University of Notre Dame

Center for Italian Studies


2011 Seminar Participants

The 2011 Rome Seminar brought together students and faculty from across the U.S., the U.K., and Australia. Participants in the inaugural seminar included:



Miriam Aloisio, University of Chicago
Miriam Aloiso studied English and German literatures at the University of Milan (IULM) where she obtained a Bachelor Degree. Later, she completed a Master’s Degree in Italian Literature at the University of Virginia. During her time at U.V.A., she has been able to explore literature from several interdisciplinary perspectives that helped expand her understanding of Italian literature. She was able to take courses on Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio, Ariosto, Tasso, Machiavelli, Manzoni and on several authors of modern Italian Literature. At the University of Chicago, she was able to refine her scholarly approach and narrow down her interests. She was exposed to gender theories and has analyzed the works of many female writers: Morante, Banti, Ortesi, Rosselli, Negri, just to name some. In particular, she has come to this literature with a focus on the concepts of identity and subjectivity. Her survey of the history of Italian literature has given her the chance to see the development of our modern understandings of the self. In addition, she has also worked to bring the theories of French philosophers, such as Foucault, Derrida, Lacan, and the gender theories of Judith Butler to bear on contemporary Italian literature. Her most recent research has been focused on the concept of violence and excess in the works of Luigi Malerba and Giorgio Manganelli, with particular attention to the philosophical theories of George Bataille.


Damiano Benvegnù, University of Notre Dame
Damiano Benvegnù is a Ph.D. candidate in Literature at the University of Notre Dame. In 2007 he received his “Dottorato di Ricerca” in Italianistica at the University “La Sapienza” in Rome. His Italian dissertation explored the connections between the use of dialect in modern Italian poetry and the so-called “uneven development” that occurred in northeastern Italy during the twentieth century. In particular, his work was focused on Carlo Michelstaedter, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Andrea Zanzotto. His current research at Notre Dame instead deals with the issue of representations of animals and teriomorphism in the nineteenth and twentieth century, with particular attention to the Italian survey. His dissertation analyzes how and why, with the crisis of traditional humanism, many writers began to challenge anthropocentrism and to introduce a different understanding of human/animal relationships. In particular, his work explores how animal imagery might have been used in modern literary texts in order to suggest both a new understanding of our own human identity and a possibly ethical relation with other forms of life. Benvegnùis also responsible for the creation of a new collection of Italian “New dialect” poetry in Hesburgh Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections division. Outside of the academic world, he worked as columnist for the art magazine “Inside Art”.


Federica Colleoni, James Madison University
Federica Colleoni teaches Italian language and culture at James Madison University, Virginia. She received her PhD from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 2010. Her dissertation, entitled Political violence and national identity: trauma, spectrality and allegory in contemporary literature and film, analyzes the mode by which the traumatic phenomenon of political violence has been narrated and represented in contemporary Italian novels and films. In her work, Federica addresses the connection between the theme of political violence and that of work in the contemporary literary and cinematic imaginary.  Her interest in the problem of “precarietà” led her to co-edit a monograph of the journal Bollettino Novecento. In this publication, entitled Cultures of resistance in contemporary Italy: imagining ‘precarietà’, the term ‘precarietà’ refers to an occupational as well as existential condition that influences all current forms of individual and collective subjectivity and that makes reference to “glocal” identities. She has published critical essays and articles on the theme of political violence in film and noir literature. She has participated in and co-organized sessions on these themes at conferences of Italian studies in Europe and the U.S.A., and has taken part in debates on the use of films in the teaching of Italian language and culture.


Luciana d'Arcangeli, Flinders University, Adelaide
Luciana d'Arcangeli is Cassamarca Lecturer in Italian at Flinders University, Adelaide. She specializes in the study of contemporary Italian theatre and cinema, and in translation and interpreting - Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Linguists and a certified interpreter of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (UK). Luciana has a great interest in innovative teaching and learning practices with a particular focus on distance and blended learning, having been herself a mature graduate of the University of London’s External Programme (1997), and is now a Fellow of Higher Education Academy (UK). Luciana has over 20 years varied work experience in the European commercial world, and was awarded a Masters in Human Resources Management in Rome (1998). As Italian Teaching Fellow Luciana taught Italian language and culture at all levels for ten years in the Italian Department of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow (UK), whilst studying for her PhD on Italian theatre. Her study has been published as I personaggi femminili nel teatro di Dario Fo e Franca Rame (Firenze: Franco Cesati Editore, Strumenti di letteratura italiana, n.32, 2009, pp.336). Before returning to full time study Luciana worked in Italian cinema with the Cecchi Gori Group: a passion she has continued to fuel by taking part in movie making (subtitling, cultural adaptation, translating scripts, acting), teaching and research. A current AHRC UK funded project focused on Italian Cinema in the 21st century will see her co-organising a series of events - including conferences in Italy, Australia and the UK - and co-editing a volume on the subject.


