Tel: +44 (0)24 765 73096
Email: j dot e dot burns at warwick dot ac dot uk
Faculty of Arts Building, 4.46
University of Warwick
Coventry CV4 7AL
I completed a BA in English and Italian at Oxford University then, after some time spent working for RAI (the Italian public broadcaster) in London, returned to Oxford to complete an MSt in Research Methods in Modern Languages and a DPhil in Italian. My doctoral research looked at formations of political commitment (impegno) in Italian literature at the end of the twentieth century, identifying indirect or 'fragmented' forms of socio-political activism in the context of postmodernity. The thesis was published in 2001 with the title, Fragments of impegno: Interpretations of Commitment in Contemporary Italian Narrative (1980-2000).
A major strand of my research has focused on literature related to the large-scale migration into Italy that began in the 1980s (Migrant Imaginaries: Figures in Italian Migration Literature (2013)). This research has subsequently included the work of postcolonial, minority ethnic, and Black Italian writers in Italy and has developed in tandem with theoretical exploration of a transnational approach to literary and cultural production and practice. This adopts Italy's distinctive histories of migration (outwards, inwards, and internal) and of Mediterranean, colonial, and global connection as a template for theorising a transnational 'optic' through which to approach the study of languages and cultures in contemporary and historical global context. This research was built collaboratively with colleagues at Bristol, St Andrews, and QMU Edinburgh as part of a major research project, 'Transnationalizing Modern Languages: Mobility, Identity and Translation in Modern Italian Cultures' (2013-17), funded by the AHRC through one of three large grants made under its 'Translating Cultures' theme. Amongst individual and collective outputs including edited volumes, articles, book chapters, a touring exhibition, and policy documents, the project produced a book series, 'Transnational Modern Languages', which numbers seven volumes to date, with a further three in press or preparation. With Derek Duncan (St Andrews), I co-edited the cornerstone volume of the series, Transnational Modern Languages: A Handbook (2022).
- Migration and postcolonial literature in Italian
- Approaches to 'world' literatures; global, local, and 'minor' literatures related to Italy
- Transnational literary and cultural practices and production
- Critical and cultural theory, especially related to space, minoritization, mobility, gender, translation and mulitilingualism
- Political and ethical issues in literature; ethics of reading and writing
- Post-WWII Italian narrative fiction and cinema
- Late nineteenth-century literary cultures in Italy
Teaching and supervision
At undergraduate and Master's level, I teach 20th-21st-century literature and film, migrant and transnational cultures and literatures in Italy, cultural history of modern-contemporary Italy, aspects of critical theory, and translation.
PhD students currently supervised:
- Kerry Gibbons (with Fabio Camilletti), 'Anxiety and Existential Crisis in the Italian Fascist-era romanzo coloniale (1918-1948)', 2021-
- Jacopo Francesco Mascoli (with Karl Schoonover), 'The Working Class Goes to Hell: Visions of Labour in Contemporary Italian Cinema and Philosophy', 2022-
- Silvia Vari (with Matt Green, Nottingham University), '“A Dance Between the Visible and the Invisible”: Fragments of (forced) Migration in Comics from Italy and the Mediterranean', 2021-
- Andrea Brondino (with Marina Spunta, Leicester University), 'Irony and its Discontents: The Writing of History in the Works of Umberto Eco, Carlo Ginzburg, and Wu Ming', 2018-2022.
- Emiliano Zappalà, 'Post-Truth Narrative: Narrative Trends, Cultural Agency, and Political Commitment in the Age of Post-Truth', 2017-2021.
- Gianmarco Mancosu, '"Decolonitaly": Decolonization and Colonial Discourse in Italy', 2015-2019.
- Giulia Brecciaroli, 'Literary Geographies of the Boom: Perceptions of Space in Post-War Italian Literature (1956-1979)', 2014-18.
- Linde Luijnenburg, 'Hidden Postcolonial Conscience in Italian Cinema: Attempts to Autodefine "The Italian" Through Representations of the Black Other in the commedia all'italiana', 2013-2018.
- Gioia Panzarella, 'Disseminating Italophone Migration Literature: A Dialogue with Contemporary Italy', 2014-2018.
- Georgia Wall, 'Consuming Italy. Contemporary Material Culture and Ethnographic Approaches in Modern Languages', 2014-2018.
- Goffredo Polizzi (with Rita Wilson, Monash), 'Re-imagining the Italian South: Subjectivity and Migration in Contemporary Italian Literature and Cinema', 2013-17. See also the monograph developed from Goffredo's thesis.
