March was a very busy month for the Italian Studies program! We were lucky to host three wonderful guest speakers. On March 13-14 Professor Millicent Marcus of Yale University came to meet with students in Italian and Religious Studies, and to host a public screening and discussion of the classic film The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Vittorio De Sica, 1970). On March 22 Professor Serenella Iovino of the University of Turin, Italy, gave an afternoon lecture on “Porous Landscapes of Land and Sea: A Volcanic Anti-Pastoral.” Finally, on March 28 documentary filmmaker Fred Kuwornu returned to William & Mary to meet with students and screen his latest film, Blaxpoitalian: 100 Years of Blackness in Italian Cinema (2016). Inspiring lively discussions about hitory, religion, environment, identity, representation and more, all three renowned speakers helped make this spring semester an unforgettable one for Italian Studies at W&M!
This past semester, spring 2017, my students and I took part in a collaborative project with a group from Johns Hopkins University and two Italian filmmakers. The experimental documentary film Non Perdono (Non Pardon / I Don’t Forgive, 2016) explores current environmental, health and economic crises in the town of Taranto, Italy, long home to the ILVA steel plant. It is an important text for my own research on narrative expressions of toxicity, and I was in touch last fall with directors Roberto Marsella and Grace Zanotto about crafting English subtitles so that the film and its message might reach a broader audience. Our conversations had begun to stall by January of this year, when JHU Professor Laura Di Bianco also came in contact with Marsella and Zanotto, and began envisioning ways in which we might be able to help the filmmakers while also benefitting our students.
In particular, she understood how a faculty mentored translation & subtitling project could be a great opportunity for students to work on their linguistic, cultural and even ecological competencies, while advocating for a real-world concern. Professor Di Bianco reached out to me and we both identified students interested in participating: two undergrads from each of our universities and one JHU graduate student who could help oversee their work. The process since then has been one of ongoing dialogue between the students, with fabulous results. Professor Di Bianco and I will go over the completed text this summer, and hope that the filmmakers will be able to apply the subtitles to the film by early fall 2017. We recently had the chance to share the project with other colleagues in the field, when we participated together on a roundtable at the 2017 joint conference of the American Association for Italian Studies & Canadian Association for Italian Studies. Below are some reflections from William & Mary student translators Zoe Nelson and Sheila Williams-Morales on their experience. – Prof. Monica Seger
Zoe Nelson (class of 2020):
“Working with students at John Hopkins University to translate the dialogue of the script for the film Non Perdono opened my eyes to the importance of a collaborative translation process. I enjoyed seeing the ways that all of us interpreted sections that did not have an obvious literal translation, since both language and film are things that often do not have just one clearly correct interpretation. Specifically, it was difficult to find the balance between retaining the authenticity of the original Italian script without making its English equivalent sound unnatural or changing the tone of the scene. I also found the Italian script more challenging to understand than other things that I have read in Italian, because some of the language was colloquial or idiomatic. On the whole, it was a really exciting and rewarding experience to work on a project that has such a tangible result, and that helps make a serious problem about pollution better known to English speakers
Sheila Williams-Morales (class of 2017):
“Collaborating with the students of John Hopkins University in translating the Italian film, Non Perdono, was an amazing experience. I have always been interested in how to translate a foreign work into its English counterpart while maintaining the meaning of the original. The Non Perdono project offered a friendly environment to discuss the various translations, and the students of William and Mary and John Hopkins helped each other understand the film and its transcription. For example, we discussed the testimony of a hair stylist in order to determine the interviewee’s message, and we analyzed the various allegorical tales told throughout the documentary in order to create narratives that were comprehensible for an English speaking audience. The process was akin to solving a puzzle. The right piece made the entire translation flow and take a coherent form. Overall, the project was delightful and emphasized not only the delicate relationship between words and their various meanings but how to convey an Italian concern to a foreign audience.
On March 29th the Italian Program organized a guided tour of the wonderful exhibition Botticelli and the Search for the Divine hosted at the Muscarelle Museum. This is the most important Botticelli exhibition in the United States so far.