Kathryn Hill, University of Notre Dame
Kathryn Hill is a first-year graduate student studying Medieval Italian and Latin literature in the Ph.D. in Literature program at the University of Notre Dame.  She graduated in 2010 from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in English and linguistics.  As an undergraduate participant in the McNair Scholars program, she conducted research on word acquisition among bilingual preschoolers as well as Boccaccio’s representation of authorship and morality in the Decameron.  Her current research interests include Dante, the emergence of Italian vernacular literature, the ethics of language use, and moral concerns of authors. 


Roni Kubati, University of Chicago
Roni Kubati was born in Tirana. In 1991 he moved to Bari, where he completed a doctorate in modern and contemporary philosophy. His Italian doctoral thesis is entitled The Totalitarian Paradigm in Hannah Arendt. Particular emphasis in this work is placed on Arendt’s adjustment in the definition of evil which passes from “radical” to “banal”. Here it is introduced by reflections dedicated to the role of the spectator, which distinguished the latter period of Arendt's life and work, in obvious contrast to Kant's Critique of Judgment. The last part of this work is dedicated to totalitarianism in small countries (not predicted by Arendt's paradigm) where the regime did not limit itself to stripping humans of their individuality, but went further to coat them with an artificial individuality (the “new man”) and identity. In 2008 he moved to US in order to complete a Ph.D. in Italian Literature at the University of Chicago. Reflections on human condition that go from the “new man” to the “post human” are currently part of his work. In 2010 he published articles on topics such as migration and identity (as a problematized category). At present he is focusing on authors like Primo Levi, Corrado Alvaro, Roberto Rossellini, Italo Calvino, Federico Fellini, Antonio Moresco and Helga Schneider, whose work sheds light on these issues. In Italy he has published the novels Va e non torna, M, and Il buio del mare. Many of his essays and stories have been anthologized and I have collaborated with various magazines and dailies, including, La Gazetta del mezzogiorno, La Repubblica and L’Internazionale. 



Kathleen LaPenta, Rutgers University
Kathleen LaPenta is currently finishing her dissertation, under the direction of Elizabeth Leake and Paola Gambarota at Rutgers University, on Sicilian narratives of the Risorgimento.  In her work, she explores the intertextuality of the literary and cinematic versions of the 1860 uprising in Bronte, Sicily, and the trial of the peasants three years later.  Taking into consideration the historical approach, which has attempted to retell, justify or explain the events surrounding the uprising in Bronte, her research focuses on the literary, historical and cinematic texts by authors and artists such as Giovanni Verga (1882), Benedetto Radice (1910), Leonardo Sciascia (1960, 1963) and by Florestano Vancini (1972).  By analyzing the relationships between the different versions of this story, she illustrates how these narratives have shaped the residual tensions generated by conflicting perceptions of the events.  These reconstructions, which span from 1882 to 2002, reflect a compulsive tendency to narrate a moment of revolt and repression that has become an emblem of the troubled foundations of the Italian nation and, more broadly speaking, they invite an understanding of the ongoing issue of how local and regional memory grapple with and inform notions of national identity. 


Anne Leone, University of Cambridge
Anne received a BA in literature (with an Italian focus) from Yale in 2003, an MPhil in European Literature and Culture from Cambridge in 2005, and a PhD in Italian from Cambridge in 2010. Her dissertation explores scientific, theological and epic implications of blood in Dante, and her current project concerns the poet's treatment of nature.


