Skip to main content


PANEL ONE: Migration and Colonial Identities

Claudio Svaluto (Italian), ‘Humour and Fascist Colonialism: Ennio Flaiano’s Tempo di uccidere’

Recent years have seen a rising interest in Italian colonial history, de facto reopening the debate on its legacy in Italian culture. In this paper I will apply some of the most recent contributions in postcolonial studies (e.g. Lombardi-Diop and Romeo, 2012) to the literary representations of colonial power in Ennio Flaiano’s Tempo di Uccidere (1947). This under-researched novel, based on his experience as an officer in Ethiopia (1935-36), is a pioneering work for its nearly unprecedented criticism of the Italian invasion.

It has been argued (Barberi Squarotti 1992) that Flaiano refused to take on ethical reflection in regard to Italian colonialism because he did not explicitly state his opinion in Tempo di Uccidere. I hope to show instead how he used a guilty narrator, and irony aplenty, to comment on the misdeeds of the Italian invading army in Ethiopia. In particular I wish to describe how, influenced by censorship and other factors, Flaiano heavily used humour and sarcasm to describe difficult subjects such as the role and attitude of embedded journalists, the collusion of Italian officers with black market agents and racializing fascist propaganda.

Finally, I will attempt to frame the novel in the critical debate that followed WWII and the fall of fascism. I will consider on one hand the critical reception of Tempo di Uccidere, in which the political content has traditionally been misread (Trubiano 2010), and on the other the general audience’s denial of colonialism in post-WWII Italy (Del Boca 2005).

Sarah Blaney (French), ‘Reading the Translation of Patrick Chamoisseau’s Texaco through Glissant’s Theory of “Relation”’

The awarding of the Prix Goncourt in 1992 to Patrick Chamoiseau and his novel Texaco represented a crucial moment in the recognition of Caribbean Francophone literature by the French ‘establishment’. Yet novels from this Francophone background often still occupy a liminal position in the literary canon, balancing at once a need to appeal to the metropolitan readership and a responsibility of representation to the inhabitants of Martinique.

Liminality is a theme that runs throughout Texaco because of the position that Chamoiseau occupies as both novelist and ethnographer, and also because of the position that Martinique holds in relation to France as an overseas département. Therefore, it is necessary to consider not only how the translator works with the multiple and interconnected roles that Chamoiseau inhabits and but also his relationship to Martinique itself. In this paper, I plan to interrogate this relationship between writer and translator, examining how the translator responds to the shifts between the writer’s different personae and the plurilingualism inherent in the text with the interplay between French and Creole and how this is rendered in English.

The methodology I propose to use in this study of Texaco and its translation is rooted in the Glissantian theory of ‘relation’, emphasizing the interconnectedness between people, places and languages, and responding to the liminal status of Caribbean Francophone texts. Crucially, it also moves beyond a binary structure previously prevalent in examination of translations (see Venuti, 1995 and Toury, 1995). Using this as a methodological framework, I will examine the extent to which it is possible to translate a plurilingual text such as Texaco into a monolingual target language text and the challenges this creates for both the translator and the legacy of the writer.

Gioia Panzarella (Italian), ‘Sagarana’s “Scrittori migranti” Seminars: Discussing Migrant Writings in Italian’

This paper will explore the aims and contents of Scrittori migranti (“migrant writers”), an annual seminar organized by the association Sagarana, whose nine editions took place between 2001 and 2009 in various venues in Italy. These events brought together some of the most influential authors and scholars from Italy and abroad to discuss relevant topics related to migration writings in Italian, each session being focused on a specific book or author or theme, such as the role of migrant writings in contemporary society, migrant literature’s reception, multicultural Italy, migration to/from Italy. I will also stress the political importance of the fact that the transcriptions of almost all the sessions of the Seminars can be found on, where the online journal “Sagarana” is published as well, so that a much larger audience is allowed to benefit from the speeches and discussions. This choice makes Sagarana’s Seminars a valuable source of information for students and scholars. As the chief editor of the online journal Sagarana and organizer of the Seminars Julio Monteiro Martins states referring to the Internet: “with Sagarana literature was happily joining forces with this open and democratic vehicle thanks to which it could reach people anywhere, instantly and at zero cost for the reader” (my translation).