A group of about 25 students, currently enrolled in our language classes, was guided through the breathtaking masterpieces by two fabulous docents and natives of Italy: Mariangela Rodilosso and Gloria Bonassi Baller. Students had the opportunity to learn about Botticelli’s art and his time, and also learn a few new words in Italian! They were amazed by the exhibition and enjoyed the experience very much! Brandon Mullins, a student in Italian 102, said that it was a very informative experience: “I believe being able to see these pieces of art in person is a completely different experience that seeing them online or in a textbook.” Some of them were also very excited to see more of Botticelli during their upcoming summer study abroad program in Florence.
For those who are not traveling to Italy, it might have been an even greater opportunity. As Erin Gunderson, a senior enrolled in Italian 103, said: “Going to the Botticelli Exhibit at William and Mary felt like taking a trip to Florence or Rome but without a passport.” Erin was struck by the paintings and stated: “I don’t know if I could ever have enough time to truly appreciate Botticelli’s glowing, ethereal goddesses and Madonnas but having the exhibit so accessible meant I had time to try. It was a bit surreal to go from studying the Renaissance in my history class to admiring the frescoes that made the journey all the way from Italy to Williamsburg. I didn’t get a chance to spend a semester abroad, but I’m grateful that one beautiful piece of the world made its way to campus.”
– Prof. Sara Mattavelli
This year I had the wonderful experience of being a part of the group of student interns at the Muscarelle Museum of Art during the exhibition, Botticelli and the Search for the Divine: Florentine Painting Between the Medici and the Bonfires of the Vanities. Studying Italian and Art History while working in the museum have been endlessly useful, and the opportunity to help with an exhibition that combined these two interests was such a special part of my undergraduate experience. During the preparations leading toward the exhibition, I was lucky enough to help record transcriptions that were utilized in the exhibition book. I really enjoyed hearing about the process and research that went into the organization of the Botticelli exhibition and book as each were being worked on, as well as sharing hands-on experiences with the rest of campus through our student event.
Studying Italian, in particular, at William and Mary has been exceptionally helpful in pursuing my passions for medieval and renaissance Italian art. Before working as an intern at the Muscarelle, I also attended the summer Florence study abroad program to study art and language in Italy. Through Italian courses and study abroad, I have found a wonderful community of some of my best friends and we have continued to stay close and take courses together leading to our senior year. When the time came for the student event for Botticelli and the Search for the Divine: Florentine Painting Between the Medici and the Bonfires of the Vanities, I was able to have the same friends that saw Botticelli paintings in Florence with me come to the Muscarelle to support me and view the exhibition. That was a phenomenal experience, and is a testament to the sense of community fostered in the Italian department.
– Lowry Palmer ’17
We were lucky to have Sara Mattavelli join us this year as a Lecturer of Italian Studies. Please enjoy the following video to learn more about her and what she brings to William & Mary!
(or Building Regional Connections Through Scholarly Exchange)
On the final day of this fall semester I had the opportunity to participate in a symposium just up the road in Charlottesville, at The University of Virginia. The symposium, “Post-Humanism in the Anthropocene,” was sponsored by the Mellon Foundation and UVA’s Institute of the Humanities & Global Cultures. It was carefully organized by Enrico Cesaretti, Associate Professor of Italian
at UVA and a 2016-2017 Mellon Humanities Fellow. While my journey was short, other speakers traveled from all over North America to participate. Three successive panels took place throughout the day, according to the themes of “Questioning Boundaries,” “Energies, Ecologies, Matters,” and “Mediterranean Narratives Between Bios and Zoe.” While the majority of the speakers were Italian scholars, we were also joined by colleagues in German, Comparative Literature and English. All symposium participants were united by a shared interest in the Environmental Humanities, whether that surfaced as a focus on textual representations of landscape, petroleum cultures, or Pythagorean philosophy in contemporary film. We enjoyed fabulous conversations into the evening and made plans for future collaborative work, such as at the 2017 biennial conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. I was especially pleased to connect with colleagues from nearby institutions, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UVA, and look forward to continuing our work together in the future.
-Monica Seger, Assistant Professor of Italian Studies
Anyone who has ever been in the Italian house will tell you about the warm and welcoming environment created each year by wonderful groups of students brought together by their shared interest in the Italian language, the culture and the people. While a few residents originally decide to live in the Italian house in order to stay with a current roommate, they can’t help but make incredible friendships very quickly and end up learning a lot about Italy in the process. Some of those residents even go on to enroll in Italian courses the following semester and stay for a second year in the house!
