The University of Notre Dame has longstanding historical and intellectual ties with Italy. While the University is already home to an impressive number of scholars whose research and teaching focus on Italy, previously no institutional structure captured their collective expertise. Now, thanks to support from the College of Arts and Letters and two grants awarded by the Office of Research, the University will further extend its engagement with that country in the form of an interdisciplinary program in Italian studies.
The goal: to make the University the preeminent center for interdisciplinary Italian studies outside of Italy and to further support the University of Notre Dame Humanities Center in Italy, establishing a vibrant presence in Rome much like the University already has in London and Dublin.
The initiative is well underway.
Led by steering committee co-chairs Joseph A. Buttigieg, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English, and Theodore J. Cachey Jr., Albert J. and Helen M. Ravarino Family Director of Dante and Italian Studies, the program brings together for the first time scholars from a broad spectrum of disciplines, including architecture, art, classics, literature, and history.
“The Italian studies program extends and enriches the interdisciplinary character of the humanities in general and of Italian studies in particular,” Cachey says. “Our goal is to enable and promote collaboration among faculty and graduate students from diverse units of the University and to connect them with their counterparts in universities and research institutions across the world.”
Nearly 30 faculty members from more than 10 departments are already engaged in various activities and collaborative research projects with their counterparts in leading universities, academies, and research centers in Italy, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. The Italian studies program connects these endeavors to further support existing and new working relationships. It will bring to campus resources and researchers in collaboration with other departments, institutes, and programs.
Buttigieg says, “The Italian studies program exemplifies the opportunities that arise when we collaborate—if we coordinate our efforts, we’ll achieve a lot more than if we work in isolation.”
Many branches of the human sciences have their roots in Italy: Italian studies will foster a deeper appreciation of the interrelationships that bind the various fields of inquiry together. Funding from the Office of Research comes from two sources: Strategic Research Investment (SRI) and the Library Acquisitions Grant programs.
SRI funds will support an annual three-week interdisciplinary summer seminar in Rome and will sponsor related faculty and graduate student research projects and exchanges between Notre Dame and the University of Rome Sapienza, the Ambrosiana Library in Milan, the Catholic University of Milan (Sacro Cuore), the Italian National Dictionary Project, the Universities of Cambridge and Leeds, and the University of California, Berkeley, among others.
This grant will also fund an administrative and teaching faculty position.
The Library Acquisitions grant, “All Roads Lead to Rome,” funds an expansion of Hesburgh Library’s holdings on diverse aspects of Roman architecture, art and art history, classics, and social and political history. Acquisitions related to cartography, monuments, and travel to Rome from antiquity to the end of the early modern period will significantly enhance opportunities for interdisciplinary research at the University.
Assistant Provost Susan Ohmer, Ph.D., is pleased with the impact the Library Acquisitions Grant Program will have. “By providing funding for a wide range of interdisciplinary materials, this grant enables students and faculty to immerse themselves in their discipline, to continue to develop their expertise, to establish strong international relationships, and to further contribute to their area of study.”
The program also receives significant support from the College of Arts and Letters.
Why Italy? Why Now?
The University’s emphasis on the importance of Italian studies dates back to the 1920s when Father John Zahm expressed his hope that the University would become the center for Dante studies in the English-speaking world. Rome’s privileged position as a cultural center within the humanities makes it the ideal starting point from which to organize an interdisciplinary acquisitions program that will boost research and teaching in key areas of scholarship to a higher level.
The project depends on its interdisciplinary collaboration between the College of Arts and Letters, the School of Architecture, and the Law School and will yield recruitment and placement of the best students in a range of disciplines.