An Italian Studies Scholarly Blog
Preparation for the conference Trans-National Italy started in June 2010, when on behalf of the organizing committee, I submitted a formal application to the Executive Committee of the Society for Italian Studies (SIS) for Reading and Manchester to organize the 2012 Interim conference. The new leadership of the Society felt that the discipline had to engage in a dialogue with other fields in order to sustain vitality and dynamism. Transnationalism is part of the genetic makeup of Italian Studies at Reading, and a feature of the research carried out by the four organizers of the conference (I am carrying out research on twentieth-century transnational intellectual networks, while Paola Nasti works on the medieval reception of the Song of Songs, Federico Faloppa has carried out research on migration and language, and Francesca Billiani, a former PhD from Reading now Senior Lecturer at Manchester, has worked on the reception of foreign literature in Fascist Italy).
We thought we could deliver a high-profile academic conference and worked hard to make it unique by making space for cultural events play a role in the conference. While all four organisers worked on the scientific aspect of the conference (by selecting papers and creating coherent panel sessions, as well as by keeping in regular contact with the four keynote speakers and with more than 70 delegates coming from six countries), there was a degree of specialisation especially in the last months. I kept contacts with the Society and took care of the budget, and worked together with Paola who managed the logistics of the conference.Federico instead concentrated on the events which contributed to making this conference a truly unique cultural event: Gian Maria Testa’s concert and Aldo Bandinelli’s art exhibition.
We are really pleased with the results: we believe that the conference managed to achieve its main aim, to enable a stronger collaboration between scholars working in different disciplines but united by the common ground of Italian culture and its relations to other cultures: amongst the participants there were several historians, linguists, sociologists, anthropologists, and literary scholars working on translation, comparative literature and on cross-cultural relations. I am happy to say that there were some truly outstanding early career and doctoral researchers amongst the delegates. The four key-note speakers offered different views on the way an international perspective can help define Italian identity (Donald Sassoon), how popular and elite cultures contributed to the unification (Vittorio Coletti); the material history of cultural transmission of Dante’s work in Britain (Nick Havely) and the challenges faced by intellectuals when dealing with an increasingly globalised and complex world (Gisèle Sapiro). We are very grateful to these eminent scholars for accepting the invitation and for contributing with such verve and intellectual rigour to the proceedings. The enthusiasm of the participants and the feedback we have received has been such that we are thinking of extending the Trans-National Italy experience, and turn it into a network of scholars. We are currently investigating online resources that would enable fruitful communication and exchange between the specialists who gathered in Reading in July. Despite the inclement weather, the heat was on, and we are planning to keep it going!