Anyone who has been in the Italian house will probably also tell you about the amazing tutor who comes each year from the University of Florence to live with our students and organize countless cultural activities, ranging from conversation hours to movie nights to cooking classes, etc. These incredibly hardworking and dedicated language house tutors (un caro saluto a Giacomo Poli, Giulia Manganelli, Veronica Fantini and Stefano Olmastroni, with whom I had the great pleasure of working and now call my friends) make the house what it is. The past and present residents of the I-house and I could not be more appreciative of what you all brought to the house.
But there is another comment that one hears over and over again while spending time in the Italian house and that comment is: “Did they really need to paint the whole place this shade of brown??”
And that is where the beautification process of the Casa italiana began. It was collectively decided that this *interesting* shade of brown was not working for the house anymore and something had to be done. Lucky for us (and the walls), Residence Life is supportive of students leaving their artistic mark on the language houses, as long as we filed the proper paperwork and went through the necessary steps.
We started small with two individual pieces back in 2011-2:
The mural featured to the left has deep significant meaning for the artists and contains a very philosophical quote in Italian, which you can read underneath the featured design.
Did I mention all the walls are brown? The colors of this very popular “Pace” (peace) flag make a huge difference in brightening up the room and this represents just the first step in a very important process.
There is a narrow hallway in the Italian house that was very dark and void of color, until the artistic visionaries in the I-house saw that hallway and knew exactly what could go there. It was the absolute perfect spot to depict a canal scene from Venice:
(Credit to the Casa italiana residents of 2012-3)
The motto in the house became to leave no wall untouched … even if it was just to liven up a doorway with a quote from Dante’s Paradiso: L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle (Paradiso XXXIII, 145)
Once the residents got started, they couldn’t stop and the results were amazing! The scale of the murals only continued to grow and the ideas became more and more impressive with each new project.
In 2013-4, our artists dreamed of even bigger murals and set their sights on Tuscany. This gorgeous design of a Tuscan countryside with rolling hills that seems right out of a movie was drawn by a previous Italian house resident, Ryan Krysiak, and left in the famous tutor closet by Giacomo Poli for the next year’s residents. When Giulia found the drawing, she and the residents immediately agreed that Ryan’s idea was perfect for the mural in the kitchen!
Because of Giulia’s love of photography, the making of this stunning mural is documented, from the drawing to the final product:
Katie McGhee, a three time Italian House resident and a big part of many of these murals, and Garrett Tidey, a former I-house resident now studying art in Florence, sketched out Ryan’s entire drawing by hand on the wall main wall in the kitchen:
The residents might have given up eating for a few weeks, but sometimes you have to sacrifice for your art!
(Former residents: Lauren Harrison, Ellie Martin and Bree Cattelino hard at work!)
The completed mural is breathtaking and remains a focal point in the kitchen and really adds to the ambiance of the cooking classes each week.
One very special mural that was a total group effort brought together three “generations” of Italian house residents. At a massive end of the year potluck dinner organized by Giulia in May of 2014, residents of the previous years, current residents and the following year’s residents came together to create the mural appropriately named, “3 Case italiane: passato, presente, futuro”:
The making of the mural – pictured from the top left going clockwise: Stephen Prifti, Sam Haling, Catherine King, Giulia Manganelli, two-time I-house RA Charlotte Lessa, Susanne Khatib and Alessandro Roux, Haset Solomon, Julia Brechbiel, Linda Moses, Bella Kron and Blake Burns, and last but certainly not least, Philip Kang.
With those two murals we really upped the ante and now could we follow this beautiful Tuscan countryside scene and our sentimental mural bringing together many years of residents? Easy! By creating an equally beautiful field of sunflowers, recognizable to anyone who ever taken a road trip through Tuscany and found themselves surrounded on either side by endless fields of flowers. This was the idea and I think Veronica and her residents in 2014-5 did an incredible job recreating this scene
Not a brown wall in sight! Even the shelves got a facelift!
