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Current research projects in Italian Studies

The Dynamics of Learning in Early Modern Bologna

For several years, Professor David Lines has been working on the teaching of arts and medicine at the University of Bologna (c. 1400–1750). A long-standing historiography has seen universities as bastions of conservatism and resistance to scientific and cultural innovation in the period. On the basis of archival sources and lectures, Lines has been showing that, in Bologna, the university curriculum and learning practices evolved in notable ways, and that the faculty of arts and medicine was more affected by currents of change than is usually supposed. These changes included a shift in the power balance of disciplines and a significant rise for theology. In addition to a number of articles, this research is resulting in a monograph forthcoming in January 2023 with Harvard University Press (The Dynamics of Learning in Early Modern Italy: Arts and Medicine at the University of Bologna) and in two volumes of documents (including statutes) under contract with Brepols (series Studia Artistarum).

Language(s) and Philosophy in Renaissance Italy

Building on research funded by the AHRC and the European Research Council, Professor David Lines is embarking on a new project that explores how and why the vernacular became increasingly accepted as a means of discussing philosophical topics in the Italian Renaissance. In addition to considering the importance of the vernacular in Renaissance Aristotelianism, it will include other philosophical traditions, focusing particularly on the interplay and mutual influence of Latin and the vernacular. In this connection, it will consider changes within the publishing industry and reading publics and the evolving relationships between contexts such as universities and academies. The research should result in a monograph and in an online repertory of philosophical writings in Italy (1400–1650).

European Gothic and the Villa Diodati

After the completion of a BA/Leverhulme-funded project on supernatural anthologies in post-revolutionary Europe, Professor Fabio Camilletti is completing with Dr Maximiliaan van Woudenberg the first complete English translation of Fantasmagoriana, the German-French anthology of ghost stories that inspired Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and John Polidori's The Vampyre. In 2018-19, Professor Camilletti edited the two-volume collection Villa Diodati Files, collecting all the texts inspired by the 'haunted summer' of 1816. He also proposed a new dating for The Vampyre, based on textual analysis, which has widely reassessed the critical appreciation of Polidori’s tale. Professor Camilletti is engaged in a vast operation of edition/translation of semi-forgotten texts broadly related to the supernatural in the long nineteenth century: in 2020, he published the collection La casa infestata di Place du Lion d'Or, including a tale by Charles Dickens; in 2021, Anne Moberly’s and Eleanor Jourdain’s Il sogno della regina in rosso (An Adventure); in 2022, the anthology Spettriana.

Dante’s Transnational Female Public in the Long Nineteenth Century (1789-1921)

Dr Federica Coluzzi (Leverhulme Early Career Fellow) is carrying out the first systematic inquiry into the historical formation and development of Dante’s modern female audience in Britain, Ireland and Italy.Unlocking a wide-ranging corpus of manuscript, print and archival evidence, it explores the changing material, ideological, and cultural conditions of women’s access to Dante, thus reassessing their far-reaching impact on creative, critical and scholarly responses to Dante and on the transnational reception, pedagogy, and interpretation of his oeuvre. Transdisciplinary at heart, the study combines literary, book-historical, and material approaches to produce a comprehensive and innovative reassessment of the phenomenon.

Sociogical Perspectives on Publishing Translations in Post-WWII Italy

Dr Mila Milani’s research explores the relationship between translation and publishing institutions in post-WWII Italy. At the junction between sociology of translation, history of publishing and history of culture, it analyses untapped materials from the archives of key Italian publishers to reconstruct the meta-discourses related to the publication of foreign literature and to national and transnational networks of intellectuals. Translation is seen as a way to modify power relations within the publishing field and to reshape publishers’ identity as intellectuals. In her latest project, Mila is looking at the strategic influence of the Italian Communist Party on the publication of translated literature and the role of translation in forging a politically committed narrative in ‘post-hegemonic’ Italy.

