Jessica Goethals

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities

20132014 Forum on Violence

Jessica Goethals

Italian Studies

Ph.D., New York University

Catastrophe and Catharsis in Early Modern Italy: Representing the Sack of Rome and its Aftermath

My project focuses on vernacular literary responses to the cataclysmic Sack of Rome in 1527 by the Holy Roman Emperor, an event that shocked Europe with its unbridled violence, torture, and sacrilege. I argue that the flood of vernacular writing on the subject can be attributed to the presence of a curious (and at times voyeuristic) reading public that drove a market for literary depictions of and debates about the Sack for over a century. Examining the representations of the event, its build-up, and its aftermath that emerged in literary genres of all kinds, I show that these investigations evaluated not only the nature of the catastrophe itself, but also the potential for cultural resiliency through a renewed focus on Italian greatness in the arts rather than on military defeat and vulnerability. My articles on the subject explore narrations of graphic violence (including rape, castration, and forced self-cannibalization) in historiographic and satirical texts through the lenses of rhetoric and gender. During my time at Penn, I will be concentrating especially on popular and apocalyptic war poetry narrating the Sack and the battles of the Italian Wars more broadly.