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IT337 Beyond Books: Publishing, Translation and Marketing in Italy (19th-21st century)

Module Code: IT337
Module Name: Beyond Books: Publishing, Translation and Marketing in Italy (19th-21st century)
Module Coordinator: Dr Valentina Abbatelli
Not running 2024-25
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

Should we judge books by their covers? The module aims to explore this question considering what books, in their material and digital forms, can reveal of history, society and the publishing field. Looking at Italian works and translations of American classics published in Italy from the second half of the Nineteenth century to the 2000s, this module will focus on the central role of book covers, illustrations, series etc - the so called paratext - as a place of direct contact between readers and publishers. Here, marketing strategies as well as the social, historical and political context play a key role in mediating literary texts.

Students will develop a detailed knowledge of the history of publishing in Italy in this time frame, and will be encouraged to reflect on the role of key historical moments and authors in shaping the Italian publishing field. The analysis of the texts and the awareness of the dynamics of the publishing field will allow the students to design their final project where they will themselves become publishers of a new book edition.

Outline Syllabus

Week 1 Introduction to history of the book, history of publishing and sociology of the publishing field.

Week 2: From post-unitarian Italy to the 1930s:La capanna dello zio Tom, representing race for different audiences

Week 3: Illustrating gender under the Fascist regime:Piccole Donnefrom drawings to photographs

Week 4: Post-war Italy. Inside a publishing house: Einaudi

Week 5: Primo Levi and Italo Calvino: prefaces

Week 6: Reading week

Week 7: Transnational writers: marketing from the 1990s to nowadays

Week 8: Elena Ferrante: a worldwide publishing phenomenon from paper to screen

Week 9: Practical session on publishing software. How to write a book introduction/preface

Week 10: Final session. Retracing all the steps to create a new edition


  • Close analysis - 1500 words (30% of the final mark)

The students will write a close analysis of two or more editions of one book of their choice among those examined in the sessions (choosing between Italian editions or comparing original works and translated editions) - or to examine acorpusof works by different transnational authors. This close analysis will be the starting point for the design of their own new edition.

  • Student project: creation of a new edition of a book - 2000 words (70% of the final mark)

The students will design and create a new edition of a book using a publishing software. This new edition will display all the relevant paratextual elements and an introduction/preface of 1000 words. The new edition will be accompanied by a reflective piece of 1000 words. A training session on the publishing software will be provided by technicians of the SMLC

Illustrative bibliography

  • Set texts

Sessions 2, 3, 5, 7 and 8 will focus on specific literary texts we will be discussing in seminars. Please note we will be using extracts of most of these, so you will not be expected to read each one in full.

  • Selection of critical readings:

Baldi, Elio,The Author in Criticism. Italo Calvino' Authorial Image in Italy, in the United States, and the United Kingdom(Lanham: Lexington Books, 2020)

Batchelor, Kathryn,Translation and paratexts(Boca Raton: Routledge, 2018)

Bonsaver, Guido,Censorship and Literature in Fascist Italy(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007)

Bourdieu Pierre,The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature(New York: Columbia University Press, 1993)

Chartier, Roger,Forms and Meanings : Texts, Performances, and Audiences from Codex to Computer(Philadeplhia, University of Pensilvanya Press, 2010)

Dagnino, Arianna,Transcultural Writers and Novels in the Age of Global mobility(Purdue University Press, 2015)

Forgacs, David, and Gundle, Stephen,Mass Culture and Italian Society from Fascism to the Cold War(Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2007)

Genette, Gerard,Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation(Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1997)

Hallamore Caesar, Ann, Romani, Gabriella, and Burns Jennifer,The printed media in fin-de-siècle Italy : publishers, writers, and readers(London: Legenda, 2011)

Pugliese Stanislao, ed,The Legacy of Primo Levi(New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)

Sapiro, Gisèle, ‘The Literary Field between the State and the Market’,Poetics, 31 (2003), 441–64

Thoburn, Nicholas,Anti-book. On the art and politics. On the art and politics of radical publishing(Minneapolis, University Of Minnesota Press, 2016)

Wolf, Michaela, and Fukari, Alexandra, eds,Constructing a Sociology of Translation(Amsterdam; Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins, 2007)