Italian Studies Research Seminar Builds Scholarly Connections

Author: Carrie Gates

The Italian Research Seminar, a series directed by Notre Dame Professor of Dante and Italian Studies Zygmunt Barański, continues to grow in its third academic year, bringing scholars from around the world to the University.

Jointly sponsored by the Devers Program in Dante Studies and Italian Studies at Notre Dame, with support from the Office of Research, the series aims to provide a regular forum for faculty, postdoctoral scholars, graduate students, and colleagues from other universities to present and discuss their current research.

“Receiving a broad range of feedback is obviously very important when you’re developing your ideas,” says Barański, “and whether we’re established scholars or younger scholars, we’ve all found this a very useful initiative.”

The seminar is vigorously interdisciplinary, embracing all areas of Italian history, language, and culture, as well as perceptions of Italy, its achievements and its peoples in other national and international cultures. Scholars in the fields of architecture, medieval studies, art history, musicology, philosophy, theology, history, and modern literary criticism have participated in the series.

“Engaging with scholars from other fields is a vital aspect of research,” says Anne Leone, a research assistant professor of Italian Studies in Notre Dame’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. “It forces one to challenge one’s own assumptions and motivates one continually to be seeking new ideas, new ways of thinking, and new approaches to one’s research material.”

The current academic year’s series features presentations by leading Italianists specializing in diverse periods from medieval to modern, and an array of fields from history to film studies. Presenters in the spring semester include Professor Simon Gilson of the University of Warwick in England, Professor Lucia Re of UCLA, and Professor David Forgacs of New York University.

While in the past graduate students at the doctoral level have presented, the 2013-14 academic year is the first time that Notre Dame master’s degree students have the opportunity to present research. This spring, those students include James Cotton, Martino Rabaioli, and Xiaoyi Zhang.

“It is really wonderful that we have a mix of youthful enthusiasm and more experienced colleagues,” says Barański. “The quality in general has been very high, and often the work of younger scholars has been particularly impressive.”

“Everyone who has participated has stressed the value of these types of meetings. The discussions afterward frequently last much longer than the lectures themselves.”

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