Deanna Shemek

TitleProfessor and Chair, Department of Literature,
Co-Director, IDEA: Isabella d'Este Archive
DivisionHumanities Division
DepartmentLiterature Department,
Cowell College
AffiliationsCowell College,
Italian Studies
831-459-2609 (Staff)
Web Site
OfficeHumanities 1, 328
Office HoursPublished on UCSC Google calendar. Mondays 3:00-5:00 or by appointment.
Campus Mail StopHumanities Academic Services
Mail1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA
Deanna Shemek

Biography, Education and Training

I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska and earned my BA in English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln (1981), studying abroad in Bologna Italy in 1978-1979. I earned my MA and PhD in Italian from Johns Hopkins University in 1988 and have taught at the University of Pennsylvania (1986-1988), Yale University (1988-90; 1997), and Stanford University (1996; 2007) as well as at UC Santa Cruz, where I joined the faculty in 1990.

Honors, Awards and Grants


University of California Humanities Research Institute (UC Irvine) Multi-Campus Faculty Working Group (2017-2018) for: Isabella d'Este Virtual Studiolo.

Gary Licker Memorial Chair in Cowell College (2014-2017).

University of California Humanities Research Institute (UC Irvine) Residential Working Group (Convener) (Spring 2013) for: Digital Isabella d'Este: An Open-Access Online Research Forum.

Consortium of UC Humanities Center Directors, California Italian Studies Multi-campus Research Group UCSC Co-investigator (2010).

Teagle Foundation, What is a Reader Grant for Fresh Thinking Working Groups on Big Questions and the Disciplines. Co-principal investigator at UCSC (with Tyrus Miller), in collaboration with investigators at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and Mills College (2009).

Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Endowment Fund Grant (2002).

Harvard Villa I Tatti Fellowship, Florence, Italy (2001-2002 residency)

Summer Stipend, National Endowment for the Humanities (2001)

American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship (1995)

Fulbright Dissertation Fellowship (1985)

Selected Publications


  • Book manuscript: 'In Continuous Expectation': Isabella d'Este's Epistolary Dominion


  • Isabella d'Este, Selected Letters. Translated and edited from manuscript by Deanna Shemek.Toronto and Tempe AZ: Iter Academic Press and Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2017.

  • Writing Relations: American Scholars in Italian Archives. Edited by Deanna Shemek and Michael Wyatt, in honor of Armando Petrucci and Franca Nardelli. Florence: Olschki, 2008.

  • Phaethon's Children: The Este Court and its Culture in Early Modern Italy. Edited by Dennis Looney and Deanna Shemek. Tempe: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies (MRTS), 2005.

  • Dame erranti. Italian translation of Ladies Errant. Translated by Olivia Guaraldo. Introduction by Adriana Cavarero. Afterword by Christiane Klapisch-Zuber. Mantova, Italy: Edizioni Tre Lune, 2003.

  • TRANSLATION: Adriana Cavarero, Stately Bodies: Literature, Philosophy, and the Question of Gender. Translated by Robert De Lucca and Deanna Shemek, "Introduction" (1-11) by Deanna Shemek. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002. Originally published in Italian as Corpo in figure: Filosofia e politica della corporeità (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1995).

  • Ladies Errant: Wayward Women and Social Order in Early Modern Italy. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1998.


  • "Renaissance Princess, Digital New World: IDEA. Isabella d'Este Archive. Early Modern Women 11.2 (2017): 115-25.

  • "Laura Terracina." Introductory essay and selected, commentated poems. In Liriche del Cinquecento. Edited by Monica Farnetti and Laura Fortini. Rome: Iacobelli, 2014. 170-198.

  • "Verse." In Cambridge Companion Guide to the Italian Renaissance. Edited by Michael Wyatt. Cambridge University Press, forthcoming June 2014.

  • "Doing and Undoing: Boccaccio's Feminism (On Famous Women)," in Boccaccio: A Critical Guide to the Complete Works. Edited by Victoria Kirkham, Michael Sherberg, and Janet Smarr. University of Chicago Press, 2014. 195-204.

  • "Mendacious Missives: Isabella d'Este's Epistolary Theater" in Writing Relations: American Scholars in Italian Archives. Edited by Deanna Shemek and Michael Wyatt, in honor of Armando Petrucci and Franca Nardelli. Florence: Olschki, 2008. 71-86.

  • "'Mi mostrano a dito tutti quanti': Disease, Deixis, and Disfiguration in the Lamento di una cortigiana ferrarese." Italiana 2005.

  • "In Continuous Expectation: Isabella d'Este's Epistolary Desire" in Phaethon's Children: The Este Court and its Culture in Early Modern Italy, eds. Dennis Looney and Deanna Shemek. Tempe: Medieval and Renaissance Text and Studies, 2005.

  • "The Collector's Cabinet: Lodovico Domenichi's Gallery of Women" in Strong Voices, Weak Histories. Edited by Pamela Joseph Benson and Victoria Kirkham. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.

  • "«Ci Ci» and «Pa Pa»: Script, Mimicry, and Mediation in Isabella d`Este's Letters." Rinascimento: Rivista dell'Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento, Seconda serie, Vol. 43 (2005), 75-91.

  • "Isabella d'Este and the Properties of Persuasion" in Form and Persuasion in Early Modern Women's Letters Across Europe. Edited by Ann Crabb and Jane Couchman. Brookfield VT: Ashgate, 2005. 108-35.

  • "Aretino's Marescalco: Marriage Woes and the Duke of Mantua." Art and Culture in Renaissance Mantua. Renaissance Studies 16/3 (2002) 366-80.

  • "Books at Banquet: Commodities, Canon, and Culture in Giulio Cesare Croce's Convito universale." Annali d`Italianistica 16 (1998): 85-101.

  • "Dall'insulto verbale all'oltraggio fisico: I racconti di Isabella de Luna del Bandello." In La rappresentazione dell'altro nei testi del Rinascimento, ed. Sergio Zatti, 77-95. Lucca, Italy: Pacini Fazzi, 1998.

  • "Circular Definitions: Configuring Gender in Italian Renaissance Festival." Renaissance Quarterly 48.1 (1995): 1-40.

  • "Of Women, Knights, Arms, and Love: The Orlando Furioso and Ariosto's Querelle des Femmes." MLN 104.1 (1989): 68-97.

Teaching Interests

I am interested in the development of narrative forms, from the epic and the early tale or novella through the romance tradition and into contemporary fiction. I also study certain popular literary forms such as the letter, the pamphlet, and the ballad in Italian. Writings of Italy's sixteenth century are my particular interest, including narrative, lyric and dramatic forms; the dialogue, the theoretical tract. Literature written by women and other marginal figures to Renaissance high culture is a frequent focus of my research. Though my orientation is strongly literary, my research and teaching lies at a crossroads between literary, historical, art historical, and political materials. My theoretical interests include ancient and modern theories of literary and visual representation; psychoanalytical, historicist, and historical materialist methodologies; theories of sexuality and desire; and feminism. I have recently embarked on a digital humanities project aimed at preservation, access, and creative study of the European Renaissance through the figure of Isabella d'Este (1474-1539).

Courses Taught

Graduate Courses taught on Ariosto, Italian Epic and Romance, Femininity in the Italian Renaissance, Early Modern Italian Women Writers, Antonio Gramsci; Epistolarity
Boccaccio, N. Machiavelli, Italian Renaissance Survey, Early Modern Italian Comedy, Renaissance Versions of Gender, Frame Tale Fictions, Radical Italy: Francis of Assisi to Dario Fo; Italian opera as drama