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
    Dante as Orpheus: Georgics 4 and Inferno 5
    (2021-12-12) West, Kevin R.
    Critics have long struggled to explain the apparent contradiction between Inferno 5.31, where the violent winds of the second circle of hell are said never to rest, and Inferno 5.96, where the wind is calm while Dante speaks with Francesca da Rimini. I argue that the winds calm specifically because they also calm when Orpheus visits the underworld in search of Eurydice in Georgics 4. With this briefest of allusions Dante fashions himself as another Orpheus, a poet whose art can soothe hell itself, into which he has dared (as a character) to descend.
  • Publication
    The Global Popularity of Dante's 'Divina Commedia': Translations, Libraries, Wikipedia
    (2022-12-13) Blakesley, Jacob
    Studies of the translation and reception history of Dante’s Divina Commedia have rarely included the use of either distant reading (aka large-scale literary analysis) or Digital Humanities, much less both. However, using both these methods allows innovative research questions to be pursued and answered with regard to Dante’s fortuna, as I have shown in four previous articles regarding Dante and other writers. This contribution draws on three new datasets that I constructed myself in order to study canons of world literature, using Dante’s Divine Comedy as a case study: a comprehensive catalogue of all the worldwide complete translations of the Commedia (or single canticles such as Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso), published from the 16th century until 2021; readership data pertaining to all the Wikipedia entries dedicated to Dante’s biographical entry and his works; and Commedia holdings, in both Italian and translation, in all national libraries with online searchable catalogues. The aim is to see where Dante’s text is translated and circulates the most, and whether his work is globally popular.
  • Publication
    (2018-12-10) Tyre, Jess
    Tchaikovsky completed his tone poem Francesca da Rimini in 1876, during the period he was attending the premiere of Wagner’s Ring Cycle at Bayreuth. Critics of the work drew comparisons with the Tetralogy and faulted what seemed to be Tchaikovsky’s derivative inspiration. Indeed, the composer him-self acknowledged Wagner’s influence. In this paper, I set aside influence to consider intertextual dialogues between Tchaikovsky’s work and others by Liszt, Zandonai, Rachmaninov, and not Wagner’s Ring, but Tristan und Isolde. Drawing upon theories by Klein and Peirce, I examine parallelisms of topic, melodic contour, tonal motion, and timbral signifiers to establish a “conversation” between Francesca’s tale and King Marke’s speech at the conclusion of Act 2 of Tristan. The results reveal an interactive field of narration and symbolization that projects both stories’ themes of desire, betrayal, guilt, and love.
  • Publication
    (2018-12-10) Peterson, Thomas E.
    The essay draws an arc between the episodes of Casella and Cacciaguida under the sign of music. It explores the symmetry between the brief encounter with the minstrel who sings lines from Dante’s poetry, and the extended episode with Dante’s ancestor, who instructs him about his destiny. The symmetry is at once biographical, as the two scenes are among the most personal in the Commedia, theoretical, as they exemplify the relations between poetry and music expounded on in De vulgari eloquentia and Convivio, and theological, in a sense consistent with the writings of Augustine and Boethius. If Mars is a mimetic presence in the Casella scene, that heaven aligned with music is the realm where Dante will learn from Cacciaguida of the absolute relativity of earthly matters, a realization that frees him to progress toward the innocence of the final heavens.
  • Publication