Jennifer Mackenzie

Jennifer Mackenzie

Assistant Professor
Dey Hall 238
Students Advised
Daniele Meregalli

Accepting graduate students 


Ph.D., Italian Studies, University of California, Berkeley

MA, Italian Studies, University of California, Berkeley

BA, English Honors and Italian, University of British Columbia

About Professor Mackenzie

I study the Italian Renaissance and the humanist revolutions that have distinguished it as a historical experience. As an Italianist, I have taken a particular interest in authors associated with vernacular humanism, including Boccaccio, Boiardo, Ariosto, Tasso, and Montaigne. I am interested in Latin and Greek humanisms as well, especially in relation to antiquarian activities and visual culture. Other subjects of interest include the so-called poligrafi (editors, translators, commentators) who worked in the early modern book trade; visual-verbal hybrid genres and languages (emblems, picture dictionaries, hieroglyphs, illustrated books); legal humanisms; artists’ writings; and writing about the arts.

My research questions aim to contribute to cultural and intellectual history, even as my methods come from literary studies, visual studies, and/or the material history of texts. How were the humanists’ experiments and methods shaped by their social and political contexts? How are material objects and verbal expressions, Latin and vernacular texts, scholarly and imaginative approaches to the past, interconnected and in dialogue with one another? How have evolving histories of Renaissance figures and their achievements been shaped by our own evolving contexts and concerns?

My first book project investigates the fate of the coat of arms in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when the study of the humanities was gaining ascendancy on the Italian peninsula. The subject draws us into a series of Renaissance controversies and tensions between tradition and creativity, law and art, kin networks and individualism. The goal of the project is to recover some of the resources that “feudal” centers of humanist thought and experimentation, like Este Ferrara, unexpectedly made available to future generations of radical thought and experimental fiction.

Beyond Renaissance Studies, I see humanism(s) as sets of still-living practices and dispositions that move to different parts of the globe, interact with divergent traditions, and evolve to suit different needs. In this vein, I am especially curious about the long history of the novel and in what has emerged recently as “the history of the humanities,” studying the (dis)continuities between Early Modern humanisms and various branches of the modern humanities such as anthropology, ecocriticism, post-humanism, and post-colonial studies.

Before coming to UNC, I was Assistant Professor of Italian at Franklin & Marshall College for two years. I previously studied English literature at the University of British Columbia and Italian Studies at UC Berkeley. I enjoyed formative experiences at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, the Max Plank Institute for Art History in Florence, and other archives and rare books libraries in Italy and Europe. I was born and raised in Canada to immigrant parents with roots in Italy, Ireland, and Scotland. page:

Publications, Articles, & Presentations

"Lorenzo Valla’s Critique of Jurisprudence, the Discovery of Heraldry, and the Philology of Images.Renaissance Quarterly 72.4 (2019): 1183-1224.

Che l’antico valore nelli italici cor non e’ ancor morto: Carla Benedetti’s Challenge.California Italian Studies, 2.1 (2011).

Awards & Honors

2019 Wolf Humanities Center Regional Faculty Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania - Kinship Seminar

2019 Franklin Research Grant, American Philosophical Society

2015 Doctoral Fellowship, Max Planck Kunsthistorisches Institut Florence - The Nomos of Images: Manifestation and Iconology of Law Research Group

2011-14 Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship – Doctoral, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada