My research deals with the interpretation, use, and manipulation of the classical tradition (specifically Roman history and the classical Latin authors) in later medieval Europe. I am particularly interested in the medieval cities of Italy, many of which used legends derived from the classics as political and cultural propaganda: "Our city was founded before yours, by a more famous person than your founder; therefore we're better than you." My first book, Urban Legends: Civic Identity & the Classical Past in Northern Italy, 1250-1350 (a study of these legends in the medieval Italian cities) was published by Pennsylvania State University Press in April 2011.
I am presently at work on my second book, tentatively titled SPQR: The Branding of Rome. This is a study of the later fortunes of the Roman SPQR abbreviation (short for Senatus PopulusQue Romanus, or "the senate and people of Rome"). After a vivid classical life on the coins, monuments of ancient Rome, the SPQR abbreviation was revived in medieval Rome as the logo of the city itself—not its former empire. In this fashion SPQR persisted through the rule of the medieval commune, the Renaissance popes, the new government of Risorgimento Italy, and Mussolini's Fascism—and still today it is the logo of the Comune di Roma. My book will focus on the SPQR's medieval revival and Renaissance appropriation, between about AD 1100 and 1600. My initial article on this topic, "Whose SPQR? Sovereignty and Semiotics in Medieval Rome," appeared in the Fall 2009 issue of the journal Speculum. Meanwhile, after a year in the archives as a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome (2008-9), I am presently at work on the 15th- and 16th-century aspects of the SPQR.
I am interested generally in medieval urban life, the history of urban development, medieval cultural and intellectual history, classical Roman history, classical and medieval Latin, palaeography and codicology (the study of medieval manuscripts and their writing), book history, medieval architecture and technology, and reception history generally (the later fortunes of a famous person or idea).