Bianca Calabresi

Columbia University

The female narcissus: Renaissance women's writing technologies


Bianca Finzi-Contini Calabresi specializes in Comparative Renaissance literature; her particular interests lie in book history, early modern drama, and women’s cultural production from 1450-1650. She received her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2003, with a dissertation on the typography of the early modern printed play. From 2004 to 2007, she was a Haarlow-Cotsen Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts at Princeton University and an Associate Fellow in 2007-2008. She is currently Assistant Professor of Literature at Fairleigh Dickinson University. 

Her research explores the ways in which visual media, specifically letterforms and ink, were used to constitute and express national, corporeal, racial, and other forms of identity on the Renaissance page--Black’ or ‘Gothic’ lettering as pan-Germanic affiliation, Roman Capitals as stone epigraphy, rubrication (red ink) as simulated blood. Her most recent publications include essays on “counterfeit” Italian play texts and on Milton’s sanguineous Eikonoklastes forthcoming in Renaissance Drama (2009) and The Book in History, the Book as History (2010). 

At the Italian Academy, she will be investigating the wide range of graphic technologies, from painted inscriptions to lettered samplers to printed colophons, which advertise Renaissance women as manual makers of letters. In some cases, these writing systems function as a demonstration of alphabetical literacy, in others as a manifestation of physical and pedagogical self-mastery, in yet others as proof of participation in changing textual markets. A de facto ut pittura poesis results from their combined presence, in which the literary and artistic theories of Alberti, Dolce, and Puttenham, among others, confront the difference of gendered production. Earlier stages of the project appeared as “’you sow, Ile read’: Letters and Literacies in Early Modern Samplers” (Reading Women: Literacy, Authorship, and Culture in the Atlantic World, 1500-1800, 2007) and “Alphabetical Positions: Engendering Letters in Early Modern Europe” (Critical Survey, 14.1, 2002).