Representing and Engaging Divine Wisdom in Early Modern Italy

When and Where

Thursday, January 18, 2024 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
JHB 318 and online
Jackman Humanities Building
170 St George Street, Toronto ON M5R 2M8


Sarah Rolfe Prodan (Stanford University)


As both phenomenon and figure, wisdom has a rich history in western thought and culture. From Greco-Roman mythology (Pallas Athena and Minerva) through medieval allegory (goddess Natura and Lady Philosophy), and from the Hebrew Bible (Woman Wisdom) through the Scriptures, theology, and religious life of Byzantium (Sophia) and of Latin Christendom (Sapientia), the paths and permutations by which Divine Wisdom reached early modern Italy were many. Tied to concepts of both nature and the sacred feminine, Divine Wisdom has been variously conceived as a person, principle, attribute and/or emanation, and has long been central to discussions and debates about creation, revelation, and redemption in the Christian tradition. This talk centres on lyric descriptions, artistic representations, and invocations of Divine Wisdom in Italy between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and situates them in relation to projects of religious and cultural reform, on the one hand, and to cosmology and the birth pangs of modern science, on the other. In addition to scholars of early modernity, this talk may be of interest to individuals who study literature, art, culture, philosophy, religion, or theology from feminist or ecocritical perspectives.  

Sarah Rolfe Prodan studies relations among poetry, art, and devotion in the Early Modern Period. Her publications include Michelangelo’s Christian Mysticism: Spirituality, Poetry, and Art in Sixteenth-Century Italy (Cambridge, 2014) and Friendship and Sociability in Premodern Europe: Contexts, Concepts, and Expressions (CRRS, 2014). Her current book project, Poetics of Piety in Early Modern Italy, considers the ways in which male and female poets of devotional verse engaged the Word in text, image, and imagination in the long sixteenth century.

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Toronto Renaissance and Reformation Colloquium, Department for the Study of Religion


170 St George Street, Toronto ON M5R 2M8