Category Archives: Contemporary

Disease and death

‘They fell ill daily in their thousands … many fell dead in the open streets … such was the multitude of corpses there was not sufficient consecrated ground to bury them’.  And: ‘the plague came from afar … that part of the world called Asia’. A historian in 2120 describing the horrors of a century earlier? Extracts from a comparative study of plagues and pestilence? An epidemic seen from the grassroots today? No, Boccaccio and Villani talking of events in Italy as the Black Death and other disasters wreaked their havoc, as quoted by Tim Parks in the introduction to his dispatch from northern Italy, ‘Milan in a time of coronavirus‘ in this week’s TLS (March 20, 2020). For descriptions of life in the plague-ridden Florence of 1630, see the review in the LRB (20 March, 2020) of John Henderson’s Florence Under Siege: Surviving Plague in an Early Modern City (Yale UP 2019).

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‘Ultras despite being women’

What is the position of women in the groups of football fans in Italy called the ultras? Newspaper reports of ultra activities emphasise the men and the systems of power, exchange and violence they manage. But women belong to the groups too, often from a very early age. Can they accede to positions of responsibility, issue orders, organise the rituals of fandom on and off the pitch or do they play a subordinate role at every point? Can they have anything that corresponds to a career in such groups? Ilaria Pitti interviewed the women at the core of one group (in Serie A but not specified) to track their perspective on their lives. Her report, ‘Being women in a male preserve: an ethnography of female football ultras‘ (Journal of Gender Studies, Volume 28, 2019, 3) considers the options which women themselves see as available and acceptable.

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Art: high, low and mixed

The third issue (January 2020) of the open-access journal Modern Art of the Center for Italian Modern Art (New York), is dedicated to the proceedings of the conference “Methodologies of Exchange: MoMA’s Twentieth-Century Italian Art (1949)”. CIMA’s publications advance innovative scholarship in the area of twentieth-century Italian art and promote Italian modern artists who remain particularly understudied among US audiences. On a different front, the publication of Emma Barron’s book Popular High Culture in Italian Media 1950-1970: Mona Lisa Covergirl (Palgrave Macmillan 2018) has been very favourably received (Barron was one of the 2019 ACIS Save Venice Fellows). Here is the review  in the latest issue (2020) of the journal Modern Italy.

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Vittorio De Sica Retrospective

Vittorio De Sica was one of the most important actors and directors in 20thC Italy and his influence is still felt today both in Italy and abroad. In partnership with Melbourne Cinémathèque, Elisabetta Ferrari (Italian Studies, University of Melbourne) will introduce his life and work on Tuesday 11 February at the Italian Institute of Culture in Melbourne, 233 Domain Rd, South Yarra, at 6.30 (booking here) in  preparation for the Vittorio De Sica Retrospective that will take place between 12 and 26 February 2020 at The Capitol cinema in Melbourne. Elisabetta’s talk is free and in English.

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Exploring Venice’s past and present

Jen McFarland, enrolled in a History MA at the University of Melbourne, spent September to December 2019 in Venice as an ACIS Save Venice Fellow researching the identity, status and activities of the pizzocchere (associations of lay religious women) in the city in the 16th century. It was not her first exploration of religion there. In 2019 the journal Renaissance Studies published her study of Catherine of Siena’s incorporation into the iconography held in the Dominican convent of Santi Giovanni e Paolo in the late 15th century, in particular the ways in which the convent wanted to emphasise Catherine’s status as a legitimate stigmatic and to promote the then-current Dominican reform. Jen has written an interesting piece summarising her recent stay in Venice which can be found here.

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ACIS Save Venice Fellowships 2020

ACIS is calling for applications for up to two ACIS Save Venice Fellowships for 2020. The Fellowships are based in Venice, open to postgraduate and early career researchers, cover the three months between mid-September and mid-December 2020, and are worth $8000 each. Fellows will be EITHER a current Masters or PhD candidate in any area of Italian Studies at an Australasian university OR a postdoctoral researcher in any area of Italian Studies within 3 years of successful completion of their Masters or PhD at an Australasian university. The Fellowship is designed for those researchers and scholars whose research and/or career can benefit in any way from a period in Venice and the use of the city’s substantial resources. ACIS expects that people working in the fields of History, Art History, Fine Art, Cultural and Media Studies, and Restoration and Museum Studies will be particularly interested, but applications will be welcome from any field across the humanities and social sciences. Further information about the Fellowships and the application process can be found here and on the page under Fellowships. The closing date for applications is 9 March, 2020.

