Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Simona Di Martino

Simona Di Martino is a current PhD student in Italian Studies at the University of Warwick, funded by SMLC Doctoral Fellowship, under the supervision of Professor Fabio CamillettiLink opens in a new window and an IASLink opens in a new window fellow.

PhD Thesis

From Flesh to Soul.

The Dichotomy of the Body in Alfonso Varano, Salomone Fiorentino, and Giacomo Leopardi

My dissertation analyses three Italian poetic works that appeared in a short time-span between the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries: Alfonso Varano’s Visioni sacre e morali (1789); Salomone Fiorentino’s Elegie di Salomone Fiorentino in morte di Laura sua moglie (1790); and Giacomo Leopardi’s Appressamento della morte(1816).

My study contributes to the identification of literary signals and symptoms of an era within the corpus of selected texts, and in the form of specific topoi related to the representation of death, particularly focusing on the changes undergone by the human body after the end of biological life. At the same time, the effective description of bodies in their actual and material decay is paralleled by the representation of detached souls, alluding to the survival of a non-corporeal component of the human being. The analysis of such dichotomy (flesh/soul) highlights a cultural and literary shift from a general religion-centred interest in death as a theme for meditation to an aesthetically-oriented use of death as a poetic motif. In this way, it is possible to hypothesise the presence, little studied but not for this reason absent or invisible, of a cluster of Italian literary works prone to, rather than alien to, the surrounding European Gothic taste.

In fact, the present study, by analysing the continuity with Dante’s language and vividness, underlines the excess and the sense of abjection of certain literary representations, such as the ineffability of otherworldly visions and the putrefaction of the body. Both excess and abjection are literary features that derive both from Dantean reminiscences and from the temperament of the century under examination.

Taking my work as a starting point, further research insights could provide a more complete picture of a ‘prehistory’ of the Italian Gothic, understood as a set of elements characterised by excess and a sense of rejection and abjection (see Botting and Kristeva). The works of authors nowadays considered minor, but instead very popular in their times, such as Varano and Fiorentino themselves, that have been received and elaborated by a young Leopardi, would make it possible to examine with new theoretical lenses a period of Italian literature that has been little investigated and needs a general re-evaluation.

Research interests
18th/19th-century poetry.
Gothic literature.
Mystic literature, visions.
Reception of Dante's works.
Danse Macabre.
Popular literature and folklore.
Children's Literature.
Women's writings.
Family novels.
Ekphrasis and art history in literature.
Pirandello’s Short stories for a year: domesticity & space in literature; the figure of the wet nurse.
Carlo Levi’s Christ stopped at Eboli in its intermedial dimension.

Academic and non-academic roles

PhD representative for Italian Studies, Student Staff Liaison Committee, School of Modern Languages and Cultures

Editor of Notes in Italian Studies the SIS Postgraduate Journal (section Modern and Contemporary Literature 2020/21; general editor 2022/23)


IT101 Italian for Beginners - oral class (Term 1/2/3, 2018/2019)
IT115 The History of Modern Italy - reading group (Term 1/2, 2018/2019)
IT212 Italian for Historians - oral class (Term 1/2/3, 2018/2019)
IT317 Introducing Dante's Hell - reading group (Term 1, 2019)
IT301 Modern Italian Language III (Term 1/2/3, 2019/2020; Term 1/2/3, 2020/2021; Term 1/2/3, 2021/22)
IT101 Grammar, Translation, Writing, Oral (Term 2, 2021/22)
Online conversation classes for year abroad students (Term 3 2020)
Extra oral activities in person based on a series of Podcast in Italian that I fashioned "2 Passi 4 Chiacchiere" (Term 3 2021)

Conferences and papers
[co-organiser] SIS Biennial Conference 2022, 22 April 2022 - Panel entitled: 'Onirismo, visioni e generi dell’immaginario in Italia dall’Ottocento ai giorni nostri' (chair, Claudia Daniotti; roundtable participants: Sara Boezio, Daniele Comberiati, Silvia Contarini, Stefano Lazzarin, Simona Micali, Mattia Petricola)

[co-organiser] SIS Biennial Conference 2022 - 20-22 April 2022 (both at the University of Warwick and online)

[organiser] Italian Research Seminar - "Death and the birth of a nation: Cemeteries in Nineteenth-Century Italy", by Hannah Malone (University of Groningen). Respondent: Prof. Fabio Camilletti. Online.