- Elio Baldi, 'Images Within and Outside Italy of Calvino as Critic', 2013-17. See also the monograph developed from Elio's thesis.
- Giacomo Mannironi (with Ann Caesar), 'Education and Disobedience in the Eighteenth-Century Venetian Novel (1753-1769)', 2011-2015.
- Gabriele Scalessa (with Fabio Camilletti), 'Between Medicine and Spiritualism: Scientific Subjects in Late Nineteenth-Century Italian Narrative', 2011-2015.
- Kate Willman (with Fabio Camilletti), 'New Italian Epic: History, Journalism and the 21st-Century "Novel"', 2012-2015. See also the monograph developed from Kate's thesis.
- Dominic Holdaway, 'A Return to Cinema d'impegno? Cinematic Engagements with Organized Crime in Italy, 1950-2010', 2008-2012.
- Simone Brioni, 'The Somali Within: Questions of Language, Resistance and Identity in "Minor" Italian Writings', 2009-2012. See also the monograph developed from Simone's thesis.
- Mariarita Martino Grisa' (with Loredana Polezzi), ‘An Analysis of Scopophilia in an Intersemiotic Context: Four Italian Case Studies’, 2007-2011.
- Andrea Hajek, 'Narrating the Trauma of the Anni di piombo: The Negotiation of a Public Memory of the 1977 Student Protests in Bologna (1977-2007)', 2007-2010. See also the monograph developed from Andrea's thesis.
- Marta Niccolai (UCL, with Anna Laura Lepschy), 'Italian Intercultural Literature: Exploring Identities', 2005-2009.
- Annunziata Videtta (with Loredana Polezzi), ‘Re-visioning Representations of Italian Migrant Women in Textual Renditions of the Italian Presence in Britain’, 2004-2008.
- Liz Wren-Owens, ‘The Reclamation of Socio-Political Engagement in the Works of Leonardo Sciascia and Antonio Tabucchi', 2002-2006. See also the monograph developed from Liz's thesis.
- Charlotte Ross (with Ann Caesar), 'Representations of Science, Literature, Technology, and Society in the Works of Primo Levi', 2000-2004. See also the monograph developed from Charlotte's thesis.
Postdoctoral researchers currently and recently mentored:
- Dr Luca Peretti, British Academy Early Career Fellow, 'Italy and the Third World. Transnational Media at the End of the Colonial Era in Italy', 2022-2024
- Dr Alberica Bazzoni, British Academy Early Career Fellow, 'The Gender of Literature: Italian Women Writers and the Literary Canon', 2017-2020
- Dr Naomi Wells, Postdoctoral Research Assistant, 'Transnationalizing Modern Languages' project, 2014-2017
Fragments of impegno: Interpretations of Commitment in Contemporary Italian Narrative, 1980-2000 (Leeds: Northern Universities Press, 2001).
Migrant Imaginaries: Figures in Italian Migration Literature (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2013).
with Loredana Polezzi, Borderlines: Migrant Writing and Italian Identities (1870-2000) (Isernia: Iannone, 2003).
with Ann Hallamore Caesar and Gabriella Romani, The Printed Media in Fin-de-Siècle Italy: Publishers, Writers, and Readers (London and Oxford: MHRA, Maney and Legenda, 2011).
with Gabriella Romani, The Formation of a National Audience in Italy, 1750-1890: Readers and Spectators of Italian Culture (Madison, Teaneck, WI: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2017)
with Derek Duncan, Transnational Modern Languages: A Handbook (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2022)
Chapters/essays in books
‘Borders within the text: authorship, collaboration and mediation in writing in Italian by immigrants’, in Borderlines: Migrant Writing and Italian Identities (1870-2000), ed. by J. Burns and L. Polezzi (Isernia: Iannone, 2003), pp. 387-94.
'A Leaden Silence? Writers' Responses to the anni di piombo', in Speaking Out and Silencing: Culture, Society and Politics in Italy in the 1970s, ed. by A. Cento Bull and A. Giorgio (Oxford and Leeds: Legenda and Northern Universities Press, 2006), pp. 81-94.
'Provisional Constructions of the Eternal City: Figurations of Rome in Recent Italophone Writing', in Imagining the City, ed. by C. Emden, C. Keen, and D. Midgley, 2 vols (Oxford, New York, Bern: Peter Lang, 2006), II, pp. 357-73.
'Outside Voices Within: Immigration Literature in Italian', in Trends in Contemporary Italian Narrative 1980-2007, ed. by G. Ania and A.H. Caesar (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007), pp. 136-54.