At the start of the 2015-6 academic year, there was an entire room left to tackle, a room full of brown walls that were begging to be painted over. Stefano and this year’s residents were up to the challenge and full of ideas about the next mural in the house. It would require a trip further south and the idea was to present an entirely different landscape from the rolling fields of Tuscany.
Where they landed was the Bay of Naples and what they had in mind was a very ambitious plan for a large scale mural in the lounge area. Here is the design idea and proposal:
The residents have been hard at work this semester and the mural is wonderful! I think one of the favorite activities this semester has been our recent weekly Monday night pizza and gelato dinner followed by group mural painting. Here are some pictures of the making of this mural:
Pictured hard at work from left to right: Italian house RA – Margaret James, Katie McGhee, Italian house tutor – Stefano Olmastroni, Micailya Mattson and Alexanna Mc Tammany all rocking our 2015-6 Italian house t-shirts!
Look at how happy Micailya is with the addition of her boats to the mural!
Even Stefano and I got in on the action …
This above house was our 2nd attempt and I dare say redeemed our previous efforts.
Here is Katie adding to Stefano’s and my other attempt at contributing to the mural. The disco party house was not my original design and I do not think that HGTV and House Hunters International will be contacting me anytime soon to be a part of their design team.
Pictured from the top row L: Nathan Fajfar, Stefano Olmastroni, Roberto Watkins, Bridget Thompson, Margaret James, bottom row L: Donna Kinney, Sofia Tipton, Micailya Mattson, Keabra OpongBrown, Katie McGhee, Michele Ricciardi and Alexanna Mc Tammany. Several of our wonderful artists from this year are not pictured but have contributed an incredible amount to the current mural.
The beautification process of the Casa italiana has spanned the last five years and represents the work of four tutors, countless incredibly talented residents, and one less-than-artistically-inclined Italian house advisor, who was smart enough to limit her contributions and focused instead on moral support and bringing the pizzas.
Ottimo lavoro, ragazzi!
There has never been a time in my life when I don’t remember my mother telling me stories of her junior year abroad in Montpellier, France. From describing her breakfasts to the amazing springtime trips with her friends, my mother filled my imagination with her memories and emotions from her life years before. It’s not a surprise, then, that with these stories came the assertion that, when the time came, I would have my own adventure abroad.
But I was stuck. In my own imagining of my future time abroad, I never felt a connection with a certain language or a certain culture where I was sure I could feel at home for an entire year. I took Spanish all through high school and had basically accepted that I would be going to either South America or Spain, but my heart wasn’t fully content. I didn’t know what to do.
The love I developed for Italian then fell into my lap completely by accident. During my first experience with registering for college classes in the fall of 2013, I quickly realized that my Spanish skills were not good enough to place me above the 202 level despite my four years of experience. Only taking a language for fun in the first place, I soon settled on a completely random language to start from scratch: Italian. I took it because I liked Olive Garden and because my step-dad’s family is from Italy, but I had no major attachments to the language, nor the culture. I wasn’t even taking Italian with the idea that I would one day study abroad there; at that point, I was still invested in the William & Mary/St. Andrews Dual Degree Program, where I would spend my sophomore and junior years abroad in Scotland.
Soon, though, I knew I couldn’t go through with choosing Scotland over Italy. After only a few weeks in the Italian department at William & Mary, I was completely hooked. I would study for hours and complete the writing prompts with such fervor that I surely seemed crazy. I loved going to the Italian House activities, and signed up to live there as soon as I decided to leave the Dual Degree Program. By the fall of my sophomore year, spending a year in Italy was becoming a quick-coming reality.
I chose my program in Siena for several reasons: the first is that the town is not as big as many study abroad towns in Italy, and therefore does not have quite so many English speakers as the main metropolitan cities. The second reason is the service component, where we must go out into the community for several hours a week and give back, whether that is teaching English, helping at a nursing home, aiding the town’s emergency responders, or whatever other opportunities present themselves. The third and probably biggest reason is the host family experience. I had spent my entire life hearing about my mother’s wonderful host family in France, and even had the pleasure of meeting them this past summer. In choosing between my several location options in Italy, I had to decide whether having a host family was an important enough factor for me to choose the Siena program. After a quick phone call to my mom and a prayer that I would be placed with a nice family, I sent in my application to Siena Italian Studies.