[co-organiser] "Really Fantastic! Intertwinements, Exchanges, and Discordances Between Realism and The Fantastic in Italian Culture", SIS PG Colloquium co-organised with Andrea Brondino (University of Warwick), 18th February 2022 (online)

Women in Sardinia: Creativity and Self-Expression, University of Cambridge, 27-28 September 2021 - Paper entitled: "Balie, bambinaie e baby-sitter. Lavoro femminile e folklore in Sardegna e oltre nella letteratura per l’infanzia di Bianca Pitzorno" (28th September 2021) (online)

Annual Society for Pirandello Studies Conference 2021 In Search of an Author: New Perspectives on Pirandello - Saturday 25 September 2021. Paper entitled: "Wet nurses’ stories. Rediscovering the role and life of wet nurses through Pirandello’s Novelle per un anno" (online)

[co-organiser] XXIV Congresso Nazionale dell’Associazione degli Italianisti ADI "Letteratura e Potere/Poteri", Catania, 23-24-25 settembre 2021. Co-organiser of the panel entitled "Il potere del passato e l’affermazione del presente. Forme e declinazioni letterarie dell’identità nazionale in Italia tra Sette e Novecento" (24th September 2021) with Beatrice Pecchiari (Università di Pisa) (online)

Convegno AIPI, Geneva, 28th-30th June 2021, virtual conference. Panel 8a. Viaggiare, scoprire, conoscere. Partire per descrivere: il viaggio scientifico nella letteratura, nel giornalismo e nelle arti. Paper entitled: "Il viaggio oltremondano nella letteratura italiana del Settecento. Il caso di Alfonso Varano" (29th June 2021)

[co-organiser] CAIS Conference, 4th-5th June & 11th-12th June 2021, virtual conference. Co-organiser of panel called: "'La Morte! La Morte!' Mapping Italian Death Cultures from the Late Eighteenth Century until Today" (11th-12th June 2021) with Mattia Petricola (Università degli Studi dell'Aquila).

AAIS Conference, 28th May - 6th June 2021, virtual conference. Panel entitled: Forging the myth: Dante in the long nineteenth century -- Sponsored by Bibliotheca Dantesca: Journal of Dante Studies (Center for Italian Studies, University of Pennsylvania) Paper entitled: “‘Orecchie rose e labbra mozze’ and Other Bodily Suffering in Alfonso Varano. Dantean Reminiscences in Eighteenth-century Sepulchral Poetry” (5th June 2021)

[organiser] HRC Interdisciplinary Conference: The Remains of the Body: Legacy and Cultural Memory of Bodies in World Cultures, online via Teams, 22nd May 2021.

SIS Themed Conference: Visions of Italy, online conference organised by the University of Kent, 10th-11th September 2020 – paper entitled: “Messina and the Plague. The Descent to Hell in Varano’s Visioni sacre e morali

In Extremis: the Limits of Life, Death and Consciousness in the Long Nineteenth Century, University College Dublin, 10-11 January 2020 - paper entitled: 'Late Eighteenth-Century Sepulchral Literature: An Archaeology of the Italian Gothic'.

XXIII Congresso Nazionale Associazione degli Italianisti (ADI), "Letteratura e scienze", Pisa 12-14 September 2019 - paper entitled '"Lo spettro, che parve arte maga". Il fenomeno della Fata Morgana e l'aurora boreale nelle Visioni di Alfonso Varano'.

SMLC Postgraduate Symposium "Intermediality", University of Warwick, 24th May 2019 - paper entitled: 'From sepulchral poetry to the Gothic popular novel: fashion and obsession in the long nineteenth century Italy'.

Constructions of Love and the Emotion of Intimacy, 1750-1850 (HRC one-day interdisciplinary conference), University of Warwick, 9th February 2019 - paper entitled: ‘The polite intimacy in Italian cultural salons: the love correspondence between Ugo Foscolo and Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi as a case study’.

Body Narratives (SIS Postgraduate colloquium), University of Saint Andrews, 16th November 2018 – presentation of my research project.


"Wet Nurses’ Tales: Female Rivalry, Motherhood Performativity, and Bestiality in Pirandello’s La balia and Il libretto rosso", in Pirandello Studies, vol. 42, 2022 (forthcoming).

"Una scampagnata. La metamorfosi della marcia su Roma raccontata in Canale Mussolini – Antonio Pennacchi, Canale Mussolini", in Nuovi Argomenti, 9, Mondadori, gennaio-aprile 2022, pp. 89-94. Read: here

"Sepulchral Poetry and Deathly Motifs. A ‘Prehistory’ of the Italian Gothic", in Italian Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion ed. by Marco Malvestio and Stefano Serafini, Edinburgh University Press (forthcoming 2022).

