My research work so far has followed three main lines of inquiry: a. The Anglo-Saxon church and culture b. Medievalism, from political debates, literature, art and architecture to film, detective novels, the Heritage industry, the Internet and reenactment, on which I wrote the book In Search of the Holy Grail: The Quest for the Middle Ages c. Late Antique and Early Medieval Italian cultural history, especially in Rome, between the fifth and tenth centuries, which has led to my last two books, one edited for Brepols, the other, in progress, for Oxford University Press, on Rome, Ravenna and Venice, 750-1000: city identity in medieval Italy before the communes. The overall line of this work was an examination of the convergences and divergences between political realities and the rhetoric, image and ideology of imperial rule in Early Medieval Italy in the 9th and 10th centuries, and at the way in which these have shaped the identity of the three main post-Byzantine capitals of Rome, Ravenna and Venice. The focus on these three cities arises from their unifying element: their common Byzantine past, since they remained in the sphere of imperial power after the creation of the Lombard kingdom in the late 6th century, up to 750. What happened to them when their links with the Byzantine Empire were almost entirely severed in the 8th century? Did they remain socially and culturally heirs of Byzantium in the 9th and 10th centuries in their political structures, social organisation, material culture, ideological frame of reference and representation of identity? Or did they become part of the next imperial powers of Italy, the Carolingian and the Ottonian empires?
Since October 2015, I have been working as a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Venice, on a new project entitled Family, Power, Memory: female monasticism in Italy, 700 to 1100. Like my past work, this is also a comparative and interdisciplinary study: that of Italian female monasteries from 700 to 1100. I approached the study of Italian religious women as a laboratory for exploring the complex relationship between gender and power. Royal or aristocratic monasteries have left sources detailing the names, background and activities of nuns. These sources, spread out in time and space, are representative of the political and ethnic composition of Italian society. To study the evolution of nunneries makes it possible to trace changes in Italian political, social and cultural patterns, with the intermingling of family and politics. Understanding the tensions between early medieval Italian society’s male-controlled political and religious power, and the great influence of noble women as queens and as nuns, is essential for grasping women’s ideological and spiritual power in Italy and their influence within the elite and in society generally, and to recognize the different and changing configurations of medieval Italy.
MedItaNunC (Marie Curie project on Family, Power, Memory: Female Monasticism in Italy, 700-1100 (ITNUN)) – published on the project website www.unive.it/itnun