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Transitioning to university: new online video resources for language students

A project investigating online video resources for transitioning to university in languages education is now available free through the ANU’s School of Literatures, Languages, and Linguistics website. Current research indicates that students’ expectations are a major factor predicting academic performance in first-year university students (McKenzie & Schweitzer 2010). First-year students can sometimes struggle to keep up with the workload in learning a new language and to adapt themselves to the pace of learning required at university level. This problem is often to do with how best to go about studying languages; in other words the best method to study a language and succeed well. So a team of ANU researchers created a series of ten videos (each of 2-3 mins), covering the key aspects of language learning and delivery, all easily accessed and shared (e.g. to university learning management systems) via YouTube, and almost all non-ANU specific. The videos feature footage from actual language classes, interviews with current students and staff, and general study advice. For more information, please contact Josh Brown.

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Mediating Italy in Global Culture

The Department of the Arts, University of Bologna, in collaboration with Brown University, Dickinson College, The University of Michigan, The Ohio State University and Wesleyan University, invites you to join us for the third edition of  the Mediating Italy in Global Culture Summer School, June 22-27, 2020 at the DAMSLab, Piazzetta P.P. Pasolini 5/b Bologna. The School is open to graduate and post-graduate students with a background in Media Studies, Film Studies, Italian Studies, Cultural Production, American Studies, and similar degrees and will investigate the forms of production, distribution, circulation, and reception contributing to the “mediation” of Italian audiovisual culture in the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and other national contexts. On- and off-campus activities are both included. The cost of tuition and supplementary activities is €200 (accommodation, transportation and meals are not included). The application deadline is March 29 2020; applications are made online here.    Continue reading

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A future for Italy’s ‘ghost towns’?

Kristen Sloan   University of Wollongong

Roghudi Vecchio, Calabria (Saverio Barbaro, 2009)

More than 5000 historical hamlets and rural and medieval villages in Italy have been in serious population decline (Serico Gruppo Cresme, 2008). Many were abandoned in the last century and today have become ‘ghost towns’. While long neglected as topics for cultural policy or academic study, a recent wave of political and popular interest in Italy’s borghi, coupled with an increasing number of initiatives to resuscitate them, suggest that their presumed destinies of decline, ruin and oblivion may have to be revised. Concern for Italy’s emptying towns is not an isolated phenomenon but part of a recent explosion of interest and action in abandoned sites throughout the world (De Silvey & Edensor, 2012). Today conversations about abandoned places are characterised by new ways of describing, perceiving and interacting with them: no longer as rubbish but as resources.    Continue reading

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Remembering Primo Levi

As part of the initiative Primo Levi: Writer, Witness, Scientist which commemorates the centenary of Levi’s birth, Paul Forgasz will give a talk on Italia Ebraica: The Jews of Italy. A historical perspective, on Tuesday 19 November 2019, 6.30-8pm, at 199 Faraday Street, Carlton VIC 3053 (free event, RSVP essential here). The Italian Jewish narrative does not fit neatly into the conventional divisions of the Jewish Diaspora: Mizrahi (Middle Eastern/North African), Sephardi (Spanish) and Ashkenazi (Franco-German). Indeed, there are maps of the Jewish world in which Italy is depicted as a distinctive and unusually complex sub-culture. The Jewish community in Rome is one of the oldest surviving diasporas, its antiquity reflected in a distinctive Roman liturgical rite still in use today. Italy has also been home to an Ashkenazi community since the late Middle Ages, and then, in the wake of the expulsion from Spain in 1492, a Sephardi community. Rabbis and scholars thus lived within the boundaries of traditional Jewish communities whilst simultaneously contributing to the cultural and intellectual traditions of the wider society of which they were a part. Paul Forgasz will provide a survey of the very rich and variegated history of the Jews of Italy: from their earliest presence in Roman times, to the highs and lows of the medieval Jewish experience, through to Italian Jewry’’s encounter with modern world.    Continue reading

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