"The Figure of the Wet Nurse from Vittorelli to Pirandello", in Notes in Italian Studies, 1, ed. by Bianca Rita Cataldi, Claudia Dellacasa, Lachlan Hughes, 2021, pp. 22-28. Read: here.

"'Orecchie rose e labbra mozze' and Other Bodily Suffering in Alfonso Varano. Dantean Reminiscences in Eighteenth-Century Sepulchral Poetry", in Bibliotheca Dantesca. Journal of Dante Studies, vol. 4, art. 6, 2021. Read: here.

«Questo è il libro per cui sono venuto al mondo». L'epopea storico-familiare in Canale Mussolini di Antonio Pennacchi, in «Non poteva staccarsene senza lacerarsi». Per una genealogia del romanzo familiare italiano, a cura di Filippo Gobbo, Ilaria Muoio e Gloria Scarfone, Pisa, Pisa University Press, 2020, pp. 195-217. Read: here.

Andrea Penso, Un libero di Pindo abitator. Stile e linguaggio poetico del giovane Vincenzo Monti, Roma, Aracne, 2018, pp. 314. Review in "La Rassegna della Letteratura Italiana", gennaio-giugno 2020, serie IX, N. 1, Firenze, Le Lettere, pp. 230-231. Read: here.

Workshops and Events

Co-organiser: Italian Research Seminar: "Notes and Scribbles Into the World of Academic Journals for Italian Studies", University of Warwick, 23 May 2022, Online event. With: Phil Cooke, Lorenzo Fabbri, Claudio Fogu, Monica Jansen, Silvia Ross, Gigliola Sulis, Sandra Waters.

Moderator - Italian Research Seminar. Book Launch: Dante beyond Influence: Rethinking Reception in Victorian Literary Culture (Manchester University Press). The author Federica Coluzzi in conversation with Prof. Alison Milbank. University of Warwick, 7 March 2022, Faculty of Arts Building.

Tea(chers) PGRLink opens in a new window - I was invited to give a talk as one of winners of WATE PGR 2021 - 4 August 2021

I organised the School of Modern Languages and Cultures Postgraduate Symposium Feelings and Emotions across Languages and CulturesLink opens in a new window, funded by SMLC, Researcher Development (Doctoral College) and CADRE, 22 January 2021, online.

School of Modern Languages and Cultures Teacher DayLink opens in a new window, 20th September 2019, Radcliffe Building, University of Warwick (facilitator Italian session)

Accademia della Crusca, Le settimane estive della Crusca. Summer School for Teachers of Italian Language to Foreign Students. Villa Medicea di Castello, Firenze. 1st-5th July 2019

I was selected and awarded a grant to be part of the HRC Workshop on 'Passion';Link opens in a new window (2018-2019)

Scholarships and awards

Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) fellowship (2022/23)

WATE PGR winnerLink opens in a new window - Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence 2021

Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA) issued 26/10/2020

HRF Travel Grant (2019/2020; 2020/2021)

WATE PGR nomination (2020)

HRC Doctoral Fellowship Competition 2020 for organising one-day interdisciplinary conferenceLink opens in a new window in Spring 2021

RD grant + SMLC funding for organising a PG conference (2019/2020)

HRC Workshop on 'Passion' grant (2018-2019)

HRF Travel Grant (2018)

SMLC Doctoral Fellowship (2018-2021)

Erasmus scholarship (University of Warwick 2017; University of Exeter 2013/14)

‘Wanted the Best’ Grant (awarded by Sapienza Università di Roma, 2015)


SIS - The Society for Italian Studies

ADI - Associazione degli Italianisti

AIPI - Associazione Internazionale Professori di Italiano

CAIS - Canadian Association for Italian Studies

AAIS - American Association for Italian Studies


TLHE, Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Organisational Dev (AP), University of Warwick

MA Modern Philology, Università degli Studi di Roma ‘La Sapienza’

BA Literary Studies, Università degli Studi di Urbino ‘Carlo Bo’


personal picture

Simona Di Martino

PhD Candidate & Senior Graduate Teaching Assistant

Advice and Feedback Hours (term time only): By appointment on MS Teams.

Check my profile Academia.eduLink opens in a new window

Linkedin profileLink opens in a new window

CAIS Conference 2021 poster