Contact details


Telephone number: 01865 (2)80597

Role: College Lecturer (Fellow of Somerville College)


Prof Francesca Southerden


I am Associate Professor of Medieval Italian, Tutor and Fellow at Somerville College and Lecturer in Italian at Lady Margaret Hall and St Catherine’s College. Before taking up the post at Oxford, I was Assistant Professor of Italian and Medieval-Renaissance Studies at Wellesley College, MA. I hold a D.Phil in Italian Literature from the University of Oxford, where I also studied as an undergraduate.

Research interests

My research examines the relationship between language and desire in medieval Italian literature, with a particular focus on thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Italian poetry. My current book project, Dante and Petrarch in the Garden of Language, is a comparative study of Dante and Petrarch, which posits the garden space as a privileged site for analyzing the authors’ thinking about language and desire. My broader research interests lie in the philosophy of language, critical theory, and the concept of lyric from the Middle Ages to the present day.


At undergraduate level, I teach a range of papers for the Italian Preliminary Examination and Final Honours School. I am available to supervise graduate students working on a range of topics in medieval Italian literature.

For the Italian Final Honours School, I teach Papers VI (Medieval Italian Literature), IX (Dante’s Commedia) and the medieval authors for Paper X (Early Prescribed texts). I also teach medieval options for Italian Paper XII special subjects.


Modern Languages

History and Modern Languages

Classics and Modern Languages

Selected publications

I am author of Landscapes of Desire in the Poetry of Vittorio Sereni (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) and co-editor, with Manuele Gragnolati, Tristan Kay, and Elena Lombardi, of Desire in Dante and the Middle Ages (Oxford: Legenda, 2012). Recent essays and articles I have published include: ‘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); ”The Ghost of a Garden: Seeds of Discourse and Desire in Petrarch’s Triumphus Mortis II’, Le tre corone. Rivista di studi su Dante, Petrarca, e Boccaccio (I, 2014); and ‘Desire as a Dead Letter: A Reading of Petrarch’s RVF 125’, in Desire in Dante and the Middle Ages (op. cit.). You can read more about my research and publications here: