Jutta Sperling

Professor of History

Dean of the School of Critical Social Inquiry

Hampshire College

Teaching Interests:

I teach a variety of courses on the history of Early Modern Europe (ca. 1400-1800), with a special interest in Renaissance and Baroque Visual Culture; Gender, Family and the Law in the Wider Mediterranean; Body History; Catholicism; and the Portuguese Empire. I like to integrate bodies of knowledge from different disciplines such as art history, religious history, social and cultural history, the history of medicine, legal history, queer studies, and postcolonial studies. Recent courses include “Renaissance Bodies: Sex, Art, and Medicine;” “Women’s Writing, Art, and Music in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (ca. 1100-1800);” “Women and Gender in the Wider Mediterranean (ca. 1300-1800);” “Queering the Renaissance;” “Nuns, Saints, and Mystics;” and “Portugal and the Indian Ocean Region (1500-1650).”

Current Research Interests:

I just finished writing a book manuscript entitled The Roman Charity as Figure of Dissent: Queer Lactations in Early Modern Visual Culture, which investigates the popularity of the iconography of Pero and Cimon, or the daughter-who-breastfed-her-father-(or-mother)-in-prison. Drawing on recent concepts in visual culture and queer studies, I examine these highly sexualized representations from the perspective of dissent with early modern patriarchal structures and the Catholic notion of Charity, often allegorized as a breastfeeding woman. In the near future, I will continue to publish on lactation imagery in Renaissance and Baroque Art, a field I first explored in my edited volume on Medieval and Renaissance Lactations: Images, Rhetorics, Practices (Ashgate Press, 2013). My interest in images of — queer — mothering builds on prior work of mine on comparative legal studies on early modern patriarchies and strategies of coerced monachizations (i.e. the practice of forcing young girls to enter monasteries).

Selected Publications:


Roman Charity: Queer Lactations in Early Modern Visual Culture (transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, 2016; open source: De Gruyter, 2016)

Medieval and Renaissance Lactations: Images, Rhetorics, and Practices (edited volume) (Ashgate Press, 2013).

Across the Religious Divide: Women, Property, and Law in the Wider Mediterranean (1300-1800); co-edited with Shona K. Wray; (Routledge, 2010).

 Convents and the Body Politic in Late Renaissance Venice (University of Chicago Press, 1999).


“Squeezing, Squirting, Spilling Milk: The Lactation of Saint Bernard and the Flemish Madonna Lactans (ca. 1430-1530),” Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 71, no. 3 (2018), 868-918.

“Same-Sex Lactations in European Art and Literature (ca. 1300-1800): Allegory, Melancholy, Loss,” in: Cultural Representations of Breastfeeding, eds. Ann Marie A. Short, Abigail L. Palko, and Dionne Irving (Demeter Press, 2018, 50-69).

“Address, Desire, Lactation: On some Gender-bending Images of the Virgin and Child by Jan Gossaert,” Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch LXXVI (2015): 49-77.

“Wet-Nurses, Midwives, and the Virgin Mary in Tintoretto’s The Birth of Saint John the Baptist (1563)” in: Medieval and Renaissance Lactations: Images, Rhetorics, Practices, ed. Jutta Sperling (Ashgate Press, 2013), pp. 235-54.

“Charity’s Nudity and the Veil of Allegory,” in: Renaissance Studies in Honor of Joseph Connors, (Milan, Libraria Officina, and Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2013), pp. 520-26.

“The Economics and Politics of Marriage,” in: The Ashgate Research Companion to Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe, Allyson Poska, Katherine McIver, Jane Couchman, eds., (Ashgate Press, 2013), pp. 213-33.

“Las Casas and His Amerindian Nurse: Tropes of Lactation in the French Colonial Imaginary (ca. 1770-1810),” Gender & History, 23,1 (2011): 47-71.

“‘Divenni madre e figlia di mio padre.’ Queer Lactations in Renaissance and Baroque Art,” in: Sex Acts: Practice, Performance, Perversion and Punishment in Early Modern Europe, ed. by Allison Levy, (Ashgate, 2010), pp. 165-180.

[Italian translation: “‘Divenni madre e figlio di mio padre’: allattamenti strani ed incestuosi nell’arte rinascimentale e barocca,” in: Sesso nel Rinascimento. Pratica, performance, perversione e punizione nell’Italia del Rinascimento, ed. by Allison Levy, (Florence, Casa Editrice delle Lettere, 2009), pp. 171-185.]

“Marriage, Kinship, Property in Portuguese Testaments (1649-50),” in: Across the Religious Divide: Women, Property, and Law in the Wider Mediterranean (1300-1800), co-edited with Shona Kelly Wray (Routledge, 2010), pp. 158-174.

“Allegories of Charity and the Practice of Poor Relief at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco,” Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch, vol. LXX (2009): 119-146.

“Dowry or Inheritance? Kinship, Property, and Women’s Agency in Lisbon, Venice, Florence (1572)“, Journal of Early Modern History, vol. 11 no. 3 (2007): 197-238.

“Women’s Property Rights in Portugal under Dom João I (1385-1433). A Comparison with Renaissance Italy,” Portuguese Studies Review, vol. 13, no. 1 (2005): 1-33.

“Marriage at the Time of the Council of Trent (1560-70): Clandestine Marriages, Kinship Prohibitions, and Dowry Exchange in European Comparison,” Journal of Early Modern History, vol. 8, no. 1-2 (2004): 67-108.

“The Paradox of Perfection: Reproducing the Body Politic in Late Renaissance Venice,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 41, no. 1 (1999): 3-32.