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Robert John Clines

Assistant Professor of History and International Studies
Fellow of the American Academy in Rome

Office: McKee 203B
Phone: 828-227-2605
Email: Profile
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Travel to Southern Italy with Dr. Clines in May 2020

My research and teaching interests lie in the cultural, religious, and intellectual history of Renaissance Italy and the early modern Mediterranean. In particular, I am interested in cultural exchange and its impact on individual and collective conceptions of belonging and difference, what I call the intellectual history of cross-cultural interaction.

My first book, A Jewish Jesuit in the Eastern Mediterranean: Early Modern Conversion, Mission, and the Construction of Identity, will apear in Winter 2019/2020 with Cambridge University Press. A Jewish Jesuit explores the personal letters, official correspondence, and autobiography of Giovanni Battista Eliano, a sixteenth-century Jewish-born Jesuit priest. By tracing the ways that Eliano confronted the entanglement of his Jewish past and Catholic identity, this book illuminates what it was like to be a convert and in turn nuances our understanding of the ways in which individuals both constructed and performed richer senses of themselves and became agents of change in the early modern Mediterranean.

My second book project, currently in progress, is entitled Ancient Others: Barbarians in the Italian Renaissance. It explores Italians' representations of their pan-Mediterranean political and religious rivals as the descendants of the peoples whom the ancient Greeks and Romans labeled barbarians. Ancient Others will illustrate that these depictions were in response to a series of cultural crises such as the lack of an Italian nation-state, pan-Mediterranean imperial rivalries, global exploration, the loss of political independence in the sixteenth century, and the Protestant Reformation. Beyond its contribution to Italian Renaissance intellectual history, this book will demonstrate that early modern Mediterranean identities were not split into East-West or Christian-non-Christian dichotomies, but were instead fluid, situational, and spectral.

I am also co-writing a book on the place of ancient ruins in Rome's urban ecologies (c. 1300-1900) with Kristi Cheramie, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at The Ohio State University. Through a study of literary, archival, archaeological, ecological, botanical, and cartographic evidence, this book aims to investigate the dialectic between early modern Rome's lost urban ecologies and the people who experienced them.

I am working on several articles. I am finishing the draft of an essay that explores translation and generic manipulation in Dante's love poetry as a critique of Florentine magnate culture as well as French cultural and political hegemony in late Duecento and early Trecento Italy. I am currently developing an essay entitled "Renaissance Hannibals," which interrogates Italians' use of the Carthaginian invasion of Italy during the Second Punic War (218BC–201BC) as a metaphor for early modern Mediterranean geopolitics. This essay posits that, through depictions of their compatriots as either allies of the Carthaginians or as Roman heroes such as Scipio Africanus, Italians saw pan-Italian unity as essential to combatting early modern Italy's foreign enemies. Another article in development, "The Ruined Sea," examines the ways in which Italian humanists depicted Roman ruins not as relics of a bygone ancient past but as living depositories of historical knowledge of Mediterranean pasts in need of preservation in the face of seemingly contradictory yet deeply entangled threats such as the rise of the Ottomans or local spoliation for new construction in Renaissance Europe.

Courses Taught:

  • HIST 107 - World Cultures in Historical Perspective
  • HIST 281 - Transformations in European Religious History
  • HIST 308 - Rome: A City of Popes, Emperors, Sinners, & Saints (Travel Course)
  • HIST 315 - Renaissance and Reformation
  • HIST 317 - Early Modern Europe
  • HIST 415 - Early Modern Travel
  • HIST 417 - Renaissance Republics
  • HIST 693 – Global Renaissance (grad)
  • HIST 693 – Cultural Theory (grad)


  • Jesse Howard, Jr./Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Post-Doctoral Rome Prize in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, The American Academy in Rome (2016-2017)
  • American Academy in Rome Fellows Project Fund, "Theaters of Conversion: Flexible Legacy Spaces in the Eternal City," w/Kristi Cheramie, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, Knowlton School of Architecture, Ohio State (2017)
  • Faculty Research and Creative Activities Award Research Grant, The Graduate School, Western Carolina University (2016-2017)
  • Arts and Sciences Summer Research Grant, Western Carolina University (2015)
  • Early Modern Conversions Fellowship, Center for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, University of Cambridge (2015)
  • Academy for Advanced Study in the Renaissance, England and Italy. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2013)
  • Fulbright U.S. Graduate Student Scholarship to Rome, Italy (2012-2013)
  • Fondazione Lemmermann Fellowship for the Study of Roman Culture (2012)


  • “The Converting Sea: Religious Change and Cross-Cultural Interaction in the Early Modern Mediterranean,” History Compass 17:1 (January 2019), e12512.
  • "Wayward Leadership and the Breakdown of Reform on the Failed Jesuit Mission to the Maronites, 1577-1579," Journal of Early Modern History. 22:4 (Summer 2018): 215-237.
  • "How to become a Jesuit Crypto-Jew: The Self-Confessionalization of Giovanni Battista Eliano through the Textual Artifice of Conversion," The Sixteenth Century Journal 48:1 (Spring 2017): 3-26.
  • "Fighting Enemies and Finding Friends: The Cosmopolitan Pragmatism of Jesuit Residences in the Ottoman Levant," Renaissance Studies 31:1 (February 2017): 66-86.
  • "Jesuit Thalassology Reconsidered: The Mediterranean Geopolitics of the Jesuit Presence in Seventeenth-Century Ethiopia," Mediterranean Historical Review 31:01 (June 2016): 43-64.
  • "The Society of Jesus and the Early Modern Christian Orient," Jesuit Historiography Online (2016).

Public Exhibitions:

  • "Environmental Speculations: Reclaiming Ephemeral Ecologies of the Colosseum," The American Academy in Rome, with Kristi Cheramie, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, Knowlton School of Architecture, Ohio State (June-July 2017).


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