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Simona Di Martino

Dr Simona Di Martino is a 2023/24 MHRA Research Fellow at the University of Warwick working on her first monograph, Italian Gothic Poetry: Excess, Abjection, and Dantean Legacy (1789-1816), stemming from her doctoral thesis. She completed her PhD 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. She is now an Associate Fellow of the IASLink opens in a new window and a Teaching Assistant.

In 2023 she held a Visiting Research FellowshipLink opens in a new window at the Centre for Contemporary Women's Writing (ILCS, SAS) University of London; a Jeffs Postdoctoral FellowshipLink opens in a new window at the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds; and a Visiting FellowshipLink opens in a new window at the Centre for Book Cultures & Publishing, University of Reading.

Current Research

Simona is currently working on representations of the trope of the witch in contemporary Italian culture. She has a twofold interest:

  • Investigating the ways in which the figure of the witch successfully embodies female adolescence in contemporary media (magazines, novels, comics, and animated series) for young people, being a role model and representing empowered young girls that are otherwise objectified, neglected and made invisible by society.
  • Examining American models of girlhood (such as teen-age witches) and how these have been received by the Italian context. Specifically, she is interested in the huge role played by American comics in promoting a new efficient medium to communicate to younger generations and an increasing presence of American culture in Italy.

PhD Thesis

From Flesh to Soul: The Dichotomy of the Body in Alfonso Varano, Salomone Fiorentino, and Giacomo Leopardi

My thesis advocates the existence of a cluster of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Italian poetry, often imperfectly labelled as ‘sepulchral’, focusing on the co-existence between the physicality of death and the religious longing for eternal life. By dynamically relying on Dante’s model and reinstating it within Italian literature, these texts explore the tension between belief and secularisation embodied by the corpse as an object of supreme ‘abjection’ but also of devotional contemplation. I hypothesise the existence of a direct literary lineage running from the works of Alfonso Varano (Visioni sacre e morali, 1789) and Salomone Fiorentino (Elegie in morte di Laura sua moglie, 1790) to Giacomo Leopardi’s early poetic experiments, and particularly to his Dante-inspired poem Appressamento della morte (1816). As a consequence, the study detects a so-far under-investigated strain in Italy’s literary history, enabling a different assessment of young Leopardi’s sources, beyond his overt Dantean inspiration. The research draws on Hans Robert Jauss’ reader’s response theory: texts are analysed as they were their authors’ response, completion, confirmation, refusal to previous works (in relation to one another and to Dante’s oeuvre). My study also pivots around Julia Kristeva’s notion of ‘abjection’, and applies Fred Botting’s concept of Gothic, defined as “writing of excess” which trespasses the rational. This study opens new avenues of investigation, including a re-evaluation of the current literary canon, and a reflection on the outset of the Italian Gothic.

Research interests
Children's and YA Literature.
Women's writings.
18th/19th-century literature.
Gothic literature.
Reception of Dante's works.
Popular literature and folklore.
Transnational approaches.
Family novels.
Ekphrasis and art history in literature.
LN305 European Gothic - seminars (2023/24)
IT101 Italian for Beginners (2018/2019)
IT115 The History of Modern Italy - reading group (2018/2019)
IT212 Italian for Historians (2018/2019)
IT317 Introducing Dante's Hell - reading group (2019/20)
IT301 Modern Italian Language III (2019/2020; 2020/2021; 2021/22; 2022/23)
IT101 Grammar, Translation, Writing, Oral (2021/22; 2022/23)
Online conversation classes for year abroad students (2020)
Extra oral activities in person based on a series of Podcast in Italian that I fashioned "2 Passi 4 ChiacchiereLink opens in a new window" (2021)

Conferences and papers
UPCOMING CONFERENCE: Seen and Heard: Voices of Transnational Girlhood(s) on Identity, Gender, and CultureLink opens in a new window, 18-19 April 2024 University of Warwick. Co-organised with Dr Anna Gasperini, University of Galway. Funded by ILCS (University of London) and IAS, University of Warwick.
Good or Evil? Transmedial Perspectives on the Fairy/Witch Paradigm in Italian Popular Culture from the Nineteenth Century to the Present, University of Cambridge, online, 3-4 December 2023. Paper entitled: "Bewitched by W.I.T.C.H. (2001-12): Empowered Girlhood through Transculturality, Stereotypes, and Fantasy in Made-in-Italy Comics".
InnsBerg: Workshop per giovani ricercatori “Italianistica nel contesto degli studi culturali“. Innsbruck-Heidelberg 2023 | Lunedì 5/6 e martedì 6/6/23, Innsbruck (Austria). Paper entitled: "Streghe da ammirare: adolescenza femminile ed empowerment nella fumettistica italiana e anglosassone"

Leopardi in the UK: A One-Day Symposium in Memory of Michael Caesar. Research Centre, Christ Church, University of Oxford, 26th May 2023. Paper entitled: "Leopardi gotico: l’Appressamento della morte tra eccesso e abiezione".

