Marco Formisano

Classics, Gent
Fellowship: 15.10.16–15.07.17


  • Since 2013 Professor of Latin Literature at Ghent University
  • 2005-2012 Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter at Humboldt-University in Berlin
  • 2001-2004 different post-doc grants (Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, Thyssen Stiftung, University of Pavia) 
  • 2000 PhD from University of Palermo
  • 1995 »Laurea in Lettere Classiche«, University of Palermo
  • Visiting scholar at New York University, Yale University, Columbia University. Francis Yates Fellow at The Warburg Institute, London


Fields of Research

  • Latin literature
  • Late antique literature
  • Ancient technical writings
  • Art of war
  • Vitruvius
  • Acts of the martyrs
  • Ciceronian rhetoric Panegyrici Latini
  • Classical reception
  • Masochism and literature


Project outline

Autobiography, Antiquity and Reversal in Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus im Pelz 


The novel Venus im Pelz (1870) by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch is the foundational text of masochism and normally treated as an autobiographical account, intepreted above all for what it has to say about the psychosexual phenomenon named after its author, masochism. In this project I approach VP in the first instance as a literary text, focusing on an aspect which has been totally neglected by previous scholarship and yet plays a central role in the construction of the text: the pervasive presence of Greco-Roman antiquity, from the novel’s title to the narrated dream of Venus to other explicit references to ancient characters, history and texts. In particular, my project has several intertwined goals: to shed light on the reception of antiquity and ancient texts in VP as a key element in the fictional dimension of the novel and in the aesthetic quality of masochism more generally; to read the modern masochistic hero in continuity with the classical tradition of (pseudo-)autobiographical texts; and to explore how a reading of VP together with ancient texts (e.g. Ovid, Apuleius, Augustine) allows us to identify masochism as a cultural phenomenon present ante litteram in these texts and to more carefully describe the ways in which classical and Christian antiquity functions as a dispositif producing exemplarity.


Publications (Selection)

  • Tecnica e scrittura. Le letterature tecnico-scientifiche nello spazio letterario tardolatino. Rom, Carocci, 2001.
  • La Passione di Perpetua e di Felicita. Einleitung, italienische Übersetzung und Kommentar. Mailand, Rizzoli, 2008 (n. A. 2014).
  • Décadence. »Decline and Fall« or »Other Antiquity« (herausgegeben mitTherese Fuhrer), »The Library of the Other Antiquity«, Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2015.
  • Perpetua’s Passions. Pluridisciplinary Approaches to the Passio Perpetuae.
  • War in Words. Transformation of War from Antiquity to Clausewitz, herausgegeben mit H. Böhme, De Gruyter Verlag, Berlin-New York 2011.
  • »The Desire To Be You. The Discourse of Praise for the Roman Emperor«, in P. Antonello, H. Webb (Hg.): The Future of Mimetic Theory, Michigan State University Press 2015, S. 81-99.