Stiliana Milkova, University of Michigan
Stiliana Milkova’s scholarly background includes Slavic travel writing, Italy and the Grand Tour, and the practices and representations of sightseeing. In her work on Slavic travel narratives, she has examined Russian and Bulgarian travel accounts of the Italian Grand Tour sights. As a scholar of travel writing, she is particularly interested in the intersections between the traveling subject, the foreign/Italian sights (architecture, museums, artworks), and the construction of national identity. Building on her research on the Grand Tour, she is beginning a project on contemporary English-language literary accounts about travel to Italy that can be seen as resuscitating the Grand Tour in a global context and articulating new relationships between the traveling subject, Italy, national identity, and the world. She is particularly interested in two questions: What are the new master tropes, sightseeing practices, and narratives about Italy, home and abroad, local and global, that these literary travelogues reflect and activate? And what new historical, cultural, and theoretical approaches can we use to analyze those texts that are the product of a new, more global, mobile, and virtual traveler?


Karina Mascorro, Brown University
Karina Mascorro is a fourth-year PhD student in the Italian Studies Department at Brown University. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2006 with a B.A. in both Psychology and Italian Studies. During the 2004-2005 academic year she studied abroad at the Università di Bologna (Italy) where she completed work in Psychology, Anthropology, and Contemporary Italian Literature. Recently, she taught Italian at the 2010 summer session of the Pre-College Rome Program and  attended the 2008 and 2009 summer session of the Scuola Italiana at Middlebury College. At the age of six Ms. Mascorro emigrated from Mexico to the United States. Her upbringing in a multicultural working class neighborhood in Los Angeles, California inspired her to promote diversity in Education. Before coming to Brown she worked as the program assistant for the Graduate Diversity Program of Outreach and Retention, a resource center for educationally and financially disadvantaged students throughout their academic career at UC Berkeley. Currently, she holds a teaching assistantship in elementary Italian and her academic interests include 20th Century Italian Literature, Migratory Culture and Citizenship, Transnationalism, Hybridity, and Photography. She looks forward to completing a dissertation on the everyday positive cultural import that comes with migration.


Michele Monserrati, Rutgers University
Michele Monserrati is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Italian Studies at Rutgers University. He received his “Dottorato di ricerca in Italianistica” from University of Florence in 2007. In 2005 he published the book Le “cognizioni inutili”, saggio su “Lo Spettatore fiorentino” di Giacomo Leopardi [Useless Cognitions”.Essay on the Journal “Lo Spettatore Fiorentino” by Giacomo Leopardi] (Florence: University Press). He is editor of the correspondence Benedetto Croce – Guido Mazzoni (Florence: SEF, 2007). He is author of articles on Giacomo Leopardi, Giovanni Pascoli and Aldo Palazzeschi. Presently he is writing a dissertation that examines images of Japan in Italian writers who visited the “Land of the Rising Sun” from the beginning of the Meiji restoration (1868) and the subsequent opening of Japan’s relations with the West. Main authors include: Fosco Maraini, Alberto Moravia, Goffredo Parise, Giovanni Comisso, and others. These authors are in dialogue with one another around cross-cultural representations, which are rooted in the cultural and ideological context of Italy. They ultimately reveal the idiosyncrasies of the Italian identity rather than any insight about the “other” as such. Other research interests include the intersection between verbal and visual languages, urban studies and interdisciplinary approach to culture and society.



Fulvio Orsitto, California State University, Chico
Fulvio Orsitto is Assistant Professor and Director of the Italian and Italian American program at California State University, Chico. He holds a Laurea in Lettere Moderne (1998), a Laurea in D.A.M.S. (2001), and a Laurea specialistica in Film Studies (2004) from the University of Turin. He received a Master of Arts degree in Italian (2003) and a Ph.D. in Italian (2008) from the University of Connecticut. He is currently working on Italian American cinema, trans-national/trans-cultural Italian cinema.


Chris Picicci, Colorado State University-Pueblo
Chris Picicci is Assistant Professor of Italian at Colorado State University-Pueblo.  He is director of the Italian minor program and also teaches courses in Spanish and English for the Department of English and Foreign Languages.  Dr. Picicci’s specialization is in Italian and Spanish epic poetry of the sixteenth century.  He completed his dissertation, Force and Human Suffering in Sixteenth-Century Epic Poetry:  Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata and Alonso De Ercilla y Zúñiga’s Araucana, at the University of Oregon in 2008.  His research focuses on alterity and the construction of identity among epic combatants.  A portion of his work examines the hybrid nature of late Renaissance epic which combines classical tradition with Carolingian, Arthurian and medieval romance chansons de geste.  He believes romance episodes appearing in historical epic narratives on the “New World” propose an alternative to the destructive forces of war and conquest.  In several poems depicting “New World” encounters, the theme of a shared humanity between colonizers and colonized emerges as a salient aspect of the texts.  Close textual readings depict passages that convincingly construct a space for compassion and resistance against European imperial hegemony and question Aristotle’s notion that epic poetry imitates noble actions.


