Emily O'Brien

Associate Professor
Global Humanities

Areas of interest

Italian Renaissance; 15th century humanism, politics and the papacy; and Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II, 1458–64).


  • PhD, History, Brown University
  • MA, History, Brown University
  • BA, History, University of Toronto


Emily O'Brien came to SFU in the fall of 2005 as a lifelong easterner. She grew up in Toronto, did her BA at the University of Toronto, and then headed south to Brown University in Rhode Island for her graduate work. Her research interests in Renaissance Italy took her still further east to Rome and Florence, where she spent almost three years. While finishing her thesis, she taught for several years in Harvard's Expository Writing Program. She received her PhD in History in the spring of 2005. Though Canadian born, she considers Italy to be her true intellectual home. Her central field of research is the Italian Renaissance, and her particular focus is fifteenth-century humanism, politics, and the papacy. Her work so far has centred on the writings of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II, 1458–64). She recently published a book on his autobiographical account of his pontificate, and is currently working on a Latin-English edition of his (and other humanists') novelle. While continuing to study Piccolomini’s writings, her current projects also include the Renaissance reception of Cicero and the politics of Neo-Latin historical epic.


Summer 2024

Future courses may be subject to change.