After obtaining a degree in Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Bologna (1990) with a dissertation on Henry James, I did a Doctorate in English Studies at the University of Florence (1991-95) under the supervision of Guido Fink. My interest in Henry James resulted in translations (The Tragic Muse, A Little Tour in France, short stories and essays by James), articles, book chapters and a monograph. In those years, I also developed an interest in crime fiction, which became the subject of my doctoral thesis, “The legibility of evil: a study on the genealogy of detective and anarchist novels”. In the meantime I attended a course entitled “Literature in Translation”, which was taught by novelist Tim Parks, and I also took MA courses at the University of Kent at Canterbury. A Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Bologna (1996-98) was followed by two years in which I taught on a temporary basis in the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, until I obtained a permanent position as Lecturer in English literature in 2000.
After serving for one year as member of the Research Assessment Board (VRA) of the university, in October 2018 I became Coordinator of the Degree Programme in Foreign Languages and Literature of the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures. My collaborations with other universities include the seminars on academic writing I taught at the Scuola Superiore of the University of Catania in 2015 and 2017.
My research stems from the attempt to achieve a bi-focal perspective on literary phenomena, in order to grasp both textual singularities and general lines of development. I combine a historicist attitude (based on a socio-cultural and ideological contextualisation of literary phenomena, as well as on an attention for causal connections) with an interest for theorisation intended as a bottom-up phenomenon, which entails direct observation of literary and cultural phenomena, their modelisation and verification through texts. This critical attitude translates into an attempt to combine specialist expertise with a wide-ranging gaze, embracing different chronological and generic formations in a contrapuntal fashion.
My primary research interest is the study of crime fiction, which I have pursued thanks to my contacts with scholars from the University of Cardiff (Stephen Knight, who subsequently moved to Melbourne, Martin Kayman, Heather Worthington and Claire Gorrara) and more recently with Australian scholars Alistair Rolls and Jesper Gulddal. This field of study resulted in a number of essays that appeared in international journals and edited collections, in the participation in international conferences, also as keynote lecturer, and in a monograph entitled A Counter-History of Crime Fiction (2007), which obtained a Nomination for the Edgar Awards in the category Best Critical/Biographical. My reflections on literature as a system of literary genres crystallised in an article that triggered a lively critical debate: “The dangers of distant reading: reassessing Moretti’s approach to literary genres” (Genre, 2014).
In recent years, I have developed a growing interest for contemporary novels, discussed within a transcultural and a planetary perspective. I believe that in order to understand our present we need to reassess the theoretical and critical categories of both Postmodernism and Postcolonialism. Although the relevance of these methodological perspectives is undisputed, and although evolving new conceptual tools is far from easy, as shown by the debate revolving around the category of World Literature(s), innovative hermeneutical approaches are needed to comprehend the mobility of our present. This perceived need translated for me into an interest for the concept of transculture (Epstein), which enables us to explore the complementary issues of borders (in terms of nation, culture, language, identity, gender and genre) and their crossing (in relation to phenomena of migrations, expatriation, creative contamination, translation, transnational and global circulation). Studying transcultural encounters and dynamics is a critical and political stance that lays the emphasis on the individual rather than on the community (with its projection/claims of homogeneity), ultimately helping to liberate the individual from the constraints of prescribed social and cultural affiliations, while acknowledging the complexity of every individual positioning within the contemporary socio-cultural scenario. I discussed some facets of these phenomena in works such as Literature of the Global Age: A Critical Study of Transcultural Narratives (2011). This interest for global complexities and conflicts also resulted in the organisation – together with Rita Monticelli and Giuliana Benvenuti – of the international conference Global F(r)ictions (University of Bologna, 2018).
This attention for contemporary literature and culture combined with a corresponding focus on another time of dramatic transition in terms of ideological and media landscapes – the early modern period. Between 2009 and 2015 I sat in the steering committee of IASEMS, the Italian Association of Shakespearean and Early Modern Studies. In those six years, I concurred to the organisation of several cultural events, including the annual conferences of the Association (each hosted at a different university) and the annual IASEMS Postgraduate Conferences, hosted by the British Institute in Florence. My research into the early modern period ranges from crime literature (“The Shades of a Shadow: Crime as the Dark Projection of Authority in Early Modern England”, Critical Survey, 2016) to the formation of the literary canon, with particular reference to the Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey (“Monumental Chaucer: Print Culture, Conflict, and Canonical Resilience”, The Chaucer Review, 2018). It also includes travel literature, notably the role of the Grand Tour in the formation of European identity, and a discussion of travelling as an anthropological observatory on otherness, and as an opportunity for transcultural hybridisation (“The Rise of the Grand Tour: Higher Education, Transcultural Desire and the Fear of Cultural Hybridisation”, Linguae &, 2015).
Delving into the contemporary and into the early modern did not prevent me from pursuing my originary interest for the development of prose fiction in the period between the fin de siècle and the early twentieth century, which saw the transition between aestheticism, impressionism, post-impressionism and modernism. The focus of my research into this further age of transition, however, has shifted in time from Henry James and Walter Pater to Katherine Mansfield, also in the attempt to investigate the exchanges between literature, arts and media. This research field materialised in activities such as the editing of two collections of Mansfield’s short stories, participation in international conferences (also as a keynote speaker) and a number of international publications, including a book entitled Cinema and the Imagination in Katherine Mansfield’s Writing (Palgrave, 2014). I have been an active member of the Katherine Mansfield Society for years, and in 2016 I was one of the judges for the Katherine Mansfield Society Essay Prize.
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