Professors Raphaëlle Burns and Javier Patiño Loira will pursue research projects in Florence, Italy, during the 2024–25 academic year. Both have earned fellowships to study at I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies.

Burns, an assistant professor in the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies, received the Florence Gould Fellowship. She will be investigating how the literary genre of the novella became a forum for debates on the nature of the new and the ethics of news reporting in the early modern period. While her research is focused on the Renaissance, Burns said the topic is closely linked to contemporary discussions about news and information sharing — and to considerations about teaching and learning about how people “grapple with and share news.”
Her project is called “Novellas, News and the Uses of Casuistry in Early Modern Europe.” Burns said the opportunity to work in Florence will be especially meaningful because the region was, during the mid-14th century, the home base of the writer Giovanni Boccaccio, a prime focus of her research.

Patiño Loira, an assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese, received the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fellowship. He will investigate the early modern belief in the now-disproved theory of spontaneous generation, which held that life forms of one species could be born from decaying matter of a different species. Because it was believed that insects and fungi were not born from parents, he said, scientists sought the causes of their generation in other forms of life that surrounded them.

He hopes the project not only explores the origins of contemporary biological and environmental perceptions, but also challenges a “linear understanding of scientific progress” from the early modern era to now. Patiño Loira’s research will be the basis for his second book. His first, “The Age of Subtlety: Nature and Rhetorical Conceits in Early Modern Europe,” will be published in June by the University of Delaware Press.