Matteo Soranzo

Associate Professor, Dott. Lett. (Padua), PhD (Wisconsin)


I am an Italianist with a strong interest in Intellectual History and Religious studies. At the heart of my research there is a strong curiosity on the role texts play in the process of identity formation. While the chronological focus of my work is the Early Modern period, and more specifically the fifteenth century, I am also interested in contemporary scholarship on religious pluralism, Western Esotericism and New Religious Movements.

In my first book, Poetry and Identity in Quattrocento Naples, I have investigated how a selected group of poets not only composed works of art, but also used their texts as landmarks of social trajectories. Building on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, my book has tried to formulate a hypothesis on the cultural capital authors attached to their works, language and stylistic choices. In doing so, I have focused on the composition and dissemination of texts as acts of cultural identity, which took place in a field of options and possibilities.      

My second project is a SSHRC funded research entitled "Self-Transformation in Early Modern Europe", of which I am the Principal Investigator. This project sets out to investigate religious identities by focusing on a genre of texts that deal with the care and transformation of the soul, but are not commonly ascribed to the domain of Christian spirituality. In doing so, I am trying on the one hand to understand the social practices this body of "spiritual" texts might have entailed, and on the other hand to open up the confessional boundaries of spirituality as it is traditionally understood to include other Early Modern works engaged with spiritual transformation.

I am also an active member of the SSHRC partnership project Early Modern Conversions directed by Professor Paul Yachnin. As part of the team Spaces of Conversion, Conversion of Spaces, I am looking at Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises as a watershed moment in the history of Early Modern spirituality, by looking at the role played by space in Jesuits' methods for, and accounts of, spiritual transformation.


Research Interests

His current work focuses on Italian and neo Latin poetry, rhetoric and astrology at the court of Naples in the Quattrocento, and especially on the poets Giovanni Pontano and Jacopo Sannazaro. He is also interested in the reception of Plato in the fifteenth century, Marsilio Ficino, Gilles of Viterbo and the diffusion of platonic ideas in the context of Naples. In his research he interprets texts in their intellectual and institutional contexts through traditional techniques of textual criticism combined with analytical concepts borrowed from sociology.

He holds a Laurea in Italian literature and philology from the University of Padua, and a PhD in Italian at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) with a minor in History and European Studies. During his doctoral studies he also attended seminars in early modern paleography at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

His works in progress are a book that investigates the concepts of conjecture and inspiration in Quattrocento Naples, a critical edition of Giovanni Pontano's treatise De Fortuna and an essay on humanistic dialogues. Future projects include a collaborative study on the reception of Marsilio Ficino in Renaissance literature and art.



Umbria Pieridum Cultrix (Parthenopeus I: 18). Poetry and Identity in Giovanni Gioviano Pontano (1429-1503)” Italian Studies 67.1 (2011): 27-40.

“Reception of Marsilio Ficino in Quattrocento Italy. The Case of Aragonese Naples” Quaderni d’Italianistica 32.2 (2011): 1-20.

“Giovanni Pontano (1429-1503) on Astrology and Poetic Authority” Aries 11.1 (2011): 23-52.

“Aegidius of Viterbo.” in Literary Encyclopedia, directed by Jo Ann Cavallo,

“Giovanni Pontano.” in Literary Encyclopedia, directed by Jo Ann Cavallo,

Review of Bemrose, Stephen. A New Life of Dante (revised and updated edition). Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2010. Annali d’Italianistica (2011).

Review of Tateo, Francesco. Modernità dell’Umanesimo. Salerno: Edisud, 2010 in Renaissance Quarterly 63.4 (2011).

Review of Who is Mary? Three Early Modern Women on the Idea of the Virgin Mary: Vittoria Colonna, Chiara Matraini, and Lucrezia Marinella. Edited and translated by Susan Haskins. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008 in Annali d’Italianistica 30 (2010).

“Audience and Quattrocento Pastoral: the Case of Sannazaro’s Arcadia.” Skepsi 2.1 (2009): 49-65 (peer reviewed article).

Review of R. Antognini. Il progetto autobiografico delle Familiares di Petrarca. In Annali d’Italianistica 29 (2009).

“Cause and Effect.” French and Italian: University of Wisconsin Madison Newsletter (Summer 2009): 9.

“Giovanni Pontano.” in Literary Encyclopedia, directed by Jo Ann Cavallo,

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