Raphaëlle Burns and Javier Patiño Loira earn fellowships to conduct research at I Tatti

Raphaëlle Burns and Javier Patiño Loira (Photos: UCLA)

Sean Brenner | May 21, 2024

Professors Raphaëlle Burns and Javier Patiño Loira will pursue research projects in Florence, Italy, during the 2024–25 academic year. Both have earned fellowships to study at I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies.

Burns, an assistant professor in the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies, received the Florence Gould Fellowship. She will be investigating how the literary genre of the novella became a forum for debates on the nature of the new and the ethics of news reporting in the early modern period. While her research is focused on the Renaissance, Burns said the topic is closely linked to contemporary discussions about news and information sharing — and to considerations about teaching and learning about how people “grapple with and share news.”

“My interest in this question is inevitably informed by current trends in newswriting, news sharing and how we tell these stories,” Burns said. “My ambition is to propose a new genealogy of journalism to reevaluate the purpose and potential of news discourses in contemporary society.”

Her project is called “Novellas, News and the Uses of Casuistry in Early Modern Europe.” Burns said the opportunity to work in Florence will be especially meaningful because the region was, during the mid-14th century, the home base of the writer Giovanni Boccaccio, a prime focus of her research.

Patiño Loira, an assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese, received the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fellowship. He will investigate the early modern belief in spontaneous generation, now disproved, which held that life forms of one species could be born from decaying matter of a different species. Because it was believed that insects and fungi were not born from parents, he said, scientists sought the causes of their generation in other forms of life that surrounded them.

“My project not only sheds light on the roots of today’s widespread concerns with the interconnectedness of life forms and environmental thinking; it also cautions against a linear understanding of scientific progress by demonstrating that early modern scientists could advance pioneering ideas on ecology precisely because they believed in a theory that today we know to be wrong,” Patiño Loira said. The research will be the basis for his second book.

Patiño Loira’s first book, “The Age of Subtlety: Nature and Rhetorical Conceits in Early Modern Europe,” will be published in June by the University of Delaware Press.