PANEL TWO: Re-Reading the Canon

Giacomo Comiati (Italian), ‘Re-Uses of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso in the Nineteenth Century: The Case of Manzoni’s Il Conte di Carmagnola’

In this paper I want to analyse how some cantos of Ariosto’s masterpiece, the epic poem Orlando Furioso (1516), influenced the poet and writer Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873), and in particular I will focus on the reuse of Orlando Furioso’s cantos XIV, XV, and XVI in Manzoni’s tragedy Il Conte di Carmagnola (1820).

Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) is one of the core figures of the Italian Renaissance. His works did not only have an immediate success right after their publication, but were unrelentingly appreciated for centuries. His poem, the Orlando Furioso, greeted as a masterpiece since it was printed for the first time, was at the same time the corner point of a many rhetoric and poetic debates, and the model and the source of inspiration for many later poets. The fame of Ariosto shined also during the nineteenth century. Alessandro Manzoni, one of the most important Italian authors of that age, even if he never composed a long epic poem, admired Ariosto’s Furioso and employed it as a literary source in his poetical compositions. Manzoni’s intertextual incorporations of Ariosto’s oeuvre into his Inni sacri or his juvenile poems has long been acknowledged and minutely documented by scholars. This presentation, on the contrary, addresses a more neglected topic: the use of Ariosto’s octaves in one of the two tragedies Manzoni wrote, Il Conte di Carmagnola. I will analyse in which ways Manzoni employs Orlando Furioso’s cantos XIV, XV, and XVI, and specifically how the quotations from Ariosto’s poem are used to give not only a greater epic tone to the Carmagnola tragedy.

Clare Siviter (French), ‘Classicizing Classicism: The Case of the ‘tragédie classique’ in the Napoleonic Era’

‘La tragédie classique’ has entailed countless volumes in a multitude of languages from some of the most prominent literary theorists in the world. Its perception as a stable, glorious and canonical subject is a gift of hindsight. From 1799-1815, Napoleon’s tenure of power, ‘classical’ tragedy was still the official order of the day. Moreover, the classical heritage was a key topos resuscitated after the political and aesthetic caesura of the Revolution before its propagandist transformation by the Romantic Movement and twentieth-century literary criticism. Consequently, the Napoleonic era offers an illuminating viewpoint with which to explore the notion of ‘classicism’ and how its meaning is transmuted over time, its own classicization. This paper will therefore address the methodological and theoretical implications of the notion of ‘tragédie classique’ through the case-study of the Napoleonic era. It will firstly be necessary to demonstrate the early nineteenth-century classicized understanding of the French tragic heritage from the seventeenth-century. This will entail an analysis of both the process of classicization through the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries by key figures such as Voltaire alongside a consultation of contemporaneous post-revolutionary literary criticism. Having established the classicized inheritance of classical tragedy in the Napoleonic era, this paper will then explore the afterlife of this period’s tragic production which has been labelled as ‘classique’, inciting a reflection upon the Romantic ‘Revolution’ and more modern scholarship. Drawing on these two strands, the paper will conclude with the methodological obstacles implicit to any study of ‘classical tragedy’ regardless of temporal and national boundaries.

Martina Piperno (Italian), ‘Giacomo Leopardi in the New Media’

Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), poet and thinker, is perceived in his homeland as a classical author; everybody studies his works at school, and some students still get to learn by heart some of his verses. Leopardi can be loved or hated by students: in fact, his radical pessimism can either meet a teenager’s anxiety and insecurity, or generate a sense of rejection. Many students perceive Leopardi as ‘depressed’ or ‘depressing’. Nevertheless, Leopardi has been surprisingly popular in recent years at least in three relevant areas of the new media:

- On Facebook: during a research I carried out in 2011, I found out that there were at least 50 Facebook pages in Italian dedicated to Giacomo Leopardi. In particular, what attracted my attention was the identification that boys and girls that identified themselves as ‘Emo’ felt with Leopardi’s figure.

- In cultural journalism. Giacomo Leopardi’s quotations are frequently used on newspapers – expecially in editorials - to underpin the journalist reflection. This happens not only to stress the writer’s culture, but also because Leopardi’s words are sometimes perceived of being particularly significant and synthetic.

