Sabrina Ferri is Associate Professor of Italian at the University of Notre Dame. Her research encompasses Italian literature, philosophy, science and visual arts of the so-called “long eighteenth century,” with a focus on the transition to modernity and Italy’s place in transnational contexts.

Her work on Giacomo Casanova, Lazzaro Spallanzani, the late eighteenth-century Picturesque, Vittorio Alfieri, Giambattista Vico, and Giacomo Leopardi has appeared in several peer-reviewed journals. Her first book, Ruins Past: Modernity in Italy, 1744-1836, was published in the Voltaire Foundation’s series “Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment” in 2015. Through the analysis of the representation of ruins by Italian writers, scientists, and artists between the mid-eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Ruins Past explores the culture of the period and traces Italy’s uneasy transition into modernity.

She is currently working on Giacomo Leopardi and on two long-term projects. The first, Fantasy’s Forge. Brain and the Imagination between Enlightenment and Romanticism, focuses on Italian writers and scientists between the mid-18th and the early 19th century, and seeks to tell the interdisciplinary story of a crucial moment in the history of the imagination, when science, poetry, and philosophy converged to reshape the understanding of this faculty. The second, Revolutionary States and the Ends of Fiction. History, Italy, and the Novel (1799-1967), is a study of the representation of historical change and in particular of political revolutions in novels set in Italy during the late 18th and 19th centuries.


2007 Ph.D., Italian Studies, Stanford University, Department of French and Italian

2000 B.A. summa cum laude, Italian Literature (Laurea in Lettere e Filosofia, 110 e lode), University of Rome “Tor Vergata”

Other Publications


Ruins Past: Modernity in Italy, 1744-1836, Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2015).

  • Reviews:
    Gilles Bertrand, Comptes Rendus 64.4 (2017): 197-200
    Yuri Brunello, Journal of Modern Italian Studies 22.2 (2017): 273-75
    Fabio Camilletti, Modern Language Review 112.3 (2017): 717-19
    Pierre Musitelli, Laboratoire italien, Lectures (2017) [online] 
    Martin Neumann, Romanische Forschungen 130 (2018): 230-35
    Lavinia Maddaluno, Nuncius 33 (2018): 634-36

Selected Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles and Book Chapters

“Giacomo Leopardi’s Poetry of the Embodied Mind,” Rivista Internazionale di Studi Leopardiani (Forthcoming).

“Homo Sive Natura? Leopardi and the Natural Contract. A Serresian Reading,” Costellazioni 10 (December 2019): 67-83. (Forthcoming)

“Uneasy Sensibility: Pietro Verri on Pleasure and Pain,” in The Archaeology of the Unconscious: Italian Perspectives. Ed. Fabio Camilletti and Alessandra Aloisi. London: Routledge, 2019. 13-32.

“Thinking the Future in Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone,” California Italian Studies 8.1 (2018).

“Literature in the University: Giambattista Vico’s Ideal Type,” Italian Culture 35.2 (2017): 112-128.

“Time in Ruins: Melancholy and Modernity in the Pre-Romantic Natural Picturesque,” Italian Studies 69.2 (July 2014): 204-30.

“Lazzaro Spallanzani’s Hybrid Ruins: A Scientist at Serapis and Troy,” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 43 (2014): 169-96.

“Vittorio Alfieri’s Natural Sublime: The Physiology of Poetic Inspiration,” European Romantic Review 23.5 (Oct. 2012): 555-74.

Unfolded History: Vico’s Method of ‘Explication’ as an Alternative to Enlightenment Rationalism,” New Vico Studies 25 (2007): 87-96.

Blog Posts

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