Virginia Cox (Trinity College Cambridge), 'Late-Renaissance Genoa through the lens of social lyric'

angelo grillo

My current book project, The Social World of Italian Renaissance Lyric, centres on the rich late-Cinquecento tradition of social lyric (my term)—broadly, occasional verse and related ‘sociable’ forms such as encomia and sonnet exchanges. This vast, critically neglected body of verse is of remarkable sociohistorical and cultural-historical interest, especially when read alongside the elaborate contextualising paratexts that accompanied verse collections at this time. My talk will illustrate this point through a case study: the 1589 Rime morali (or Prima parte delle rime) of the Cassinese monk Angelo Grillo (1557–1629), a writer acclaimed for his religious poetry but whose secular verse remains almost unknown. This sprawling, panoramic collection combines social lyric and prose commentary to craft a vivid and politically nuanced portrait of Grillo’s home city of Genoa, while at the same time offering the spectacle of the author’s complex self-staging as fashionable intellectual, as Genoese patrician, and as mediator between the secular and religious worlds. 


Virginia Cox graduated with a PhD from Cambridge and worked at the University of Edinburgh, UCL, Cambridge, and New York University, before returning to Cambridge as Senior Research Fellow at Trinity College in 2021. Her research focuses on Renaissance and Counter-Reformation Italian literature (especially dialogue and lyric poetry), on the history of the reception of classical rhetorical theory in Italy between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, and on the history of Italian early modern women’s writing. Her main current works in progress are a co-edited book for UCL Press (Poetry, Drama, and Music in Late-Renaissance Italy: The Life and Works of Leonora Bernardi, ed. with Lisa Sampson, with contributions by Eric Nicholson, Eugenio Refini, and Anna Wainwright), the Renaissance volume of the Cambridge History of Rhetoric, co-edited with Jennifer Richards, and a monograph on Renaissance lyric poetry and its paratexts, provisionally entitled The Social World of Italian Renaissance Lyric.