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Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership - Student Profiles



I completed my BA in Modern and Medieval Languages (French and Italian) at Clare College, Cambridge, during which I spent a year in the Collegio Ghislieri at the University of Pavia. I continued my studies at Clare College with an MPhil in European Literature and Culture. My studies primarily revolved around writing for and by women in early modern Italy and included dissertations on courtesans’ dress in Renaissance Venice, Petrarchan beauty ideals in cosmetic recipes, the role of women speakers in court entertainment, and marketing strategies to sell women writers and attract women readers in the sixteenth-century book market.

My doctoral research will focus on the work of Margherita Costa, who was one of the most prolific female authors of the Seicento, making her way in the courts of Rome, Florence, Turin and Paris as a 'virtuosa', a singer-actress, and courtesan. She published fourteen works across radically different genres and ventured into territories explored by few other early modern women authors, constantly bending the rigid rules of female decorum. This eclectic female figure inspired admiration in contemporary writers and patrons, but has been neglected by modern-day scholarship. 

Other Academic Interests:

My PhD project is suited to my academic interests in general, as it offers the possibility of interdisciplinary research, connecting literature and music, and encompasses diverse topics, like women’s conduct and education, as well as contributing to the ongoing effort of reclaiming the lost voices of early modern women writers throughout Europe.

Lecturer and supervisor for small groups of BA students in Italian art, literature, and film. Lectures on Castiglione and sixteenth-century Italian courts.

Teacher at the Selwyn College Year 11 Summer School in Arts and Humanities.

Assistant Editor for Women Language Literature in Italy / Donna Lingua Letteratura in Italia. See here.

Co-convenor of ‘Writing Women in History’, an AHRC-funded reading group. See here.

Organiser, musical director, publicity manager, and performer for ‘Intersections: Between Music and Theatre in Seicento Italy’, two-day conference with public concert and commedia dell’arte theatre workshop, September 2018. See here.

Co-organiser, publicity manager, and performer for 'Translation as Music | Music as Translation', public keynote lecture and concert as part of 'Women, Language(s) and Translation in the Italian Tradition' conference, November 2018. See here.

Co-organiser, musical director, publicity manager, and performer for ‘Reaching Through Time: Approaches to Women in History Today’, one-day symposium and concert to mark Women’s History Month, March 2018. See here. 

Musical director, publicity manager, and performer for public concert ‘Amore, Magia, Follia in the Orlando furioso: A Musical Quest’, as conclusion to ‘The Fortunes of the Orlando furioso, 1516-2016’, November 2016. See here.

Collaborator for book exhibition ‘The Fortunes of the Orlando furioso, 1516-2016’, November 2016. See here. 


Key publications: 


‘Margherita Costa: A Virtuosa on the Literary Stage of the Seicento.’ Renaissance Society of America Conference; Toronto, 2019

‘“Qui vi rinasce il secol d’oro”: Margherita Costa in Paris (1647).’ Society for Renaissance Studies Conference; Sheffield, 2018

‘“Amante monco a Donna senza naso”: Margherita Costa’s Baroque Parody of the Love Letter.’ Society for Italian Studies Conference; Hull, 2017 - paper held as part of a panel on early modern parody, co-organised with two senior colleagues from Dublin and Florence

Book reviews

Review of Simone Testa, Italian Academies and their Networks, 1525-1700: From Local to Global (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), Modern Language Review (2018), 113.2: 420-21 


Department: Italian
Supervisor: Dr Helena Sanson
College: Selwyn College
AHRC Subject Area: Languages and Literature
Title of Thesis: Margherita Costa - A 'Virtuosa' on the Literary Stage of the Seicento
 Anna-Luise  Wagner