It was the best decision I ever made. After only a week of being in Siena, my host family had already started to feel like a home away from home. They fussed over me and made sure I liked the food, and included me in every activity they took part in. My host sister, Luisa, quickly became one of my best friends in the world. She is 18 and in her last year of high school, so our ages are similar enough that we can share friends and activities easily. I often tag along to birthday parties and dinners out with her friends, and they have all accepted me as part of the gang. I can’t imagine going through this year without this family.
Because the truth of the matter is, too, that doing a whole year abroad can be really hard. Even in a place as wonderful as Italy, I have had my fair share of homesickness and sadness that only comes with being away from all things familiar for a long period of
ime. William & Mary was the only school I applied to, so to choose to go away for an entire year was heartbreaking, on a certain level. And being away from my family for so many months at a time was almost impossible to think about doing. But my host family gave me opportunities to feel like a part of a family over here, too, in a way that makes missing my real family not as painful.
For me, choosing to do an entire year abroad instead of just one semester has allowed me to build relationships with the community and culture that would be impossible in a shorter amount of time. For my community service, I have been
able to work with the same group of kindergarteners since September and therefore build a deeper and more trusting relationship with them, as well as see how much they have progressed since early fall. I feel less like a temporary tourist and more like a part of the life that goes on here in Siena. I have developed preferences to certain stores and restaurants that I can continue to use throughout an entire other semester instead of rushing to try it all before time runs out. I can speak Italian better and with more confidence than ever before. I love that I can help my new Spring-semester-only friends find their way in a city that was once just as foreign to me, but now feels like a second home.
If I had to go back and do it all over again, I would choose exactly the same course for me. Siena, Italy has been a place where I’ve grown as a person more than ever before, made lifetime relationships with the people in my program and especially with my host family, and learned how to become a part of a new culture by simply being willing to try. A year abroad gave me an opportunity to go above and beyond just the typical study abroad experience, and find my niche in a place on the other side of the world. It has been exciting, unbelievable,
and more than I ever could have imagined. I never want to say good-bye.
This may surprise people who know me, but studying Italian at William & Mary has been a joyful four-year-long leap out of my comfort zone. I came to William & Mary dreading the language requirement because it would cost me twelve to sixteen credits – time that I could otherwise spend studying something I was actually interested in, I thought. I still remember deciding to quit Latin after three years of taking it in high school and how my teacher told me it was a big mistake because I would have to take another language in college. “Have to.” She made it sound like such a chore, which left me regretting my decision after it was too late to turn around and register for Latin IV. Today, I’m so thankful I decided to quit – a sentence this perfectionist never thought she would hear herself say. Within the first week or two of taking Italian it dawned on me that I might have stumbled into something that I was going to end up loving. When I met with my pre-major advisor after I took Italian 102, she made it a point to remind me to finish my language requirement, and I still remember laughing and telling her that the requirement was the last thing driving me to take Italian. The fact that my expectations were blown away so powerfully pushed me to realize, at the very beginning of my freshman year when I was still a nervous eighteen year-old navigating the world of college that seemed way too big for me, that going into something with an open mind can reveal passions that you never may have thought you would develop. If you’re like me and are worried about a class you have to take that is outside of your comfort zone, remember that you never know whether or not you may end up loving it. You may even change your major or minor because of it!
I’m continuously challenged by the Italian courses here as well as by my peers, all of whom are some of the most intelligent and passionate people I’ve ever met. I think this is the benefit of a small program at a liberal arts school: we come from the most diverse variety of majors imaginable and are united by our mutual love of Italian. The broad range of majors and backgrounds in our tiny program means people’s reasons for studying Italian vary greatly. Some students are fascinated by the rise of fascism and the political trends of the 20th century, and they find themselves well at home in Professor Ferrarese’s classes on modern Italian history and politics. Others enjoy studying the linguistic patterns of Italy, which is rich with dialects and regional languages. Also among the students who study Italian are artists, chefs, musicians, architecture scholars, film lovers, polyglots, and passionate TAs, all of whom study Italian for different reasons and contribute new perspectives to the study of the language and culture.
