Who was Vittoria Colonna? Just one of Italy’s great poets.

Ramie Targoff and the cover of her book, which reads Vittoria Colonna: Renaissance womanPhoto/Mike Lovett

Ramie Targoff is pictured left with the cover of "Renaissance Woman: The life of Vittoria Colonna"

Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Medici are among the most celebrated names of the Italian Renaissance, but in a new book, English professor Ramie Targoff makes the case for including poet Vittoria Colonna in that list of luminaries.

Released in April, “Renaissance Woman: The Life of Vittoria Colonna” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) chronicles Colonna’s life, work and legacy as a pioneer of women’s writing.

The New York Times’ Sarah Dunant reviewed Targoff’s latest work on June 1. Dunant praised Targoff for the way she sets the scene in the Renaissance and recounts how Colonna – after the death of her husband – emerged from tragedy to become the first woman to publish a volume of poetry in Italy.

But it’s not just Colonna’s poetic voice that this biography brings alive,” writes Dunant. “Targoff proves herself as good a popular historian as she is a literary critic. These were troubled times in Italy, filled with political and religious upheaval, and she is a terrific guide, navigating us smoothly through complexity, aided and enhanced by the starry cast of characters in Colonna’s orbit.”

The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal and Vogue also reviewed Targoff’s book.

At Brandeis, Targoff teaches and studies Renaissance literature, with an emphasis on the relationship between literature and religion.

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