Javier Patiño Loira joined the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at UCLA in 2017, after receiving his PhD from Princeton University. He has published articles and book chapters on a variety of topics connected with early modern Spain and Italy. These include literature and science, the formation of libraries, education, translation, and the development of the notion of interiority.

Javier is working toward his second book, Ecologies of Decay: Spontaneous Generation and Nature’s Economy, a project that he will develop during the 2024-25 academic year as a fellow at I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, Italy. Ecologies of Decay argues that the study of spontaneous generation (the belief that insects, toads, fungi, and a variety of creatures emerged from decaying matter) crucially informed seventeenth-century views of nature’s “economy,” its program to remain always similar to itself yet never the same. The book explores two crucial developments resulting from the belief that death and decay were just a new beginning for life, and that individuals of one species could be born from the remnants of another species. The first was a view of nature as a dynamic, sustainable, and self-regulating web of interconnected beings, in which nature remained whole by repurposing rot. The second was the rise of complex forms of ecological thought: Ecologies of Decay contends that spontaneous generation shaped a world of horizontal links, integrated by beings born not from what is similar to them but from what lies nearby, in which contiguity replaces lineage and hierarchies among different beings become increasingly less relevant. By explaining spontaneous generation through the lens of material processes such as fermentation and putrefaction, natural philosophers advanced a materialistic and ecologically conscious vindication of the study of lesser forms of life, including insects, fungi, and parasites believed to be generated inside the body. Spanning from the early seventeenth to the early eighteenth century, Ecologies of Decay demonstrates that clichés about “Baroque” culture, including the lure of death embodied by flesh-eating worms and ruins—in vanitas paintings, poetic meditations on the fragility of earthly existence, and devotional “arts of dying”—made sense within a materialistic ecology of decay and regeneration that captivated scholars and creators with its protean and riotous creativity, in which human and non-human history related to one another in terms of matter and its transformation.

Javier’s first book, The Age of Subtlety: Nature and Rhetorical Conceits in Early Modern Europe (University of Delaware Press, 2024) is the culmination of a project that was awarded several fellowships, including a 2020–21 ACLS Fellowship. At the crossroads between literature and the history of science, The Age of Subtlety adopts a fresh and transdisciplinary approach to seventeenth-century rhetorical conceits, devices that connect diverse facets of reality in a playful and irreverent way through figurative language. Reacting to a tradition that has studied conceits within the narrow sphere of rhetorical and poetic debates, the book contends that the extraordinary popularity and controversy that surrounded conceits only make sense when they are considered within the early modern culture of ingenuity. Ingenuity was a form of creative, problem-solving use of the imagination that was at once responsible for the conceits of orators and poets, the machines of the engineer, the juggler’s sleight of hand, the wiles of the statesman, and the discovery of truths about nature. While modern, post-Kantian views confine the imagination to the poet and the artist, the book argues that, for seventeenth-century individuals, the invention of conceits existed in continuity with practices that today we associate with science and technology. By examining a set of Italian and Spanish theories of the conceit composed between 1619 and 1654 in parallel with contemporary works of natural philosophy and mathematical disciplines, The Age of Subtlety contests the received and well-established belief that conceits departed from the imitation of nature in the pursuit of creative freedom. Instead, it contends that theorists often understood conceits as a response to a new sensibility towards the study of nature articulated around the notion of “subtlety.”

Since September 2014, Javier has been part of the Diversifying the Classics project, directed by Prof. Barbara Fuchs at UCLA. As a member of the project’s Comedia in Translation and Performance working group, he has co-translated eight seventeenth-century Hispanic plays into English.


  • M.A./Ph.D. (2012/2016) Spanish and Portuguese, Princeton University
  • M.A. (2008) Literature and Arts, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris
  • B.A. (2007) Romance Languages (Italian), Universidad de Santiago de Compostela
  • B.A. (2007) Spanish, Universidad de Santiago de Compostela


  • Early Modern Spanish and Italian Literature
  • Poetics and Rhetoric
  • Early Modern Science
  • Ecology and Ideas of Nature
  • Humanism and Antiquarianism
  • Libraries and Collections


  • The Age of Subtlety book cover
    The Age of Subtlety
    Nature and Rhetorical Conceits in Early Modern Europe
    University of Delaware Press, June 2024