Looking back on my four years of studying Italian at William & Mary, I realize that the diversity of ideas and interests within the program is one of the major reasons why I love it so much. I’ll forever be grateful that I decided to live in the Italian house because being surrounded by countless different perspectives on the Italian experience has pushed me out of my comfort zone and deepened my understanding of the culture. I’ve been introduced to music, cuisine, films, and ideas that I know I would have never considered if I hadn’t surrounded myself with the amazing Italian community at William & Mary. My passion for Italian is, before anything else, a passion for the language itself: the way it sounds, the logic of the grammar, and the excitement that I still feel when I realize I can now understand something that used to sound like gibberish to me. Making friends who know so much about the other aspects of Italian history and culture can feel intimidating at first, but I now realize that’s why our Italian program is so special because we continue to challenge each other even after four years. As I look toward graduation, I can’t help but fear the possibility of losing my Italian skills rather than continuing to improve them like I want to. But as I look around right now at all the incredible people I’ve met through William & Mary’s Italian program, I’m reassured that I’ll never be done with my study of this beautiful language and fascinating culture. For me, the study of Italian is a lifelong journey that I’ve only just begun.
– Katie McGhee, c/o 2016 (Psychology, Italian Studies minor)
Women are “allowed” to like art. We are allowed to like sculpture, landscapes, oil paintings, and architecture—the type of thing a character in a Jane Austen book enjoys. But not graffiti. An art form dominated by male artists, characterized by danger and illegality, is considered outside of our domain. Growing up, I was always told that graffiti was something rowdy boys did. The most famous and commercially successful street artists are all male. Artists like Lady Pink, Swoon and Panmela Castro have carved out territory for women in the graffiti world, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Brash transformation in the art world is credited to the Warhols, the Pollocks and the Rothkos of the world—not the Kahlos, O’Keefes and Krugers—and the graffiti scene has towed that line. Unfortunately for those who want to preserve the boys club mentality of graffiti, I was granted an Honors Fellowship in the summer of 2015.
I used my fellowship to study antifascist graffiti across Italy, zeroing in on three subgenres: suppression, which involves the whitewashing of fascist graffiti to establish a negated space that threatens the fascists not to come back; transformation, which involves the reformation of classic fascist/Nazi imagery such as the swastika into hearts and diamonds; creation, wherein an artist creates their own stencil, sticker or tag from scratch with an antifascist slogan. The “Zona Antifa” graffiti tag—prominent not only in Italy but across the European continent—is the mark of a generation that rejects idealization of repressive twentieth century dictatorships and actively seeks to tear down emergent neo-fascism. Xenophobia and racism are not vague ideals, they are accelerants that have coated Europe for decades, fermenting and creeping into the very governments that swore to never again embrace the type of prejudice that built the Holocaust. The refugee crisis, the largest human migration since World War II, is a lit match. In a world where visual communication via social media is the keystone of activism and organization, graffiti is an integral part of the European political scene. In the Renaissance, knights wore symbols of allegiance on their armor and their standards. Today, we have lost the knights but we have not lost our visceral connection to symbols. In train stations, schools and bar bathrooms, there is no need for a complete manifesto when a single image and a handful of words will do: swastikas and racist slogans for the neo-fascists, the double flag and “Zona Antifa” for the antifascists.
Women are not supposed to like graffiti but at William and Mary, not only do we like it—we know more about it than you. Thanks to my fellowship, input from the incredible faculty of the Italian Studies program and the ability to pursue a Self-Designed Major, I spent this year immersing myself in the world of graffiti as I completed my honors thesis. One thing I was constantly surprised and impressed by was how much my peers and faculty members wanted to contribute to the project. Whether they were encouraging me to write papers on graffiti for their courses, recommending books and websites or simply asking me questions about my research, I felt that my thesis was a collaborative effort from start to finish. Undergraduates rarely get so much creative control over their own projects nor do they receive such constant support from professors in multiple disciplines, but at William and Mary, my experience was standard. There is a desire to help here that makes learning and exploring the minutiae of a project exciting from start to finish. People want to go on the journey with you rather than just read the line item on your resume after the fact. I am not the only person, and definitely not the only woman, on this campus who spent the year learning about graffiti culture.
