Romance Languages and Literatures

Niall Atkinson

Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Art History, Romance Languages and Literatures, and the College


Cochrane-Woods Art Center 260

Phone Number: 




Ph.D. Cornell University - History of Architecture and Urbanism

Program(s): Italian Studies

Situated primarily in Italy, Atkinson's current scholarship considers the social dimensions of architecture through a series of research themes derived from his interest in the historical understanding of urban experience:

  • urban soundscapes: the aural dimensions of the early modern city
  • the city at night
  • the urban sensorium: phenomenology, architecture, and the senses
  • urban itineraries: navigating and negotiating urban space
  • urban signs: the visual semiotics of the pre-modern city
  • the piazza and the body public (in collaboration with the Forchungsgruppe “Piazza e monumento,” Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, Max Planck Institut)
  • storytelling and the art of city-building


Articles and Chapters:

  • "The Sonic Muse, or Learning to Love Noise," Grey Room (2014)
  • "The Republic of Sound: Listening to Florence at the Threshold of the Renaissance," I Tatti Studies in the Renaissance (2013)
  • "The Social Life of the Senses: Architecture, Food, and Manners in the Renaissance," A Cultural History of the Senses, vol. 3: Renaissance, Herman Roodenburg (ed.), Constance Classen (general ed.) (forthcoming 2013)
  • “A Guide to Listening to Renaissance Florence,” On Listening. Angus Carlyle and Cathy Lane (eds.), London: RGAP, 2013
  • “The Italian Piazza: From Gothic Footnote to Baroque Theater,” A Companion to Renaissance and Baroque Art (Blackwell Companions to Art History), Babette Bohn and James M. Saslow (co-editors), 2013
  • “Sonic Armatures:  Constructing an Acoustic Regime in Renaissance Florence,” Senses and Society, 7, 1 (2012)

On the Web:

  • 'They rang the bells at the wrong time,' Early Modern Communities, an AHRC-funded study through the University of Bath (

Book Reviews: 

  • Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 72, no. 1 (March 2013), pp. 3-4. Areli Marina, The Renaissance Piazza Transformed: Parma in the Communal Age. University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 2012.
  • Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 1 (Spring 2011), pp. 181-182. François Quiviger. The Sensory World of Italian Renaissance Art.  London: Reaktion Books, 2010.

Current Projects

  • The Noisy Renaissance: Sound, Architecture, and Urban Life in Early Modern Florence, book manuscript, accepted for review by Pennsylvania State University Press
  • Florentia Illustrata: Digital Mapping and Techniques of Visualizing the Pre-Modern Italian City, in collaboration with Peter Leonard, (Yale), Nicholas Terpstra (Toronto), Jan Simane (Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florence (
  • Getting Lost in the Italian Renaissance: The geography of disorientation. Travel, travel-writing, and geographic disorientation in the Renaissance

Academic Biography

1991 B.F.A., Art History, Université Concordia, Montréal, Québec; 1992 Cours de la langue française, Université de Montpellier III (Paul Valèry), Montpellier, France; 1996 M.A. Art History, York University, Toronto, Canada. Thesis: «The Bewildered Monument: Public Art, Collective Memory, and City Square.» 2000-2001 Sage Graduate Fellow, Cornell University; 2001 Newberry Library Summer Institute in the Italian Archival Sciences - Medieval and Renaissance paleography - Armando Petrucci and Franca Nardelli - Chicago, Illinois; 2002 Manon Michels (Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Cornell University) pre-dissertation grant for archival study; 2003, 2004 Latin seminar at the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, Canada; 2004-2006 Samuel H. Kress Foundation Fellow, KHI – Max-Planck-Institut, Florence, Italy; 2007-2009 research fellow, Piazza e monumento research project under the direction of Prof. Alessandro Nova and Dr. Cornelia Jöchner, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut; 2009 Ph.D., History of Architecture and Urbanism program in the Department of Architecture, College of Architecture, Art and Planning, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York – Dissertation: «Architecture, Anxiety, and Fluid Topographies of Renaissance Florence»; 2009-2010 Lecturer in Art History, School of Art, Texas Christian University.