The Center for Italian Studies is pleased to host a lecture by Professor Cristina Lombardi-Diop of Loyola University Chicago titled:
Translating Blackness in the Mediterranean: Langston Hughes in Fascist Italy
In the late summer and early fall of 1924, Langston Hughes spent nearly two months traveling through Italy. He first stopped in the small village of Desenzano, on the shores of Lake Garda, before heading to Verona and Venice. Unfortunately, what began as a summer holiday ended as an eventful escape from hunger, dispossession, and the physical violence of Mussolini’s Black Shirts. Jim Crow laws prevented Hughes from being hired as crew on ships headed back to the United States, leaving him stranded as a beachcomber on the shores of Genoa. The talk first examines the literary persona that emerges from the Italian translation of Langston Hughes' s poetry of the late 1940s and 1950s, a time when he first received noteworthy attention in Italy. It then turns to Hughes’s life experience in Italy. While the translations create an ambiguous framing that makes Hughes’ Blackness either obscurely picturesque, or altogether invisible, the talk will consider how Hughes’s own reading of Italy speaks back, retrospectively, by reframing Blackness as historically visible within the framework of the Mediterranean as a big and Black sea.
CRISTINA LOMBARDI-DIOP is the Director of the Italian Studies Program at Loyola University Chicago, where she teaches course on African literature, Italian cultural history, and gender and migration. She is co-editor of Postcolonial Italy (2012) and co-author, of Bianco e nero. Storia dell’identità razziale degli italiani (2013). Founder and director of the publishing series Transiti, for Le Monnier Mondadori, Cristina has published widely on such topics as white colonial femininity, the Black Mediterranean, and African diasporic literature in Italy. Most recently, she has edited two journal special issues, one on Postcolonial Europe (2016) and the other on Afrofuturismo: Spazi, corpi, estetiche, pensiero dell’afrotopia (2019).
The event is sponsored by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and co-sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies.