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Sophie Hartles


I am a current PhD candidate at the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at Warwick (2020-2024), co-supervised by Dr Jonathan Davies and Prof. Ingrid De Smet.

My doctoral project, Laughter and Violence in the Italian Renaissance: The Physical and Emotional Abuse of the beffa, is funded by Midlands4Cities and investigates the violent culture of the Italian Renaissance through the analysis of the beffa. This was a cruel practical joke that was enjoyed and laughed at by many contemporaries while also physically and emotionally abusive. My interest in the beffa originated from my master’s dissertation at Manchester, ‘Cruel Jokes, Friendship and Masculinity: A Cultural History of the Early Modern Italian Courts’, which examined what the beffa could reveal about elite male sociability, masculine values, and the sinister nature of the Italian courts.

This current project provides the opportunity to examine the beffa more substantively, particularly its relation to violence and to incorporate other variables such as women and men of lower classes. I am interested in Bologna and Venice as case studies and in methods from cultural history, microhistory, and the history of emotions. I will be particularly looking at instances of the beffa in judicial records, works of literature, and cheap print to gain a broader understanding of how laughter and violence intertwined in this culture and what this can reveal about their values, practices, and interpersonal interactions.


​2017-2018: MA History, University of Manchester, Distinction.

2014-2017: BA History (Renaissance Stream), University of Warwick, First Class Honours​.

Training and Professional Development

Research training
  • ​Italian Paleography (Oct-Dec 2020)
  • Warburg-Warwick Doctoral Training event (10-14 May 2021)
Language training
  • Italian Intermediate Accelerated (Oct 2020 - May 2021)
  • Bologna-Warwick Virtual Erasmus Exchange (Nov-Dec 2020)
  • German for Academic purposes (Nov 2020 - May 2021)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Latin, Warburg Institure (Oct 2021-July 2022)
Professional development
  • Local/Family History Volunteer, Reference Room at Wallasey Central Library, Wallasey (Sep 2023 - present)
  • Collections Interpretation Assistant, Chetham’s Library, Manchester (Nov 2017 - Mar 2018)
  • Summer Exhibition Intern, Fashion and Textiles Museum, London (Jun-Jul 2015)​
  • Research Volunteer, The Dockland's Trail, Liverpool (Nov 2013 - Aug 2014)

Conference Papers

  • 'Laughter and violence: The cruel humour of the beffa in sixteenth-century Venetian literature', The Venetian Seminar, St Edmund's Hall, University of Oxford (14 May 2022)
  • 'Laughter and violence: The brutal mockery of prostitutes in sixteenth century Italy', Renaissance Society of America conference, San Juan, Puerto Rico (9-11 March 2023)
  • 'Pranks, mockery, and violence between workers: The glassmaking furnace in sixteenth-century Murano', Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies Conference: Worlds of Conflict: Violence in the Early Modern Period, Victoria College, University of Toronto (21-23 September 2023)
  • 'Laughter, Mockery, and Violence in the Comic Plays and Performances of Renaissance Italy', part of the 2-panel series on Emotions, Senses, and Space: Experiencing Performances in the Renaissance City, co-organised by myself and Eva van Kemenade, Renaissance Society of America conference, Chicago (21-23 March 2024)


  • Newberry Research Fellow, co-funded by the HRC and the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at Warwick, Newberry Library, Chicago (10-28 March 2024)


  • Seminar Tutor on 'Violence in the Renaissance', Renaissance Undergraduate Module (2023-2024)

Additional Responsibilities

  • Co-organiser, Work in Progress seminar series, Renaissance Centre (2023-2024)
  • SSLC rep, Renaissance Centre (2022-2023)
  • ​​Co-organiser, Early Career Club (ECC), Renaissance Centre (2020-2022)​​