Francesca Southerden

Fellow & Tutor in Italian; Associate Professor of Italian

My main area of research is in medieval Italian literature, particularly the works of Dante and Petrarch and the relationship between language and desire in lyric poetry.

I am currently working on a book entitled Dante and Petrarch in the Garden of Language which posits the garden as a privileged space for thinking about Dante and Petrarch’s relationship to language and the nature of desire and subjectivity that are expressed through it. I am the author of Landscapes of Desire in the Poetry of Vittorio Sereni (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) and, with Manuele Gragnolati, of Possibilities of Lyric: Reading Petrarch in Dialogue, with an Epilogue by Antonella Anedda Angioy (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2021). Together with Manuele Gragnolati and Elena Lombardi, I have recently co-edited The Oxford Handbook of Dante (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021); and am also co-editor, with Manuele Gragnolati, Tristan Kay and Elena Lombardi, of Desire in Dante and the Middle Ages (Oxford: Legenda, 2012). I have published several essays and articles on Dante and Petrarch and have others in progress. Alongside my research in medieval Italian literature, I have a strong interest in critical theory, including most recently affect theory and ecocritical perspectives.

I am Associate Professor of Medieval Italian at the University of Oxford, and Fellow of Somerville College. I also hold the post of Lecturer in Italian at St Catherine’s College and at Lady Margaret Hall. I previously held the post of Assistant Professor of Italian and Medieval-Renaissance Studies at Wellesley College, MA (2010-2016).

A list of publications can be found on my departmental page.



Landscapes of Desire in the Poetry of Vittorio Sereni (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Co-edited books

Desire in Dante and the Middle Ages, co-edited with Manuele Gragnolati, Tristan Kay, and Elena Lombardi (Oxford: Legenda, 2012).

Articles and Chapters in Books

‘The Art of Rambling: Errant Thoughts and Entangled Passions in Petrarch’s “Ascent of Mont Ventoux” (Familiares IV,1) and RVF 129’, in Medieval Thought Experiments: Poetry and Hypothesis in Europe, 1100–1500, ed. by Philip Knox, Jonathan Morton, and Daniel Reeve.

‘Faith’s Embrace: Paradiso 24’, in California Lectura Dantis: Paradiso, ed. by Anthony Oldcorn and Charles Ross (Berkeley: University of California Press).

‘From Paradox to Exclusivity: Dante’s and Petrarch’s Lyrical Eschatologies’, co-authored with Prof. Manuele Gragnolati, in The Unity of Knowledge in the Pre-Modern World: Petrarch and Boccaccio between the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ed. by Igor Candido (Berlin: De Gruyter).

‘Vittorio Sereni’, entry for The Literary Encyclopedia (

‘Between Autobiography and Apocalypse: The Double Subject of Polemic in Petrarch’s Liber sine nomine and Rerum vulgarium fragmenta’, in Polemic: Language as Violence in Medieval and Early Modern Discourse, ed. by Almut Suerbaum and others (London: Ashgate, 2015), pp. 17-42.

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