2009 – 2012
PhD Candidate, Graduate Programme in Transcultural Studies (GPTS), Cluster of ExcellenceAsia and Europe in a Global Context: Shifting Asymmetries in Cultural Flows, Karl Jaspers Centre for Advanced Transcultural Studies, University of Heidelberg (Germany) PhD Research Project (working title): Misf!ts. Love Fools and the Maddening Quest for Love in Laylī va Majnūn and the Roman de la Rose.
2007 – 2008
M.A. in Cultural and Intellectual History 1300-1650, The Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London (United Kingdom)
M.A. Dissertation on Islamic Authorities and Arabic Elements in the Renaissance:From Majnūn to Orlando and back. Lovesickness in Islam and the West: Texts and Images.
1999 – 2005
M.A. (Diploma di Laurea Magistrale) in Art History and Cultural Heritage Managment, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Genoa (Italy)
Dissertation on Islamic Art and Archaeology (in Italian): Folks and Demons. The painted world of Ustād Muhammad Siyah Qalam. Paintings from the Topkapı Sarayı Albums H.2153 and H.2160.
This project aims to offer a comparative study of the entangled history of love, madness, and mysticism in Islamic and Medieval literary and manuscript cultures, with a stress on the interplay between textuality and visuality in the process of literary construction of the madman as a “lovestruck ” subject/agent. The manuscript traditions of the love romance Laylī va Majnūn written in Classical Persian by Nizāmī Ganjāvi (date of composition 1188) and of the old French allegorical dream poem Roman de la rose, composed in two phases by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun (date of composition c. 1230 – c. 1270-1280) respectively, will constitute the analytical basis and the research bulk of this project.
By analysing and comparing two highly influential and extensively read poetical works of their times, this research project seeks to throw light on part of the complex processes that have brought love and madness as broad socio-cultural categories to be associated to and strongly tied with the religious experience of mysticism and ecstatic rapture. By examining the iconographic characteristics of the figural illuminated paintings taken from a selected group of manuscripts the other side of the question will be highlighted, illustrating the role of the artists in the bending of the written word to its visual rendering and in the shaping of readers’ collective imagination. The literary analysis goes hand in hand with an art-historical study of miniatures decorating the manuscripts of Laylī va Majnūn and Roman de la rose in order to provide a more integrated view between the textual and the visual.
In the economy of the project, the theme of the mad lover is of central importance. I am particularly interested in the processes of construction of an epitomic figure of mad, obsessed, and self-absorbed lover through poetical and artistic means. Questions related to identity dynamics among the lover, his self and his beloved, in a complex mirror game between processes of othering and processes of identification, constitute another pole of investigation. Problems of defining identities will lead to question the position of the madman (as a mad lover) within the codified fabric of medieval and Islamic societies and his double bind (and double bond) with the world of nature and the kingdom of the beasts as a recurrenttopos. How did the readers of Laylī va Majnūn and the Roman de la rose react to and understand the maddening nature of the quest undertaken by the poems’ protagonists? On which basis did authors and audience differentiate between morally commendable and socially rule-breaking behaviours and their poetical reinterpretation?
Starting from an examination of the concept of love, melancholy, and madness as treated in relevant philosophical and medical sources transmitted from the Antiquity to Late Medieval and Islamic intellectual cultures, this art-historical analysis of love-madness in a comparative, cross-cultural perspective seeks to elucidate the socio-cultural processes through which a relatively negative and perturbing figure (the madman as a mad lover) has turned into a positive hero to become an ideal role model for intellectual and mystical circles in the span of time between the fourteenth and the sixteenth centuries. In conclusion, the project aims to highlight similarities and, most important, differences in depicting, reading, and understanding love-madness in French late medieval courtly culture and Islamic aristocratic intellectual and mystical circles. This is not an idle question as medieval and Islamic cultures in this respect share some common philosophical and medical ground; the effects following distinct socio-cultural developments have influenced also our contemporary readings of such a phenomenon.
"When Love and Madness Converge: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Lovesickness", in: Merely a Madness? Defining, Treating and Celebrating the Unreasonable, hrsg. v. Daniela Fargione und Johnathan Sunley, Oxford, Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2013, pp. 145-167.
"Across Central Asia. Cultural Crossroads, Religious Interactions? The Monastery, H.2153 fol. 131v, Topkapi Sarayi Musezi", in: The Flow of Concepts and Institutions, hrsg. v. Antje Flüchter und Jivanta Schötlli, Springer (im Erscheinen).