- On the editorial market. While some Italian classic authors still lack modern editions, Leopardi is the only author who is republished with updating inserts. In fact, the astrophisic Margherita Hack has republished in 2003 the Storia dell’Astronomia, an early work by Leopardi (1815), by updating it, and the writer and jurist Franco Cordero has republished in 2011 the Discorso sopra lo stato presente dei costumi degli italiani (1824), adding his thoughts on the same theme, ‘Pensieri di un italiano d’oggi’.

What do all this phenomena have in common? They are all tendencies to actualize Leopardi’s figure and message, to give new life to his words. But what does this perception of Leopardi tell us about our society? Why is Leopardi perceived this way, which is incredibly more intense compared to his contemporaries’ reception? What are the responsibilities of school and academia in this hyper-actualization of Leopardi’s message? The paper will discuss those topics through a series of concrete examples.


PANEL THREE: Questions of Identity

Rebecca Pillière (French), ‘The Development of Huguenot Identity in La Rochelle (1560-1566)’

France was marked by the wars of religion (1562-1598) which divided the country in half. In 1570, under the peace of Saint-Germain, the cities of Cognac, Montauban, La Charité-sur-Loire and La Rochelle became Huguenot fortifications. As a maritime city which possessed many privileges, La Rochelle was set apart from the rest of the country and was even rumoured to be populated by heretics. Yet, in 1568, it declared itself to be a Huguenot stronghold and was deeply committed to the Protestant cause. This paper will analyse the development of the city's culture between 1560 and 1566, when a notable change occurred within the Protestant community.

Drawing on the studies of Judith Pugh Meyer and Kevin C. Robbins, I will examine the development of the Huguenot identity by exploring political, social and religious themes. Furthermore, whilst scholars have focused their research on historical records, they have seemingly overlooked an important part of the city’s intellectual history and the influence of literature on contemporary beliefs. Print culture was a significant tool in the propagation of ideas and concepts and was later used to reshape the identity of La Rochelle (especially under the reign of Louis XIII). As the first printer to settle inside the stronghold, Barthélemy Berton was not only a key witness to the cultural changes but an active participant. The time-frame set for this paper will therefore offer a study of the development of the Huguenot identity in La Rochelle on both a social and intellectual level.

Maria Belova (Italian), ‘Milan and Cityscape in Giovanni Raboni’s Lyric’

Milan was the protagonist of Raboni’s lyric’s from his first collection of verses Le case della Vetra (1966) and continued to be through his poetic production till his last collection of verses Barlumi di storia (2002). Raboni’s had a complex relationship with Milan: despite the negative and pessimistic image of the city in his lyric, which is often related to death, illness and persecution and links his lyric to Manzoni’s works and the theme of metaphorical plague, Raboni loved this city and even personified it.

Cityscape traces the private life of the poet, describing Milan where Raboni was born and lived almost all his life. His poems have plenty of topographic details: names of streets, squares, areas and numbers of trams. On the other hand, Raboni tends to represent the city from a death prism as city of his ancestors and prefers thus the past to the present.

As a translator Raboni worked tirelessly on Fleurs du Mal, starting at the end of the 1960s and continued throughout his life. In fact, Baudelaire, as one of the first poets who created a myth of the modern city in poetry, had left a mark in turn on Raboni’s personal poetry. In the latest period of his life Raboni was defined by critics as “the last of classics” due to his return to the traditional sonnet form. The choice of the sonnet form as the personified image of the city might be references to Baudelaire and French symbolists. The study explores the evolution of the image of Milan in Raboni’s lyric.

Lydia Furse (French), ‘The Question of Gender in Les enfances Vivien’

Les enfances Vivien is a chanson de geste dated to the early thirteenth century which forms part of the cycle of Guillaume d'Orange. As a decasyllabic poem it exists in eight manuscripts, which attests to the popularity of both the cycle and the enfances genre itself. Vivien, the nephew of Guillaume, is sent as the sacrificial son to secure the release of his father Garin from Saracen enemies. At the critical age of seven, Vivien is considered a suitable replacement for his adult father by the pagan court, but expendable according to his own family. However he escapes torture and is fortuitously adopted by a mercantile family, where his noble blood soon proves incompatible with trading. The boy Vivien is placed upon the threshold of adolescence, represented by the different relations he has to his natural mother and father; between safety, maternity and home, which are contrasted sharply to the danger and unfamiliarity of the settings in which his paternal obligations place him. This paper will explore the relations of Vivien to his paternal and maternal figures, adoptive and biological, to determine if gender is a defining aspect of self-hood and characterisation in this particular text.

