Rachel Jacoff is Margaret E. Deffenbaugh and LeRoy T. Carlson Professor in Comparative Literature and Professor of Italian at Wellesley College where she has been a member the faculty since 1978. She has also taught at the University of Virginia, Cornell University, and Stanford University. She received her B.A. with High Honors and Distinction in 1959 from Cornell University, an M.A. in English from Harvard in 1960 and the Ph.D. degree in Italian from Yale in 1977.
Her major research interest is Dante's Divine Comedy. She has written many articles on Dante and co-authored a monograph on “Inferno II” (University of Pennsylvania Press) for the Lectura Dantis Americana series sponsored by the Dante Society of America. She edited a collection of essays by John Freccero, Dante: The Poetics of Conversion (Harvard UP, 1986) which received Honorable Mention for the Marraro Prize from the Modern Language Association. She co-edited and contributed two essays to The Poetry of Allusion: Virgil and Ovid in Dante (Stanford UP, 1990). She also edited The Cambridge Companion to Dante (Cambridge UP, 1993), and is now at work on the second edition. She also co-edited The Poet's Dante, a collection of essays by twentieth-century poets.
She has received fellowships from the NEH (1981-2, 1991-2), the Guggenheim Foundation (1993) and has been a fellow of the Bunting Institute, the Harvard Center for Renaissance Studies (Villa I Tatti), the Stanford Humanities Center, the Rockefeller Foundation's Villa Serbelloni, and the Bogliasco Foundation's Liguria Study Center. She was a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar in 1996-97. She served as an assistant editor of Speculum, the journal of the Medieval Academy, and on the Advisory Board of the Stanford Humanities Center, the MLA Committee for the Teaching of Foreign Languages and Literature, and the Friends of the Harvard College Libraries. Her current research concerns Dante's role in contemporary poetry, Dante and the visual arts, and the representation of the body in the Divine Comedy.