Center for Italian Studies

The Center for Italian Studies was created in 1978 by the University of Pennsylvania President Martin Meyerson and by the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Vartan Gregorian, with the endorsement of the Republic of Italy. It was the first such center in the United States.

The Center supports the University of Pennsylvania's faculty and students in developing their research and pedagogy concerning Italian history, language, culture, economy, and society; it also promotes the circulation in Philadelphia, the United States and abroad, of the research on Italian topics developed at Penn; finally, the Center facilitates the communications between the University of Pennsylvania and: the Italian community in Philadelphia, the institutions representing the Italian Republic in the United States, and the centers and cultural organizations that promote Italian-related issues in the US.



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Now showing 1 - 10 of 133
  • Publication
    Scemare, or Approaching “Virgillessness”
    (2022-12-13) Wiles, Jonny
    Any examination of the phenomenon of absence in the Commedia must account for a crucial linguistic issue: though they are amply attested in the Commedia’s sources, the words assenza, assente, and their derivatives are themselves conspicuously absent from the poem’s lexicon. Absence experiences are expressed in the poem partly through imagery and circumlocution, but also through a constellation of individual words which invoke experiences of absence without naming absence as such. One particularly suggestive word operating within this language of omission is the verb scemare. With a focus on Purgatorio 30, in this paper, I discuss the importance of scemare to Dante’s lexicon of exclusion, and the ways in which it shapes our experience and understanding of absence in the Commedia more broadly.
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    Interpreting Dante’s 'Commedia': Competing Approaches
    (2021-12-12) Corbett, George
    This article first addresses the emphasis on the truth of the literal sense of Dante’s Commedia in twentieth-century scholarship, whether the poem is conceived as a mystical vision (Bruno Nardi, 1884-1968), figural fulfillment (Erich Auerbach, 1892-1957), or allegory of the theologians (Charles S. Singleton, 1909-1985; and Robert Hollander, 1933-2021). Secondly, it analyses the interpretative approach of the French Dominican scholars Pierre Mandonnet (1858-1936) and Joachim Berthier (1848-1924), who draw on symbolic theology (and the four senses of Scripture) but, unlike Singleton and Hollander, insist that the literal sense of the poem is a “beautiful lie.” Thirdly, it shows how literalist approaches underpin key twentieth-century discussions of Dante’s theology, contribute to broader secularizing trends in Dante Studies, and represent a rupture with the seven-hundred-year-long commentary tradition on the poem as a whole.
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    Introduction: Projects
    (2022-12-13) Coggeshall, Elizabeth; Kumar, Akash
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    Empty Flags and Fallen 'Angeli': Dante and the Imagery of the Capitol Riot
    (2021-12-12) Olson, Kristina
    After the mob attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, which disrupted the certification of the 2020 presidential election, several photographs of the insurrectionists have begun to emerge. Jacob Chansley, known as Jake Angeli, was one of the many insurrectionists photographed on the Senate dais after the chamber had been evacuated of all elected officials, who were escorted into safety. Angeli wore a horned, double raccoon-tail helmet, painted his face the colors of the US flag, and carried a spear with the American flag. While the appearance of the Confederate flag born into its halls by the same mob is un-doubtedly more disturbing, Angeli’s eccentric ensemble evokes the language of violence and treason from Dante’s Inferno. From the horns of the Mino-taur, guardian of the violent in the Seventh Circle, to the tripartite-facial colors of Lucifer, the emperor of the despondent kingdom whose three mouths eter-nally masticate traitors to country, homeland and God, Angeli’s insurrectionist garb should be considered for its unintended symbolism with Dante’s poetic imagination. As I explain in this contribute, though insurrectionists and neofas-cists have often coopted medieval iconography, and Dante’s own name has recently become appropriated by Italian nationalist rhetoric in disturbing ways, a closer look at his Inferno, evoked by these and other symbols of this mob, show these domestic terrorists to be participants in sins of political violence and treason, as many other fallen “angeli.”
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    Foul Tales, Public Knowledge: Bringing Dante's 'Divine Comedy' to Wikipedia
    (2022-12-13) Ingallinella, Laura
    This contribution discusses WikiDante, a set of best practices for the implementation of content related to the Divine Comedy on Wikipedia, chiefly designed for (yet not limited to) the undergraduate classroom. Developed as a digital project involving undergraduate students in partnership with Wiki Education, WikiDante consisted of two iterations, the first of which created or revised entries on the women from Dante’s recent history mentioned in the poem. For two decades, scholars have treated Wikipedia as the proverbial elephant in the room—shunned, ignored, or shamefully used only in lack of more anointed tools. This essay explores the benefits of using Wikipedia for digital scholarly activism in Dante Studies, outlining the challenges and educational outcomes of organizing editing campaigns on Wikipedia focusing on Dante and his work. After discussing the project’s components, the essay indicates future venues for the applicability of this framework by scholars and educators interested in digital public scholarship and knowledge equity.
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    The Poetics of 'Gentilezza' in the 'Fiore' and the Emergence of Dante's Political Vision Before the Exile
    (2022-12-13) Clines, Robert J
    This essay investigates the political and literary culture of late Duecento Florence as well as the entangled rather than mutually exclusive nature of Dante’s pre- and post-exile political and literary visions. I read Dante’s political vision against the Fiore, a Tuscan form of the medieval French epic Roman de la Rose that appeared in Italy before 1290. Pervasive in Dante’s politics, poetics, and the cultural milieux in which the Fiore appeared are the rejection of French/Provençal cultural dominance, Franco-Angevin political influence in Italy, and mendicants as morally bankrupt threats to civil society. In turn, this essay argues that the Fiore and Dante’s participation in the literary culture that produced it were the consequence of the geopolitical landscape of the late Duecento, which paved the way for his exile and subsequent rancor that pervaded his later works.