Jessica Goethals

Associate Professor of Italian

  • email:
  • phone (205) 348-5059
  • office location BB Comer Hall 236


  • PhD, Italian Studies, New York University
  • MA, Italian Studies, New York University
  • BA, Italian Literature and Culture, Northwestern University


Dr. Goethals’ research centers on medieval and early modern literature and theater, focusing especially on gender and women’s writing; the relationship between military-historical events and their literary representations across genres; the intersection of print, manuscript, and performative media; mysticism, prophecy, eschatology; and rhetoric.

Her first monograph, Margherita Costa, Diva of the Baroque Court (University of Toronto Press, 2023), is the first full-length study of this remarkable courtesan, professional singer, and prolific author. She is currently writing a second book on the literary repercussions of the 1527 Sack of Rome, a project for which she will be an NEH long-term fellow at the Newberry Library in 2023-2024.

Dr. Goethals has received long-term and postdoctoral fellowships from the Folger Shakespeare Library, Villa I Tatti—the Harvard University Center for Italian Studies, the University of Pennsylvania, and New York University, as well as grants from the Renaissance Society of America, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and the American Philosophical Society.



BBC Radio 4 In Our Time podcast, “The Sack of Rome, 1527”

New Books Network podcast, “Margherita Costa”


Selected Publications

J. Goethals and A. Wainwright, “Ventriloquizing Birgitta: The Saint’s Prophetic Voice During the Italian Wars.” In The Legacy of St. Birgitta of Sweden, ed. Unn Falkeid and Anna Wainwright, 155-83. Leiden: Brill.

Margherita Costa, Diva of the Baroque Court. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2023.

“Margherita Costa: Singer, Poet, Dramatist,” in The Renaissance World: Routledge Resources Online, 2023.

“Anton Francesco Cirni, La reale entrata dell’Eccellentissimo Signor Duca et Duchessa di Fiorenza in Siena; Antonio Martinelli, La solenne entrata dello illvstrissimo et ecccellentiss. Sig. Il Sig. Duca di Fiorenza et Siena,” Eleonora di Toledo e l’invenzione della corte dei Medici a Firenze, ed. Bruce Edelstein and Valentina Conticelli, 394-97. Florence: Sillabe, 2023. Exhibition catalogue.

“Pietro Aretino’s (un)Virgilian Sack of Rome,” Renaissance Studies (early view publication, March 2023:

“‘Cadde a tai note’: il lamenttra la Flora feconda La selva di Cipressi di Margherita Costa.” altrelettere, (2023): 4264.

Li buffoni, Fessa e la nuova malmaritata di Margherita Costa.” Versants 69.2 (2022): 145-61.

Genre-Bending in Early Modern Performative Culture, ed. Jessica Goethals and Eugenio Refini. Special issue of The Italianist 40.3 (2020).

“Worth its Salt: Margherita Costa’s Ridiculous Defence of Buffoonery,” for Genre-Bending in Early Modern Performative Culture, special issue of The Italianist  40.3 (2020): 362-81.

“The Singing Saint: The Martyrdom of St. Cecilia in Seventeenth-Century Literature and Theater.” In Women Language Literature in Italy/Donne Lingua Letteratura in Italia  II (2020): 43-61.

“Sack of Rome (1527).” In Oxford Bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation. Ed. Margaret King. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

Margherita Costa. The Buffoons, A Ridiculous Comedy. A Bilingual Edition. Edited and translated by Sara Diaz and Jessica Goethals. The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe. Toronto: The Buffoons book coverITER; Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2018.

“The Patronage Politics of Equestrian Ballet: Allegory, Allusion, and Satire in the Courts of Seventeenth-Century Italy and France,” Renaissance Quarterly 70.4 (2017): 1397-1448. Winner of the Renaissance Society of America’s William Nelson Prize for best article published in RQ in 2017.

“The Bizarre Muse: The Literary Persona of Margherita Costa,” Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal 12.1 (2017): 48-72. Winner of EMWJ‘s Best Article Prize for volume 12 (2017-2018).

“Performance, Print, and the Italian Wars: Poemetti Bellici and the Case of Eustachio Celebrino,” in Interactions between Orality and Writing in Early Modern Italian Culture. Edited by Luca Degl’Innocenti, Brian Richardson, Chiara Sbordoni. Routledge, 2016.

“The Flowers of Italian Literature: Language, Imitation, and Gender Debates in Paolo Giovio’s Dialogus de viris et foeminis aetate nostra florentibusRenaissance Studies 29.5 (November 2015): 749-71.

“Vanquished Bodies, Weaponized Words: Pietro Aretino’s Conflicting Portraits of the Sexes and the Sack of Rome,” in “Gender in Early Modern Rome,” ed. by Julia L. Hairston, special issue, I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance 17.1 (Spring 2014): 55-78.

“Spectators of the Sack: Rhetorical ‘Particularity’ and Graphic Violence in Luigi Guicciardini’s Historia del sacco di Roma,” Italian Studies 68.2 (July 2013): 175-201.

Power and Image in Early Modern Europe, edited by Jessica Goethals, Valerie McGuire and Gaoheng Zhang. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2008.