Beatrice Priest, University of Cambridge
Beatrice Priest is in the penultimate year of her PhD on ‘Fecundity and Sterility in Dante’.  This thesis expands current work on gender, especially on the maternal, in Dante’s Commedia and his Opere Minori to examine the themes of fecundity and sterility as part of Dante’s broader cultural interest in natural phenomena.  Priest examines how Dante draws on Neoplatonic and Aristotelian natural philosophy to structure the otherworld with the Empyrean as the most fecund realm and Cocytus as the most sterile.  She then goes on to examine Mary as the epitome of maternal and spiritual fecundity and her various antithetical figures in the Commedia, and Dante’s use and transformation of natural metaphors drawn from classical bucolic poetry.  Finally, she examines the notions of conception and fatherhood which inform Dante’s poetics.  She is working under the supervision of Zygmunt Baranski at the University of Cambridge, where she has completed all of her academic studies to date, and where she has studied the literature, art and culture of medieval Italy, France and Spain in depth.  She will be visiting Notre Dame next Fall as part of the newly established scholarly exchange with Cambridge.


Sara Troyani, University of Notre Dame
Sara Troyani is a humanities Presidential Fellow at the University of Notre Dame.  Originally from Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, she grew up in an Italian Latin American community before moving to the United States.  Sara holds a B.A. summa cum laude in Italian and Latin American Studies from Cornell University and a master’s in Italian Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.  After living and teaching in the San Francisco Bay Area, she relocated to South Bend to pursue her doctorate in Italian Studies through the PhD in Literature Program at the University of Notre Dame.  Sara’s interests include travel literatures and the formation of Italian and Italian-Latin American identities. 


Cristina Varisco, Stanford University
Currently a first year Ph.D. student in Italian at Stanford University, Varisco completed a four-year Laurea degree at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan with coursework in English and German language and literature. After an extremely enriching Italian language teaching experience at Scripps College, in California, she decided to pursue a Master’s program in Italian studies at the University of Virginia. Her scholarly interests focus on Medieval and Renaissance interdisciplinary research. She studied the relationship between art history and literature by analyzing Botticelli’s illustrations of the Divina Commedia, discovering the artist’s meticulous attention to the slightest details and his rendering of Dante’s psychological impressions. She analyzed the depiction of two Renaissance portraits and examined their deep-seeded psychological reflections with correspondence to each of the portrait’s literary subjects.  Leonardo’s Ginevra de’ Benci’s eloquence is enhanced through the sonnets addressed to her by Lorenzo de’ Medici which enlighten the hidden significance of Ginevra’s multiple mental states. Similarly, Her studies of Bronzino’s Laura Battiferra challenged her to ponder Battiferra’s exchange of poems with her portraitist in her painting and to find significant clues in order to explain the underlying meaning of Battiferra’s facial expression in connection with her pose.


Gaoheng Zhang, New York University
Gaoheng Zhang has studied, taught, and obtained degrees or certificates in Italian language and culture at highly regarded institutions in China (Beijing Foreign Studies University), Italy (NYU in Florence, Università per Stranieri in Perugia, and Laboratorio Internazionale della Comunicazione in Gemona del Friuli), and the United States (New York University, PhD obtained in January of 2011). Through these experiences, he has developed academic interests in travel, migration, transnationalism, and gender in Italian culture. His dissertation, entitled Travel and Italian Masculinities in Gianni Amelio’s Cinema, is a case study of the cinematic construction of masculinities among Italian travelers in the films of a major European director. It is part of a long-range research agenda in which he will investigate the Italian rhetoric of cross-cultural travel in representations of Italian travelers, foreign immigrants to Italy, and foreign tourists in Italy. His research addresses transnationalism in Italy from historical and gendered perspectives, by way of analyzing depictions of Italy’s own diasporic and colonial past, as well as marginalized and subordinated Italian masculinity.