(781) 283-2966
Italian Studies
B.A., University of Oxford (Somerville College); M.St., D.Phil., University of Oxford (Hertford College)

Francesca Southerden
Assistant Professor of Italian Studies

Specializing in Italian medieval and early modern literature, especially Dante and Petrarch.

Favorite Links

My research in Italian studies focuses on the relationship between subjectivity, language, and desire in the poetry of Dante and Petrarch. Centered on the literature and culture of the early modern period, but considering how developments in that period open up toward modernity, my research has a strong interdisciplinary focus. I use psychoanalysis, classical and contemporary linguistics, and the philosophy of language as tools to explore concepts of personal identity and selfhood. My first book, Landscapes of Desire in the Poetry of Vittorio Sereni, forthcoming with Oxford University Press (2012), is a study of the discourse of desire in Sereni’s [1913-83] work, in dialogue with the major figures of the Italian poetic tradition, including Dante and Petrarch. My second book-length project will be a comparative study of Dante and Petrarch, focusing on their different conceptualizations of desire and loss and the effect that this has on their formulation of poetic language.

I believe that this interdisciplinary and comparative approach can also be an invaluable tool for teaching. I teach courses in both the Department of Italian Studies and the Medieval-Renaissance Program. I aim in all my classes to encourage students to develop their skills of critical inquiry through close reading and textual analysis. Courses I currently teach include ITAS 263: Dante (in English) and WRIT 125-09: 'The Making of the Modern Self: Writing and Identity from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century'. Dante (in English) introduces students to the wonderful world of Dante’s Comedy and provides an insight into the many facets of medieval culture which Dante assimilates and makes his own in his poem. In Spring 2012, I will be teaching ITAS/Me/R 275: Between Transcendence and Transgression: Desire from Dante to Milton and ITAS/Me/R 316: Dreams of Eden: Gardens in Medieval and Renaissance Italian Literature and Art.

Since 2007, I have been a member of a collaborative and interdisciplinary research group in medieval and early modern studies based at Somerville College, Oxford, where I have participated in colloquia and seminars for the two projects on Performativity (2007-2009) and Polemics (2009-ongoing). I am co-editing, with Manuele Gragnolati, Tristan Kay, and Elena Lombardi, Desire in Dante and the Middle Ages (Oxford: Legenda, forthcoming 2012).

True to my Italian roots, I enjoy socializing with friends, cooking—and especially eating good food. I have been fortunate to have traveled widely and to have lived in several countries, which has given me the chance to discover and absorb many different cultures. In my spare time, I love reading novels, watching films, and doing yoga, though not necessarily all at the same time. I am also a keen runner and can often be seen jogging around campus.