Marco Faini

Marco Faini

Andrew W Mellon Fellow
‘Always doubt, and live cautiously’. Doubt, Scepticism and Unbelief in Early Modern Italy (1500-1560)


Marco Faini holds a PhD from the University of Urbino. He was Research Associate at the University of Cambridge (2013-2016), fellow of the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel (2009-2010), and visiting professor at Münster University (2011). He has published on Pietro Aretino, Anton Francesco Doni, sixteenth-century lyric poetry, and Christian epics. His publications include La cosmologia macaronica. L’universo malinconico del Baldus di Teofilo Folengo (Manziana, 2010). He is the co-editor of Books for Captains and Captains in books (Wiesbaden: Harassowitz 2016), and is presently coediting a Companion to Pietro Aretino (Leiden-Boston: Brill, forthcoming 2017).

Project Summary

This project focuses on the history of doubt and unbelief in Italy from the late fifteenth century to the 1560s. By bringing together the histories of literature, religion and philosophy, I analyze the manifold manifestations of doubt in a key historical moment. My project will provide a social history of doubt, or a history of doubt as it was practiced not only by intellectual élites but also by commoners. Rather than relying on philosophical and theological treatises, I explore less investigated works in the vernacular that conveyed issues related to doubt and unbelief to broader audiences. This project explores three main areas: 1) Visual and literary allegories of doubt and related iconographies (knowledge, ignorance, experience, Hercules at the crossroads, the incredulity of Thomas, etc.); 2) Doubt and religious history, which aims to highlight the developing role of doubt in Italian religious life with special focus on a) Erasmian doubt; b) doubt and radical heresy; and c) doubt as a tool in building religious tolerance; and 3) Doubt in sixteenth-century literary culture. I deal in this section with works explicitly devoted to doubt (libri di dubbi), as well as those in the vernacular (poems, dialogues, short treatises) in which doubt is presented as an everyday practice. In this section I also deal with doubt and sociability, investigating the debate on doubt in some Academies, especially in the Veneto. The novelty of my project resides in the shift from traditional studies on skepticism and (proto)libertinism to a more nuanced analysis of doubt and uncertainty in Italian culture informed by a vast array of little studied sources.