Touba Ghadessi

Associate Professor of Art History


Watson Fine Arts Building 139

(508) 286-3591


Co-founder, The Wheaton Institute for the Interdisciplinary Humanities
President (joint position), The New England Renaissance Conference
Vice-chair of the board, The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities 

Main Interests

Monsters in the early modern period; History of anatomy; Gender definitions and gender ambiguity between 1400 and 1800; Ruling figures and vexed visualizations of power.

Other Interests

I am passionate about the true and concrete value of the humanities, particularly in a professional, civic, and political context. I believe that knowledge, in all its forms, is what constructs a respectful and innovative society. As an expression of this interest, I co-founded and co-directed The Wheaton Institute for the Interdisciplinary Humanities and I am privileged to be the vice-chair of the board of The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities. I am also a board member of The Providence Athenaeum and the joint president of The New England Renaissance Conference, the oldest Renaissance Society in America.

Curriculum Vitae


Ph.D., M.A., Northwestern University
B.A., Trinity University

Research Interests

My first project explores the ways in which human monstrousness and physical deformity have been historically represented, categorized, and interpreted in the various Italian and French courts of the late Renaissance. At the center of this interdisciplinary study are the court monsters – dwarves, hirsutes, and misshapen individuals – who, by their very presence, altered Renaissance ethics vis-à-vis anatomical difference, social virtues, scientific knowledge, and the art theoretical discourse on portraiture. My book, Portraits of Human Monsters in the Renaissance, examines several cases that illustrate these concepts and is the first in the Monsters, Prodigies, and Demons series by the Medieval Institute Publications / ARC Humanities Press.

My new research addresses the more theoretical notion of monstrosity in images of Valois rulers in France. From alchemy, to wilderness, and hermaphroditic bodies, this project traces the ways in which varied monstrous bodies allowed for new ruling epistemologies to occur and how these forms of knowledge challenged the homogeneous narrative often used to illustrate monarchs’ political intentions.

Teaching Interests

I teach courses that fall very broadly in the categories of Renaissance art and history of science and anatomy. In my classes, students discuss the use and display of birthing bowls one day and problematize Foucault’s concept of episteme the next. In addition to core methodologies and solid foundations in deciphering and understanding visual productions, my courses bring non-canonical objects to the classroom: I want my students to feel confident in their ability to analyze historical material — be it textual or visual — especially material with which they are not familiar.