  • “Curiosity and Artifice in Juan Eusebio Nieremberg’s Natural Philosophy.” Arts (forthcoming in 2024).
  • “The Ingenuity of Fireflies: Conceits and Natural Philosophy in Seventeenth-Century Italy.” I Tatti Studies 27.1 (2024), pp. 89-110. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/729311
  • “Francesco Robortello.” In Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy, ed. Marco Sgarbi. Springer, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_877-1
  • “Migration and the Continuity of a City Lluis Pons d’Icart’s Libro de las grandezas de Tarragona (1572).” In Multi-ethnic Cities in the Mediterranean World. Vol. 1 Cultures and Practices of Coexistence, 13th-17th Centuries, ed. Marco Folin and Antonio Musarra. Routledge, 2020, pp. 215–231. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003089339
  • “Policing Talent in Early Modern Jesuit Rome: Difference, Self-Knowledge, and Career Specialization.” In The Quest for Certainty in Early Modern Europe, ed. Barbara Fuchs and Mercedes García-Arenal. University of Toronto Press, 2020, pp. 132–156. https://doi.org/10.3138/9781487535506-007
  • “La deuda de un traductor: La poética de Aristóteles de Alonso Ordóñez (1624-1626).” Revista de Filología Española 100.1 (2020), pp. 215–243. https://doi.org/10.3989/rfe.2020.009
  • “Cervantes’ Persiles and Early Modern Theories of Wonder.” In Cervantes’ Persiles and the Travails of Romance, ed. Marina Brownlee. University of Toronto Press (2019), pp. 118–146. https://doi.org/10.3138/9781487530884-008
  • “Tropes.” In Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy, ed. Marco Sgarbi. Springer, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_1084-1
  • “Giulio Camillo Delminio.” In Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy, ed. Marco Sgarbi. Springer, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_321-1
  • “‘Meddling with Royal Hearts:’ Interiority and Privanza (1598-1643).” Culture and History 6.2 (2017): e017. https://doi.org/10.3989/chdj.2017.017
  • “Imagining Public Libraries in Sixteenth-Century Italy and Spain: Juan Páez de Castro and Juan Bautista Cardona.” Pacific Coast Philology 52.2 (2017), pp. 184–194. http://doi.org/10.5325/pacicoasphil.52.2.0184
  • “‘Glosar la intención:’ Baltasar Gracián, el secreto de estado y la agudeza en el historiador.” Memoria y civilización 19 (2016): 271-291. https://doi.org/10.15581/001.19.271-291


SPAN 42. Iberian Cultures.

In SPAN 42 we will learn about Spanish history and culture through the prism of diversity. We will look at Spain as the site of centuries-long encounters and negotiations among different religious, ethnic, and linguistic groups. We will also learn about Spain’s role in world history by considering it a point of reference in the first but crucial moment of globalization in the 16th and 17th centuries.

SPAN 120. Literature in Historical Context. Difference and Diversity in the Early Modern Global Hispanic World.

What does a novel, a poem, or a chronicle tell about the world in which it came into being? How might knowledge about a period’s political, social, and religious circumstances (about the way people lived, what they feared and hoped for) help us understand what they wrote and read? SPAN 120 builds on the notion that, whereas literature is not exactly a mirror of life, it provides readers with powerful insights about any society’s expectations and anxieties. With that in mind, we will consider how in the first age of globalization (the 16th and the 17th century) the encounter with new peoples and lands involved a profound and self-conscious reflection on what makes human beings both similar and different from one another. While pondering on religious, cultural, racial, sexual, or linguistic difference, scholars and writers asked questions (and offered answers) that, albeit often unsatisfactory, discriminatory, and violent, give us nonetheless a glimpse of the mechanisms with which present societies still struggle to cope with diversity. From the distance of several centuries, we will realize that many of the reactions to difference that are characteristic of the present are woven with the stuff of protracted conflicts and attempts at dialogue that date back to early modern history. Readings include El Abencerraje, works by Cervantes, Calderón, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Cabeza de Vaca, Inca Garcilaso de La Vega, and others.

SPAN 135. Performing One’s Life in the 17th-Century Transatlantic Spanish World.

Performance shaped the existence of 17th-century individuals. Men and women, regardless of class and race, gathered at the theater, eager to see and to be seen. Even outdoors, ephemeral architecture and fireworks transformed cities and turned citizens into spectators. However, at the end of the day, everyone realized that it was the human hearts and minds that provided the curious with the most genuine and mysterious spectacle to see. We will read plays by Lope de Vega, Ruiz de Alarcón, Guillén de Castro, Ana Caro, Tirso de Molina, Sor Juana Inés de La Cruz, and others. They will guide us through a world in which the suspicion that everyone in the street was performing a role was only too real. Individuals feared that the other was concealing his or her true self. It became necessary to develop tools in order to peep into people’s minds, while keeping one’s own under lock. Only the smartest ones (and we will read them too) realized that even to spy on others was often easier than to look inside one’s self.