I can unequivocally link my success as an Honors Thesis candidate to my studies in the Italian Studies program. Without a grasp of the Italian language, I would never have been able to conduct in-depth research and understand the history of Italian graffiti. Without the support of my thesis advisor, I would not have been able to produce an academic paper of substance. Without the courses I took on Italian history, politics and film, I would have never looked past the Italy of pasta, red wine and Vespas and seen the second, true Italy—a nation with a complex graffiti scene that reveals conflict and anger but above all hope for a brighter future. I am so thankful that when I arrived in Italy I had a grasp of the language, the culture and above all the politics that was beyond the superficial. I spent my semester abroad teaching in multiple schools, babysitting for local families and traveling off the beaten path—things which I was only able to do because of my language proficiency. I only began studying Italian as a freshman, but when I got to Italy as a junior, I was frequently complimented on my language ability by native Italians from Viterbo to Palermo. All of William and Mary’s departments and programs are excellent in their own right but I consider the Italian program to provide the most valuable catalogue of courses on our campus.
For future Honors Fellowship candidates, I have just one piece of advice. If you care about something that fascinates you, confuses you and challenges you to step outside of what you traditionally thought you found interesting, don’t ignore your interest. If you have an itch to learn more, go to the library, get online, conduct an interview—find out what you want to know. This school offers us a host of incredible resources—research funding, dedicated faculty, a diverse range of courses and a host of impressive alumni willing to help with your project. They want to help you so let them. When you want to learn, you should. Especially if you want to learn about something you’re not “allowed” to like.
As part of Majors Week 2016 the Italian Studies faculty hosted an aperitivo italiano yesterday evening in Washington Hall. It proved to be a great way to connect with current and future Italian Studies students, and to share some Italian culture. Over lemon sodas, parmigiano and various salatini (salty snacks) and affettati (cured meats), graduating seniors shared memories of studies and research trips abroad, while new arrivals learned about the program, including upcoming course offerings, the Italian Studies minor, and the chance to create their own Italian-focused major through the Charles Center. A great time was had by all. Cin cin!
We were thrilled to welcome Ghanaian-Italian filmmaker Fred Kuwornu for two great events in November, 2015. While here, Fred shared an extended rough cut of his near-complete documentary Blaxploitalian: 100 Years of Blackness in Italian Cinema, and spoke to a packed room about diversity and media in Italy and beyond. Later that same evening, he also screened and discussed his 2012 documentary, 18 IUS SOLI: The Right to be Italian, which looks at issues of citizenship and identity. It was a great day dedicated to important cultural work and we can’t wait to have Fred back when Blaxpoitalian is complete.
Bio: Director Fred “Kudjo” Kuwornu, an activist-producer-writer-director, was born and raised in Italy and is now based in Brooklyn NY. After his experience working with the production crew of Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna in Italy, Fred decided to research the unknown story of the 92nd Infantry “Buffalo Soldiers” Division, which led him to produce and direct the Award-winning documentary Inside Buffalo (2010). In 2012 he released 18 IUS SOLI, which examines multiculturalism in Italy and the question of citizenship for the one million children of immigrants born and raised in Italy who are not yet Italian citizens. He is the founder of the Association Diversity Italia, promoting the importance of racial and ethnic diversity in Italy and Europe through film and other art forms as tools for building a more inclusive society.
While living and studying in Milan, Italy as an exchange student after high school, I began to notice certain linguistic features that appeared exclusively in gay men’s speech. These included feminization of adjectives, affectionately tongue-in-cheek terms of address, and an animatedly flamboyant style. Given the work done by American scholars on the existence of and attitudes toward a gay American English sociolect (a dialect centered within a social group), my Honors thesis research will extend the issue of gay men’s speech to Italy, a country whose primary language has received little attention in this regard. In this way I will combine my linguistics major with my Italian Studies minor, and I could not be happier with how this project worked out!
More specifically I will employ qualitative interviews in the tradition of perceptual dialectology in order to discover what gay Italian men perceive to “count” as gay men’s language, as well as their attitudes to such language. Perceptual dialectology seeks to ask non-linguists directly about what they think constitutes a certain dialect (or sociolect). I will conduct these interviews in Milan, Italy, the most industrialized and progressive city in the country. Milan is important within the Italian context as a traditional destination for gay Italian men coming from the rural provinces to live in a culturally vibrant and cosmopolitan environment.
