Ramie Targoff


Renaissance Woman:
The Life of Vittoria Colonna

This event includes a book signing


April 20, 2018
7:00 PM


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes Brandeis University professor RAMIE TARGOFF for a discussion of her latest book Renaissance Woman: The Life of Vittoria Colonna.

About Renaissance Woman

Ramie Targoff’s Renaissance Woman tells of the most remarkable woman of the Italian Renaissance: Vittoria Colonna, Marchesa of Pescara. Vittoria has long been celebrated by scholars of Michelangelo as the artist’s best friend―the two of them exchanged beautiful letters, poems, and works of art that bear witness to their intimacy―but she also had close ties to Charles V, Pope Clement VII and Pope Paul III, Pietro Bembo, Baldassare Castiglione, Pietro Aretino, Queen Marguerite de Navarre, Reginald Pole, and Isabella d’Este, among others. Vittoria was the scion of an immensely powerful family in Rome during that city’s most explosively creative era. Art and literature flourished, but political and religious life were under terrific strain. Personally involved with nearly every major development of this period―through both her marriage and her own talents―Vittoria was not only a critical political actor and negotiator but also the first woman to publish a book of poems in Italy, an event that launched a revolution for Italian women’s writing. Vittoria was, in short, at the very heart of what we celebrate when we think about sixteenth-century Italy; through her story, the Renaissance comes to life anew.


“I was engrossed, inspired, and moved by the story of this groundbreaking, contradictory, and overlooked literary figure. Ramie Targoff brings Vittoria Colonna to life with a novelist’s flair for plot, detail, and character. Her passion for her subject is contagious, and her analysis of Renaissance culture is both scrupulous and empathetic, at once erudite and richly dramatic.” ―Jhumpa Lahiri, author of In Other Words

“‘May the holy nails now be my quills,’ wrote Vittoria Colonna, Marchesa di Pescara, in one of her shattering sonnets, a profession of her dedication to the suffering of Christ through the writing of poetry. ‘And may his precious blood be my ink.’ Ramie Targoff’s learned and powerful account of the lavishly wealthy sixteenth-century Italian noblewoman who wanted to be a nun as much as she wanted to write unlocks this much-overlooked Renaissance woman from the prison of the poet’s own making―the prison of her grief―and from another prison, too: the prison of the archives, from which Renaissance Woman has at last released her.” ―Jill Lepore, author of The Secret History of Wonder Woman

“One of the most glamorous women of the Renaissance, Vittoria Colonna, well-born and gifted, friend of Michelangelo, rich in every sense, has finally received the attention she deserves. No wonder it has taken so long: Vittoria’s life and career require a biographer with research skills, scholarly dedication, linguistic brilliance, wide-ranging knowledge, and writing talent―combined with a passionate interest in women’s lives―that Ramie Targoff may be alone in possessing. Many will be grateful to her for giving us so extraordinary and inspiring a heroine.” ―Phyllis Rose, author of Parallel Lives

Ramie Targoff
Ramie Targoff

Ramie Targoff

Ramie Targoff is a professor of English, the co-chair of Italian studies, and the Jehuda Reinharz Director of the Mandel Center for the Humanities at Brandeis University. She is the author of Common Prayer: The Language of Public DevotionJohn Donne, Body and Soul; and Posthumous Love: Eros and the Afterlife in Renaissance England. She lives with her husband and son in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Photo credit: Mike Lovett

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

Unable to attend a Harvard Book Store author event? You can still pre-order a signed book by one of our visiting authors.

While we can't guarantee fulfillment of a signed book pre-order, our authors are almost always able to sign extra books to fulfill such orders.

Ordering a signed book on harvard.com:

  • Add the book to your shopping cart and then click Checkout.
  • Specify in Order Comments that you want a signed copy of the book.
  • Please note: online orders for signed copies must be placed at least one business day before the event. If you are ordering the day of, please call us instead.

Ordering a signed book by phone:

  • Call us at (617) 661-1515 and one of our booksellers will take your order. Specify you'd like a signed copy.
  • If you are requesting a personalized inscription and/or requesting your book be shipped, we'll need to take down credit card information. If you are planning to pick up the signed book in the store, you can pay on pick-up.


Can I request a personalized inscription?
Unless otherwise noted, we are happy to take requests for the author to sign your book to a specific person, but we can't guarantee it. If you do get a personalized inscription, the book will be non-returnable. We will require credit card information when you place the order.

Do signed books cost more?
There is no extra fee for a signed book!

Do I have to pick it up in the store, or can you deliver my signed book?
As with all web or phone orders, we can hold your book for in-store pickup, or ship it anywhere in the country.

I am planning to attend an author event. Do I need to pre-order a book?
No need. We'll be selling books at the event, and nearly all of our events include a signing at the end of the talk.

More questions? Give us a call!

Purchase the Book
Featured event books will be for sale at the event for 20% off. Thank you for supporting this author series with your purchases.
General Info
(617) 661-1515

Media Inquiries

Accessibility Inquiries

Updates during COVID-19

Review our guidelines for visitors and other updates on hours and services at Harvard Book Store this summer.

Learn More »

Stay Up Late Fundraiser

Stay up late into the night with our limited edition t-shirt and tote bag, a Harvard Book Store fundraiser.

Learn More »

Support Harvard Book Store

Thank you for making a financial contribution to support Harvard Book Store

Learn More »