer came to Stanford in 1985 after receiving a Ph.D. in Italian language and literature from Yale University. She has received fellowships and awards from the American Academy in Rome, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies / Villa I Tatti, the Ford Foundation, and the Fulbright Foundation. Her research has focused primarily on Renaissance and nineteenth-century literature and cultural history. She has published articles and reviews in Annali d’italianistica, Boundary 2: A Journal of Postmodern Literature, Canadian Journal of Italian Studies, Forum Italicum, GRADIVA: International Journal of Literature, The International Journal of the Humanities, Italian Quarterly, The Italianist, Italica (Journal of the American Association of Italian Studies), Modern Language Studies, NEMLA Italian Studies, Quaderni d’italianistica, Renaissance Quarterly, Sixteenth Century Journal, Stanford Italian Review, Versus: Quaderni di studi semiotici, Woman’s Art Journal, The Wordsworth Circle, and Yale Italian Studies. Professor Springer’s books include The Marble Wilderness: Ruins and Representation in Italian Romanticism, 1775-1850 (Cambridge University Press, 1987; reprinted in paperback, 2010); Immagini del Novecento italiano (Macmillan, coeditors Pietro Frassica and Giovanni Pacchiano); and History and Memory in European Romanticism (special issue of Stanford Literature Review). Her latest book, Armour and Masculinity in the Italian Renaissance, appeared in 2010 with University of Toronto Press (reprinted in paperback, 2013).
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.
Associate Professor of French and Italian
BioLaura Wittman primarily works on 19th- and 20th-century Italian and French literature from a comparative perspective. She is interested in how modernity articulates new relationships between religious experience, embodiment, mortality, health, and politics, and how these are mediated by literary and artistic creations.
Her book, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Modern Mourning, and the Reinvention of the Mystical Body (University of Toronto Press, 2011) was awarded the Marraro Award of the Society for Italian Historical Studies for 2012. It explores the creation and reception of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – an Italian, French, and British invention at the end of the First World War – as an emblem for modern mourning, from a cultural, historical, and literary perspective. It draws on literary and filmic evocations of the Unknown Soldier, as well as archival materials, to show that Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is not pro-war, nationalist, or even proto-Fascist. Rather, it is a monument that heals trauma in two ways: first, it refuses facile consolations, and forcefully dramatizes the fact that suffering cannot be spiritualized or justified by any ideology; second, it rejects despair by enacting, through the concreteness of a particular body, a human solidarity in suffering that commands respect. Anticipating recent analyses of PTSD, the Memorial shows that when traumatic events are relived in a ritual, embodied, empathetic setting, healing occurs not via analysis but via symbolic communication and transmission of emotion.
Laura Wittman is the editor of a special issue of the Romanic Review entitled Italy and France: Imagined Geographies (2006), as well as the co-editor of an anthology of Futurist manifestos and literary works, Futurism: An Anthology (Yale University Press, 2009). She has published articles on d’Annunzio, Marinetti, Fogazzaro, Ungaretti, Montale, Sereni, and Merini, as well as on decadent-era culture and Italian cinema. With Jon Snyder and Simonetta Falasca Zamponi, she recently co-edited a special issue of California Italian Studies on "The Sacred in Italian Culture" (2015).
She received her Ph.D. in 2001 from Yale University where she wrote a dissertation entitled "Mystics Without God: Spirituality and Form in Italian and French Modernism," an analysis of the historical and intellectual context for the self-descriptive use of the term "mystic without God" in the works of Gabriele d'Annununzio and Paul Valéry.
In Spring 2009, she was organizer of the California Interdisciplinary Consortium for Italian Studies (CICIS) Annual Conference, held at the Stanford Humanities Center; she is currently the organizer of the upcoming CICIS 2019 conference, also to be held at the Stanford Humanities Center. She was also organizer of the interdisciplinary conference on Language, Literature, and Mysticism held at the Stanford Humanities Center on 15 and 16 October 2010.
She is currently working on a new book entitled Lazarus' Silence that explores visions of the afterlife and visits to the underworld in modern literature and culture, as a window toward our changing attitudes toward death, accepting our mortality, and accompanying the dying.