James K. Coleman

James K. Coleman

Andrew W Mellon Fellow
Reading Archipelagos: Italian Humanism and Renaissance Books of Islands
James K. Coleman


James K. Coleman is Assistant Professor of Italian at the University of Pittsburgh. He holds a PhD in Italian from Yale University, and a BA in Classics, also from Yale. His research on early modern Italy includes interdisciplinary work on improvisation and orality, classical reception, and cross-cultural encounters. He has published research on Italian literature and culture from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century, including essays on Giovanni Boccaccio, Angelo Poliziano, Ludovico Ariosto, Girolamo Frachetta, and Giambattista Vico. He is co-editor of Luigi Pulci in Renaissance Florence and Beyond (Brepols, 2017).

Project Summary

In the fifteenth century a new genre of book emerged to captivate Italian audiences: the isolario (book of islands), which introduced islands and archipelagos through a curious blend of visual and textual representations. Maps and navigational aids, travel narratives and advice for wayfarers, archaeology and epigraphy, poetry and mythology, ancient history and current events, natural history and ethnography – all of these elements were integrated into Renaissance isolari. This project will examine isolari in relation to Mediterranean geopolitics and transcultural exchange. It will trace connections between the Renaissance isolari and fourteenth-century humanist antecedents by Boccaccio, Petrarch, and Domenico Silvestri. Studying the uses of these island texts across transnational readership communities, and analyzing the representations of movements of peoples within them, the project aims to shed new light on the transcultural networks that defined the archipelagos of the early modern Mediterranean.