After making audio recordings of around 5-7 interviews, I will spend several months transcribing the speech and eventually translating the Italian into English for use in my final product. This part of my methodology will take the longest to complete, but I will have the 2015-2016 academic year to complete my thematic analysis of the interviews before eventually writing the thesis. You may follow along with my progress on the William & Mary Honors Fellows blog at http://honorsfellows.blogs.wm.edu/category/honors-fellows-2015/. Grazie mille e spero che continuerete a seguire le mie avventure!
Anderson “Davis” Richardson
James Monroe Scholar
The College of William and Mary ’16
Linguistics & Italian Studies
By Akela Lacy, c/0 2015
This past winter break I had the opportunity to combine my interests in journalism, human rights and Italian. As part of William and Mary’s Sharp Journalism Seminar in conjunction with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, I traveled to Turin, Italy to conduct research on immigration from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe. I wanted to understand what kinds of challenges immigrants faced, what life was like for someone who fled persecution in their home country only to find further hardship in a new, strange place.
I became interested in immigration to Europe and to Italy in particular after the summer of 2014 when I started hearing news story after news story of boats carrying migrants sinking on their journeys from Libya to Italy. I didn’t understand why people were leaving their homes, why they were going to Europe, or why they were losing their lives. With help from the Pulitzer Center, extensive guidance and support from Professor Boyle and Professor Seger, and a generous sponsorship from the Charles Center and Anne and Barry Sharp, I went to Turin in January of this year to conduct interviews and further research to understand what was going on. There were many professionals writing on the politics of the issue, on the conflicts forcing people to flee, and even providing some personal accounts by people making the journey themselves. I wanted to take this opportunity to explore for myself and to push myself to use my Italian to connect with others.
Before leaving I was in contact with lawyers, legislators, researchers, religious and cultural organizations and even students in Turin who were working to understand what was quickly becoming Italy’s “immigration problem.” I set up a few meetings to talk with them once I arrived in Turin, but my ultimate goal was to talk with someone who was living this “problem.”
By chance I met a woman named Judith Trinchero, an ex-pat Wellesley alumna whose undergraduate teaching stint in Italy turned into a lifelong stay. She was part of a group of Italian citizens who were deeply involved with Turin’s immigrant community, paying frequent visits to the houses where immigrant men and women were living, helping them with basic needs and trying to ease their transitions. Thanks to her I was able to travel to Turin’s abandoned olympic village – known locally as “ex-Moi” – where around 400 migrants found temporary find homes. I spoke with several men living there who were willing to share their experiences with me. Below is an excerpt from one of their stories:
Mohammad S. wakes up at 3 or 4 in the morning and takes the local bus about an hour away to his landscaping job. He asks that his full name not be used in order to protect his identity. He has only been in Italy for three years, and the documents allowing him to work legally will expire within the month. He has come to Mosaico, an organization run by refugees to help newcomers in Italy, for advice regarding his permit to work. He explains in a defeated voice that “Sudan was better…even with war.”
One of an imploding number of refugees arriving on Italy’s shores since 2011, Mohammad S. worries daily about his future. He fled his home country of Sudan to find work in Libya, forced by the Libyan military to come to Italy after war broke out in 2011. He slept on the streets before finding temporary shelter. “Tanto volte non dormo mai”—“Many nights I don’t sleep at all.” Why? “Too many thoughts.” Where he hopes to be in a month? “Spero di essere morto. Quando state qua non c’è futuro.”—“I hope to be dead. When you are here there is no future.”
I conducted all of my interviews in Italian, with help from Professor Boyle and Seger in developing questions and finding the right words to ask them. I would never have given thought to taking on this research without inspiration from my classes in the Italian Department, or without having spent time studying abroad during the fall of 2013 in Perugia. I look back on this experience as a reflection of my studies in both the Italian and Sociology departments at William & Mary. My professors in each department have helped me to think in new ways that connect ideas and issues that are seemingly disconnected. This may be the accomplishment I’m most proud of so far! I hope other students will take advantage of similar opportunities to connect modern languages with their work in other disciplines, and to continue using modern languages outside of the classroom.
You can find the rest of my story and others from this and past years’ Sharp Seminars here.
Sociology major, Italian Studies minor
William & Mary class of 2015