La morte al femminile. Donne e morte nella cultura italiana dal Medioevo ai giorni nostri, Équipe Litérature et Culture Italiennes (ELCI) Sorbonne Université, Paris, 11-12 May 2023. Paper entitled: "Di medica mano arte fallace! Elegia, aborto e medical humanities: nuove prospettive di ricerca".

Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Warwick, Spring Research Exchange, 9 February 2023. Paper entitled: ‘Transnational Girlhood. Girls’ Empowerment in Italian and British Literature, Magazines and Comics from 1920s to Today’.

Mother's Milk: Breastfeeding from Metaphor to Practice, 21-23 October 2022, University of New Hampshire and online - Panel entitled: 'Quality Milk and Nursing Bodies in Luigi Pirandello's Novelle per un anno'.
[co-organised] CAIS 2-5 June 2022, Sorrento. Panel: 'La maternità nella cultura italiana dal Rinascimento a oggi. Al di là degli stereotipi'
[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.


  • Journal Articles

“Streghe, fattucchiere e medicina contadina: donne curatrici e leggende regionali nella cronaca dei Misteri d’Italia di Dino Buzzati” in Rivista Italies, La medicina al femminile. Donne e medicina, realtà e rappresentazioni in Italia, vol. 27, ed. by Antonella Mauri, Judith Obert, pp. 61-74, 2023.

“Introduzione” in "Really Fantastic! Intertwinements, Exchanges, Discordances Between Realism and the Fantastic in Italian Culture", Notes in Italian Studies, 2, ed. by Andrea Brondino, Bianca Rita Cataldi, and Simona Di Martino, 2023, pp. 1-4. Read: hereLink opens in a new window.

“Introduzione” in Quaderni d'Italianistica: Quel che resta del giorno. La notte nella letteratura italiana dal Settecento ai giorni nostri, edited by Simona Di Martino, vol. 43, 1, 2022, pp. 5-11.

“Le visioni letterarie di Alfonso Varano e Giacomo Leopardi: tra teologia e ghost story?” in Quaderni d'Italianistica: Quel che resta del giorno. La notte nella letteratura italiana dal Settecento ai giorni nostri, edited by Simona Di Martino, vol. 43, 1, 2022, pp. 57-80.

"Wet Nurses’ Tales: Female Rivalry, Motherhood Performativity, and Bestiality in Pirandello’s La balia and Il libretto rosso", in Pirandello Studies, vol. 42, 2022, pp. 55-68.

"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

"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.

  • Book Chapters

“Gothic Poetry”, in Italian Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion, ed. by Marco Malvestio and Stefano Serafini, Edinburgh University Press (March 2023), pp. 107-22.

«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.

  • Edited Collections

“Il potere del passato e l’affermazione del presente. Forme e declinazioni letterarie dell’identità nazionale in Italia tra Sette e Novecento” ed. by Simona Di Martino and Beatrice Pecchiari, in Letteratura e Potere/Poteri, Atti del XXIV Congresso dell’AdI (Associazione degli Italianisti), Catania, 23-25 settembre 2021, ed. by Andrea Manganaro, Giuseppe Traina, Carmelo Tramontana, Rome, Adi editore 2023.

Quaderni d'Italianistica: Quel che resta del giorno. La notte nella letteratura italiana dal Settecento ai giorni nostri, edited by Simona Di Martino, vol. 43, 1, 2022.

  • Reviews

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

Being Human Festival of the Humanities, Witches! Draw-along Creative WorkshopLink opens in a new window, The Cartoon Museum, London, 11th November 2023.

Bloomsbury FestivalLink opens in a new window, Growing Up with Witch Power, Holborn Library, 14th October 2023.

Academic, Woman, Other: A Roundtable and Zine-Making Workshop, IAS, University of Warwick, 8/04/2023.

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

MHRA Research Fellowship in the Modern European Languages (2023-2024)

ILCS Conference Grant Scheme for the conference Seen and Heard: Voices of Transnational Girlhood(s) on Identity, Gender, and Culture, April 2024 (together with Dr Anna Gasperini, University of Galway).

WATE PGR winnerLink opens in a new window - Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence 2023

HRF Travel Grant 2023

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

Dr Simona Di Martino

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

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CAIS Conference 2021 poster