Camilla Erculani’s Lettere di philosophia naturale

Wednesday 24 February 2016, 6pm
UCL, Italian Seminar Room, Foster Court 351

Eleonora Carinci (University of Cambridge), “Principiando a mezzo del soggetto”: Le Lettere di philosophia naturale di Camilla Erculiani e il genere epistolare

This paper considers Erculiani's Lettere di philosophia naturale (Cracow, 1584) in the context of the sixteenth-century Italian epistolary tradition. The Lettere is the only known example of a work of natural philosophy published by an Italian woman in the sixteenth century. Basing her theory on the thought of Plato, Aristotle and Galen, Erculiani, an apothecary from Padua, attempted to demonstrate the natural cause of the Great Flood by establishing a dialogue with her correspondents. I will explore the relationship between the choice of the epistolary genre and gender issues, and the ways – in particular letter-writing and conversations with physicians and philosophers – in which Erculiani participated as a woman in contemporary philosophical debate.

Eleonora Carinci graduated in Italian literature at La Sapienza – Università di Roma. In 2009 she was awarded a PhD at St Catharine's College, University of Cambridge, with a thesis entitled Lives of the Virgin Mary by Women Writers in Post-Tridentine Italy. She specializes in Italian Renaissance and Counter-Reformation literature and culture, with a particular interest in non-canonical literature, religious writings, early modern vernacular natural philosophy, women’s writings and gender issues, and has published a number of articles on these topics. She worked in particular on Moderata Fonte, Vittoria Colonna, Lucrezia Marinella, Maddalena Campiglia, Chiara Matraini, Pietro Aretino and Camilla Erculiani. In 2012-13 she was the Rubinstein Fellow of the Society for Renaissance Studies. She is currently working on a modern critical bilingual edition of Camilla Erculiani’s Lettere di philosophia naturale (1584) to be published in 'The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe' series (Toronto, CRRS).

Annalisa Ricciardi (Senate House Library), “Io vo cercando occasione di ragionar con voi con gli inchiostri ...” Bernardo Tasso’s Letters to Pietro Aretino on Behalf of Giovanni Antonio Clario: A Reformed Printer

This paper will focus on the professional itinerary of the Neapolitan “poligrafo” Giovanni Antonio Clario. At the turn of 1544 he moved from the Kingdom of Naples to Venice, the main printing centre of Italy at that time. His personal itinerary invites reflection on the role of entrustment letters, which he carried with him to Venice and played a primary role in the development of his career. I shall reconstruct Clario’s personal and professional itinerary to throw light on this new category of letterati who used political contacts to further their career in the print sector.

This paper will also examine the spiritual dimension of this new type of figure. Clario’s literary output still resonates with the spiritual anxiety common to sixteenth-century men of letters, who often expressed religious ideas through printed works. In the case of Clario, we see it best in his translation of Valdès’ Dos Dialogos, a political and spiritual work of art used by contemporaries to engender debate about the Reformation, not only among the ruling class but also among the popular and subaltern classes, which helped it make a concrete cultural impact.

Annalisa Ricciardi is currently working at Senate House Library, University of London, as a cataloguer on the "Shakespeare Project". She has previously worked at Sotheby’s Institute of Art Library, the British Library and Tate Britain Archive & Library Department. In 2009 she completed a PhD on the routes and the culture of pilgrimages in the Euro-Mediterranean Middle Ages at Università del Salento, Lecce. She has also published articles on the inquisition and heresy in early modern Venice, such as her entry for ‘Giovanni Antonio Clario’ in Adriano Prosperi, John A. Tedeschi and Vincenzo Lavenia (eds), Dizionario Storico dell’Inquisizione (2010).

Please note that the papers will be in Italian and English.


To find the Italian Research Seminar Room:

Our full calendar for the current term:

You are also welcome to become a friend of the UCL Italian Departmental Research Seminars on Facebook at and follow us on Twitter @UCLItalianSemin

Andrew Campbell