SPAN 135. Embodied Minds: Love & Emotions in Early Modern Hispanic Literature & Science.

What happens to our body and soul when we fall in love or find friendship? What good or bad does it to us as individuals and to society? Students will read novels, theatrical plays, poems, and even fragments of medical and psychological treatises that present us with the answers that 16th- and 17th-century individuals gave to questions like these. For some, love was a terminal illness. For others, the only path to happiness. Then like now, it tied in affection people of different but also of the same gender. Philosophers hailed friendship as the way to find another self with whom alone sincerity was allowed in a world that forced individuals to mask every feeling in order to dissimulate with others. Unfortunately, much like today, love and friendship took place under constraints of gender, class and race. They helped to create social ties as much as they operated through exclusion. Readings include La Celestina, Cervantes, María de Zayas, and Antonio Mira de Amescua.

SPAN 135. Interrogating Gender in 17th-century Spain.

A study of gender as depicted in 17th-century novels, autobiographies and plays from both shores of Spain’s Atlantic Empire. That of 17th-century Spain was a patriarchal society made up of contradictions. The king’s closest pen friend was a nun who influenced policymaking in a world that did not allow women to hold office. Females authored bestselling books against the outcry of confessors and preachers. They were not allowed to act unless in their husband’s troupe, but then became real celebrities, earning higher salaries than men. Women starred in plays that constantly showed female characters falling in love with cross-dressed members of their own sex, despite legal bans against homosexuality. The literature of the time shows individuals eager to cross gender boundaries and test prejudice in ways that allow us to reflect upon today’s society. Readings include Ana Caro, Lope de Vega, Erauso, Tirso de Molina, María de Zayas, Sor Juana.

SPAN 226. Prose of the Golden Age. Imagining Community. The Faces of Utopia in the Early Modern Global Hispanic World.

Through early modern works written in Spanish in three continents, students will explore how a diverse but hierarchical society envisioned ideal or better communities after models based on the series of intercultural, interreligious, and interracial encounters that resulted from the globalization of the 16th and 17th centuries—but also on the experience of gender and power divides. How did travelers to Istanbul and Beijing, as well as the soldiers who marched on Tenochtitlan reflect on alternative forms of coexistence? How did gender shape new ways of participating in a community, allowing women to explore innovative forms of anonymity? How did gypsies, and other marginalized communities, serve as experiments to imagine different legal and social frameworks of coexistence? How did racial and religious conflict generate debates on identity and difference in Mediterranean and Atlantic contexts?

SPAN 226. Prose of the Golden Age. Self-Fashioning and Interiority in Early Modern Spain.

For Spaniards of the seventeenth century, one of the most salient features of the age in which they lived was the progressive development of a barrier between the individual’s exterior and his or her interiority. Political handbooks influenced by Machiavelli and Tacitus, as well as treatises on self-fashioning intended as how-to manuals for those living at the court popularized the idea that modern men and women differed from those of past times in that they excelled at creating appearances, using sophisticated techniques of simulation and dissimulation with the aim of preventing others from seeing “inside” them while, in turn, they tried to peep into everyone else’s heart. Students will read sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish theatrical plays, novels, political handbooks and manuals of behavior. They will learn how notions of privacy and intimacy (always marked in terms of gender and class) acquired increasingly defined contours within the context of interpersonal communication at the court, political relations, and diplomatic conflicts.

SPAN 224. Poetry of the Golden Age. A Society of Poets.

From metropolitan hubs like Mexico City and Madrid to small villages and cloistered communities, early modern poetry circulated in a variety of media that ranged from orality to manuscript and print—on books, broadsheets, and walls. It was a tool of socialization and self-fashioning for elites and common people alike, with cobblers and nuns vying for awards in public competitions, courtiers quibbling on a variety of emotions in court games, and humanists discussing scientific topics in verse with learned friends. In SPAN 224, we are going to focus on two aspects of early modern poetry, namely its role as a means of social cohesion and dispute, and as a site for contemporary scholars to theorize the shared ecologies of natural and human creativity and ingenuity, at the time in which writing verse and the study of nature were twin activities often carried out by the same individuals.