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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 Dr Fabio Camilletti.

PhD Thesis

The Dichotomy of the Body: Remains and Visions in Varano, Fiorentino, and Leopardi

My project takes as its primary subject matter the work of three authors, namely Alfonso Varano, Salomone Fiorentino and Giacomo Leopardi, whose works flourished in a period spanning from the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth century. The aim of my examination is to analyse the thematical continuity that Varano, Fiorentino, and Leopardi shaped in the Italian literary panorama, especially in that particular cultural period across the Enlightenment and the Romantic period.

My purpose is then to shed light on aspects of endurance between these authors’ works, taking them as examples of a common taste for the themes of grief and death, while differentiating their works from the British ‘Graveyard Poetry’. These themes, as it will be shown, are derived from the authors from the Italian literary tradition and contribute to mark the continuity rather than the fracture between the Baroque epoch, the Enlightenment and the upcoming Romanticism in the Italian context.

The representation of grief in these authors’ works mainly involve the depiction of the human body, articulated in two main categories: a) the impalpable body, which is a theme well represented by the presence of ‘visions’ in these literary works (namely the vision of a dead person or of a supranatural entity which announces the death of someone, often of the author), and b) the material body, often depicted as ill, in pain or in decomposition. The present study investigates the original ways in which these authors depict the body in light of a new deathly sensibility while drawing their imagery on Italian traditional models, such as Dante and Petrarch. The novelty of the research is constituted by the attempt of showing the continuity between the literary themes of Medieval times and the Baroque period and the successive ages (Romanticism, the Gothic and the so-called romanzo nero) despite the classical interpretation of the eighteenth century as an epoch of fracture from the irrational Baroque period and the sensibilities of Romanticism.

My final aim is to put the basis for a future recostruction of a sepulchral literary strain, at the dawn of Italy’s literary modernity, which supplies later nineteenth-century popular literature with a set of motifs that contribute to the creation of a ‘Gothic’ atmosphere, beyond any strict division into compartments of genre. As Fred Botting argues, the ‘Gothic’ is not strictly a genre, but rather a mode underlying different literary experiences of the modern and contemporary age (from the 1760s onwards), which can be recognized by a combination of coexisting elements: excess, transgression, and self-awareness of their own textual component. For this reason, my dissertation represents a contribution towards an ‘archaeology’ of the Italian Gothic, meaning by this term a historical and thematic reconstruction of the ways Italian culture incorporates and/or autonomously re-elaborates the ‘writing of excess’ informing Western literature at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Research interests
Pre-romantic and romantic poetry;
Ekphrasis and art history in literature;
Danse Macabre;
Gothic literature;
Popular literature and folklore;
Mystic literature, visions;
Dante's reception;
Pirandello’s Short stories for a year – domesticity and space in literature;
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)

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)
Online conversation classes for year abroad students (Term 3 2020)
Extra oral activities in person based on a series of Podcast in Italian I fashioned (Term 3 2021)

Conferences and papers

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)

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)

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

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.


"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)

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.

«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. [to be found here:]

Workshops and Events

Tea(chers) PGR - 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 Cultures, funded by SMLC, Researcher Development (Doctoral College) and CADRE, 22 January 2021, online.

School of Modern Languages and Cultures Teacher Day, 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'; (2018-2019)

Scholarships and awards

WATE PGR winner - 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 conference 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


MA Modern Philology, Università degli Studi di Roma ‘La Sapienza’
BA Literary Studies, Università degli Studi di Urbino ‘Carlo Bo’


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Simona Di Martino

PhD Candidate & Senior Graduate Teaching Assistant

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CAIS Conference 2021 poster