PANEL FOUR: Philosophy in the 20th Century

Emily Williams (French), ‘The Question of Language in Levinas’s Totality and Infinity’

The twentieth-century philosopher Emmanuel Levinas is most noted for his insistence on ethics as first philosophy. This in turn raises the issue of the relationship between ethics and language, for Levinas finds in traditional Western philosophy an overtly masculine and totalising language that consistently seeks to subsume the Other into categories of the Same. In response, he uses this very philosophical language in order to demonstrate its inherent insufficiencies and exceed its boundaries, opening up language and philosophy to perpetual re-evaluation and interpretation.

This paper will focus on three main aspects of Levinas and language in his thesis Totality and Infinity. Firstly, the use of religious language in the text will be examined, as Levinas’s attempt to maintain a separation between his philosophical and theological writings ultimately falls through. The second section will be on discourse and Levinas’s notion of the face, which is described as expression and language, and is a crucial factor in his ethical discussions. The final topic will be on Levinas and the use of feminine language in order to undermine predominantly masculine philosophical discourse, although whether his attempt privileges or in fact undermines the feminine, is a topic of ongoing debate.

An understanding of the role of language for Levinas is essential for appreciating the ethical face-to-face relationship. This is important for both Levinasian scholarship and contemporary ethical philosophy, because Levinas’s meta-ethics stresses irreducible singularity amidst sociality in a globalised, technological world.

Paul Sharratt (German), ‘Unpacking Walter Benjamin: The Production of an Aura’

Walter Benjamin is today embalmed as a ‘great thinker’ and his work is often read without an understanding of its original historical and political context. In the collected literature on Benjamin, there appears to be little material analysis of the work that provided him with a means of living in the years prior to World War Two; specifically his articles for Die Literarische Welt and Die Frankfurter Zeitung.

This paper will attempt to provide just such an analysis and I will argue for the necessity of understanding Benjamin’s writing, both its content and form, as a response to the culture of Modernity and, more specifically, the conditions placed upon his work in the over-saturated literary market of Berlin in the 1920s.

Furthermore, I will uncover some of the clues Benjamin’s own radical criticism offers to his contemporary reception. To explore these issues, I will use an analysis of the range of Benjamin’s contributions to the avant-garde weekly newspaper Die Literarische Welt, images of his work on the printed page and in draft form, and finally a brief close reading of one specific article – Kurz Schatten (II).

William Crichton (French), ‘Ricoeur’s Generosity and its Limits: Neuroscience, Intentionality, Ethics’

Paul Ricoeur has often been hailed as a ‘generous’ philosopher, perhaps owing to the accommodating, ‘tensive’ style of philosophical investigation employed in his work; pitting competing theories against each other in productive, dialectical encounters, always trying to unearth positive contributions and build common ground between them. His willingness to engage with the neurosciences has been well documented, most notably in 1998’s ‘What makes us think’, a book-length debate with Jean-Pierre Changeux, the author of The Neuronal Man (1983).

Ricoeur’s conviction is that narrative is innate to human experience; ‘We tell stories and make history because we are historical. That ‘because’ is one of existential conditionality.’ This paper analyses this overarching focus on the role of narrative in human self-understanding, in relation to the work of three contemporary ‘neurophilosophers’, thinkers whose work is heavily informed by recent developments in the neurosciences; the evolutionary biologist Daniel Dennett, the neurobiologist Antonio Damasio, and the computational neuroscientist Shimon Edelman, all of whom identify major narrative components to the self.

In these dialogues with neurophilosophy, unpicking Ricoeur’s professed position as a ‘semantic dualist’, we will look at how his philosophy intersects with the work of these thinkers from a starkly different philosophical tradition, demonstrating a striking degree of common ground, even compatibility, between them. However, this paper will also aim to show the limits of Ricoeur’s ‘generosity’, highlighting his concerns and fears about neuroscience, outlining certain conceptual boundaries which the philosopher could not quite bring himself to cross.