Telling Lives

In this project, Professor Jennifer Burns starts from the premiss that contemporary literary narratives of significant, often traumatic, life conditions or episodes demonstrate a significant investment by both writer and reader in the nexus of narrator and author, story and lived experience. This nexus warrants investigation. Long-established theory of autobiography and of testimony provide crucial paradigms, intersecting productively with recent scholarship on agency and voice in narrating lives and on techniques of self-representation, including autofiction. Alongside literary-critical perspectives, the practice of telling lives – recounting life experiences – bespeaks an ethical and affective compulsion to engage with the emotional and physical experience of the human subject in crisis or transition and to generate an informed engagement with a particular human condition, often ofexclusion. Examining this process prompts an interrogation of how human subjectivity is constituted and according to what kinds of contact with human and non-human ‘others’, including physical environments, it may reconstitute itself. Who tells the life of a mobile subject, for whom, and how can the process of subjectification be told? These are some of the questions this project will seek to explore by analysing written and graphic narratives, primarily in Italian, of migration and minoritization.

Transnational Media at the End of the Colonial Era in Italy and the Third World

Dr Luca Peretti’s current research project investigates cultural exchanges between Italy and the Third World at the peak of the anticolonial era (late 1950s-early 1970s). It focuses on cinema alongside other cultural forms and media practices, such as photography, exhibitions, television. Core case studies include films by Italian directors in the Third World (intended in terms of the political project of that period) and the role of film institutions in Italy (e.g. the national film school, film festivals) in fostering Third World cinema. In so doing, the project tries to understand today’s relationships between Europe and the Global South by examining a different, more dynamic approach to the dichotomies of North/South, developed/underdeveloped fostered by the end of the colonial era.

Writing Origins

Dr Cecilia Piantanida is working on a project on narratives and representations of origins in national, transnational and migrant writing in Italian from 1980 to the present. Combining cognitive linguistic theories on metaphor with a memory studies approach, the project aims to identify and analyse competing conceptual models of personal and cultural origins embedded in contemporary fiction and poetry. The analysis aims to shed light on how competing conceptual models of origins structure representations of time, space, and identity in contemporary writing. Considering how tradition and postcolonial legacies are enmeshed and refracted in Italian contemporary culture, the project addresses questions of belonging, subjectivity, (trans)nationality and race, and probe whether various conceptual models allow a space for non-normative or marginalized subjectivities to emerge.

Revenants of Contemporary Italy: Literature and Urban Folklore

Professor Fabio Camilletti is working on a monograph on the return of the dead in Italian contemporary culture (1977-2008), between literature, urban folklore, and pop culture. This book is an ideal sequel to his monograph Italia lunare (2018) and is part of a broader, overarching project on Italian literature, 'occulture', and Gothic-horror fiction he has been conducting in the latest years. This project generated, among others, articles and book chapters on authors such as Danilo Arona, Gianni Celati, and Mino Milani, as well as two miscellanies on the Italian 'Folk Horror' and 'Urban Wyrd' he co-edited with Dr Fabrizio Foni (Almanacco dell'orrore popolare, 2021; Almanacco dell'Italia occulta, 2022). Professor Camilletti is also widely contributing to several initiatives held for the 50th anniversary of the death of Dino Buzzati, and is co-editing with Paolo De Ventura a volume on 'Dante and the Occult' in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Italian and English literatures.

Ethical Questions in Contemporary Italian Travel Writing

Dr Joanne Lee’s research focuses on the political and ethical implications of contemporary Italian travel writing. She examines how Italian authors have used their accounts of travel to explore issues such as the social and economic marginalisation of urban peripheries, the legacy and memory of Italy’s colonial past, sustainability and environmental decay, and notions of Italian identity and belonging in the context of contemporary migration. The analysis considers the relationship between these issues and the various modes of travel adopted by the traveller including pedestrianism, vertical travel, eco-tourism and slow travel. It aims to challenge cultural constructions of Italy that have emerged through centuries of anglophone travel writing, showing how Italian travellers reimagine urban spaces, decolonize the tourist gaze and reframe the relationship between the South of Italy and its tourist centres.