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Research Staff Profile - Alessandra De Martino Cappuccio

alessandra.jpg  Alessandra De Martino Cappuccio,
Associate Research Fellow, Department of Italian,

Current Research
I am currently working on a publication on contemporary theatre, which addresses issues of diversity such as cultural, political or linguistic differences in theatre. I am co-editor with Dr Paola Toninato, also from the Italian Department, and Prof Paolo Puppa, from the University of Venice Ca’ Foscari. The idea sprung after an international conference on marginalized voices in theatre I organized with Paola Toninato at Warwick on 11 May 2011. This book of original essays by leading critics and scholars from North America, the United Kingdom and Italy aims to address an important area of both Italian and European cultural history – the relation between theatre and political development. The volume intends to cover a variety of authors and topics across a multi-cultural and geographical span and its contributions would present previously unexplored connections between the discourses of theatre and anthropological as well cultural studies. I consider my involvement in this project a good opportunity to take up a new role as editor/peer reviewer and to further my knowledge in my research field.

Life before Warwick
Before moving to Warwick I lived in London and taught Italian as a foreign language in colleges of higher education in South London and Surrey. I loved my work, as my students were highly motivated and enthusiastic learners. Working as a language teacher combined well with my other job as a translator, and provided that human contact which is rare in my solitary translating profession. Both jobs suited well my needs as a mother of two young children and provided flexible working hours. I moved to Warwick six years ago, when my husband was offered a chair in the Medical School, so I took this opportunity to start a new study project involving an MA and a PhD.

Best things about working at Warwick
Since I joined Warwick I have taught Italian language and culture and Translation Skills to first, second and third year students in the Italian Department. Working at Warwick is very stimulating. The facilities are outstanding and this adds a great deal to the quality of research which can be conducted in optimal conditions. Countless opportunities are offered to researchers who find the right environment to develop themselves both as individual scholars and within collaborative studies.

During my MA in Italian Studies, Warwick gave me the fantastic opportunity to work at the Royal Shakespeare Company as a theatre interpreter for Pippo Delbono, a prominent Italian avant-garde actor, director and playwright, and his theatre company. Whilst carrying out my PhD I was able to take part in different training programs. The most effective of all was certainly an intensive three-day course which aimed at gaining skills in time management, project management, networking, team work, communication skills, assertiveness, motivation and confidence building. It looks like a long list, but every single element was thoroughly covered and proved essential in my future career. Last but not least, positive competitiveness is also an important aspect of life at Warwick, as it encourages mental engagement and collaboration among different departments, making it a very proactive work environment.

Worst thing about working for Warwick or If you could change one thing at Warwick, what would it be?
Although I feel I am receiving a great deal of support in my work, I can see that improvements can be made in order to implement Warwick’s ethos of Excellence in research. If I could change one thing at Warwick, I would introduce a system of co-optation of those non-core research staff showing special initiative and commitment. This on the one hand would enhance motivation and on the other would facilitate the appointment of quality researchers, rewarding those who show inventiveness and credibility.

What people are surprised to learn about me…..
My passion for theatre is a lifelong one. Since my teens I was involved in theatre, acting in amateur companies and constantly reading about and going to the theatre. Italian dialects were also my passion, as I was fascinated by how my language, considered worldwide the epitome of beauty and elegance, could have developed from such a myriad of dialects, still very much in use, which for variety and number can only be compared to Indian dialects. That is why at university I studied…Law and became a lawyer! That is certainly what puzzles whoever learns about my academic background. However, this is only in apparent contrast with what I do, as the rigorous study and the technicality of the subjects I learned equipped me with an excellent research method and an inquisitive mind, qualities which prove vital in my work. Besides, I would not be terribly mistaken if I said that lawyers are, in a way, actors and that public speaking is a skill that comes very handy in academia too.

What would your dream job be?
Studying is what I have done all my life and is what I love. Teaching is also very important as it gives me the opportunity to disseminate what I learn through my research whilst keeping me in touch with younger generations. So, I can say that working in the academia is my ideal job, especially because in this international environment I have found the way to expand my knowledge to 360 degrees.

Research interest
My research interest is in theatre translation, which was the subject of my PhD thesis on English translations of a selection of plays by the contemporary Neapolitan actor/playwright Eduardo De Filippo. This has led to the organization of three international conferences, all hosted by the University of Warwick, gathering scholars and theatre practitioners from other institutions in the UK and abroad. From Neapolitan theatre I furthered my research to theatre of marginalized cultures. Therefore, co-editing a book on diversity on stage represents a natural evolution of my research. Linked to the main field of my research is my interest in language and power, in particular with regard to the exertion of power through the linguistic medium as examined by the twentieth century thinker Antonio Gramsci.

Latest academic writing publication (journal/book etc)
My interest in language, including theatre language, and power is at the basis of works I have done on women and power in Italian literature, and on theatre and power in Italy at the beginning of the twentieth century. Recently I have been invited to write an article on translation of dialect theatre. The article, entitled ‘Translating Neapolitan Dialect in Theatre: Problems of Cultural Transfer’, will be published in 2011 by the American journal Translation. I have also written a chapter entitled ‘Characters in an English Adaptation of Napoli milionaria!’ in the forthcoming book The Tradition of the Actor-Author in Italian Theatre edited by Dr Donatella Fischer.

Next bid/ grant
As a development of my interest in translation of minority languages and cultures in theatre in April I have submitted an application to the AHRC in the Emerging Theme Translating Cultures. My bid aimed to obtain a grant for a nine month study on Romany theatre in Italy, looking at texts by the Florentine playwright and director Daniele Lamuraglia. With my project I intend to address the issue of the reception of Romany culture in Italy and explore how Romany culture ‘translates’ into a dominant environment which itself presents challenges of indigenous multilinguism and cultural heterogeneity. This study seeks to investigate the problem of integration of Romany communities in Italy, in particular in Florence, which, although considered one of the liveliest cultural cities in Italy, has taken a rather hostile approach to Romany communities settled in the outskirts of the city.

Looking for?
I think that theatre is a fantastic medium to propagate and bridge cultures. Therefore, I am looking for a sponsorship to organize an Italian Theatre Season at the Warwick Arts Centre. A similar initiative was set up in London and proved very successful. It would be a wonderful opportunity to bring Italian theatre also to Warwick and it would certainly enhance the visibility of Warwick University on the whole.

Major achievement to date
Since I moved to Warwick my life has been a roller coaster of experiences. However, my major achievement to date remains completing the PhD. Being a mature student undoubtedly offered advantages as I could benefit from years of experience and maturity. On the other hand, it was challenging for exactly the same reason: I had less energy and family commitments seemed always to take priority. So I needed a great deal more motivation and determination than my younger colleagues to carry out a very demanding project, especially since working on a PhD is a solitary and self-determined activity.

Finally, I can say that completing this important venture while maintaining close contact with my family and remaining a reference point for my two sons through their studies has made me incredibly fulfilled.

Three top tips / learning
From my experience as a student and researcher, if I were to give three top tips to other researchers the first one would certainly be planning. It does not necessarily mean writing a detailed plan, but it implies having a fairly clear idea of what you want to achieve and how you are going to do so. My second tip would be organization. Being messy can lead to distraction and can infringe on your ability to see things with consequent confusion. On the contrary, having an organized schedule helps an awful lot to keep focused, which is an essential factor in research as it is in any job. The last tip is something I learned during a training course: think outside the box. Keeping an open mind is vital in research and helps develop new ideas and perfect existing ones. It is also very useful when working with other researchers, especially in a global context as is the one in which we work today, and opens up countless opportunities for expanding and disseminating knowledge.