'Re-thinking impegno again: Reading, Ethics and Pleasure', in Postmodern Impegno: Ethics and Commitment in Contemporary Italian Culture, ed. by P. Antonello and F. Mussgnug (Oxford, New York, Bern: Peter Lang, 2009), pp. 61-80.
‘Language and its Alternatives in Italophone Migrant Writing’, in National Belongings. Hybridity in Italian Colonial and Postcolonial Cultures, ed. by J. Andall and D. Duncan (Oxford, New York, Bern: Peter Lang, 2010), pp. 127-47.
‘Founding Fathers: Giorgio Scerbanenco’, in Italian Crime Fiction, ed. by Giuliana Pieri (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2011), pp. 27-47.
'Italy', in The Oxford Handbook of Arab Novelistic Traditions (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), pp. 637-51.
'Mobile Homes: Transnational Subjects and the (Re)Creation of Home Spaces', in Transnational Italian Studies, ed. by Charles Burdett and Loredana Polezzi (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2020), pp. 177-92.
'The Transnational Biography of "British" Place: Local and Global Stories in the Built Environment', in Transcultural Italies. Mobility, Memory and Translation, ed. by Charles Burdett, Loredana Polezzi and Barbara Spadaro (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2020), pp. 23-46.
‘Kinships: Relations of Care and Experiences of Locality in Transnational Italian Narrative’, in Contemporary Italian Diversity in Critical and Fictional Narratives, ed. by Marie Orton, Graziella Parati and Ron Kubati (Lanham, MD and London: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2021), pp. 237-47.
Articles in journals
‘Recent Immigrant Writing in Italian: A Fragile Enterprise’, The Italianist, 18 (1998), 213-44.
‘Telling Tales About “impegno”: Commitment and Hindsight in Vittorini and Calvino’, MLR , 95:4 (2000), 992-1006.
‘Code-Breaking: The Demands of Interpretation in the Work of Pier Vittorio Tondelli’, The Italianist, 20 (2000), 253-73.
‘Facts, Fictions, Fakes: Italian Literature in the 1970s’, New Readings, 6, 2000.
'Exile within Italy: Interactions between Past and Present "homes" in Texts in Italian by Migrant Writers', Annali d'Italianistica, 20 (2002), 369-83.
'Lupus in fabula: The workings of fear in Italian Migration Narratives', Italian Studies, 68.3 (2013), 429-48.
Wells, N., Forsdick, C., Bradley, J., Burdett, C., Burns, J., Demossier, M., de Zárate, M.H., Huc-Hepher, S., Jordan, S., Pitman, T. and Wall, G., 'Ethnography and Modern Languages', Modern Languages Open, 1 (2019), 1. DOI: http://doi.org/10.3828/mlo.v0i0.242
'Mapping Transnational Subjecthood: Space, Affects and Relationality in Recent Transnational Italian Fictions', California Italian Studies, 8.2 (2018), 17pp.
'Arabising Italian? Transnational Literature as Multilingual Transaction', in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 42.2 (2021), 25pp.
MA, MStud, DPhil (Oxon)
Advice and feedback hours
Transnational Modern Languages: A Handbook, co-edited with Derek Duncan, published 15th May 2022.
The cornerstone volume to the 'Transnational Modern Languages' series published by Liverpool University Press.
Open access here.
Other recent publications:
chapter, ‘Kinships: Relations of Care and Experiences of Locality in Transnational Italian Narrative’, in Contemporary Italian Diversity in Critical and Fictional Narratives, ed. by Marie Orton, Graziella Parati and Ron Kubati (Lanham, MD and London: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2021)
chapter, 'The Transnational Biography of "British" Place: Local and Global Stories in the Built Environment', in Transcultural Italies. Mobility, Memory and Translation, ed. by Charles Burdett, Loredana Polezzi and Barbara Spadaro (LUP, 2020)
chapter, 'Mobile Homes: Transnational Subjects and the (Re)Creation of Home Spaces' in Transnational Italian Studies, ed. by Charles Burdett and Loredana Polezzi (LUP, 2020)
article co-authored with Catherine Keen, 'Italian Mobilities', in Key Directions in Italian Studies, special issue of Italian Studies, 75.2 (2020)
article, 'Arabising Italian? Transnational Literature as Multilingual Transaction', in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 42.2 (2021)
A major collaborative project funded by an AHRC large grant under the 'Translating Cultures' theme.
- POLICY DOCUMENT on transforming Modern Languages education, September 2018