Research

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, and I spent 2008–9 as a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome while working on it. 

I also have book contracts for two further projects. First, I am doing a translation of Jacopo da Varagine's History of Genoa for Manchester University Press; Jacopo was archbishop of Genoa in the late thirteenth century, and is best known for his medieval bestseller The Golden Legend, a collection of saints' lives. Besides bringing greater attention to Genoa, an important but often neglected medieval Italian city, my translation seeks to broaden the perspective offered by the present sources for medieval Italy that are available in English, most of which are from Florence or Venice. Second (and in a way connected to my project on Jacopo), I am also editing a Companion to Medieval Genoa, under contract with Brill, that will seek to introduce undergraduates and non-specialists to the medieval history of Genoa.

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).

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