I am Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Italian in Romance Studies and core faculty with the Center for Jewish Studies at Duke University. I work on Italian literature and culture from a comparative perspective. My research topics include modernism, the novel, animal studies, world literature, Jewish studies, migration, and issues of identity. My book Kafka’s Italian Progeny (University of Toronto Press, 2020, awarded the American Association of Italian Studies Book Prize for Literary Studies) explores Franz Kafka’s sometimes surprising connections with key writers — from Massimo Bontempelli, Lalla Romano, and Italo Calvino to Antonio Tabucchi, Paola Capriolo, and Elena Ferrante — who have shaped Italy’s literary landscape. I am currently working on a monograph on Jewishness in modern Italian literature (see my related article in Italian Culture) and co-directing the Global Jewish Modernism Lab.
I have reviewed Marina Jarre’s Distant Fathers translated by Ann Goldstein, Antonio Tabucchi’s Stories with Pictures translated by Elizabeth Harris, Hans von Trotha’s Ludwig’s Arm translated by Elisabeth Lauffer, and Elsa Morante’s Arturo’s Island translated by Ann Goldstein for Reading in Translation and Igiaba Scego’s Beyond Babylon translated by Aaron Robertson and Franz Kafka’s Konundrum translated by Peter Wortsman for Public Books. I had the pleasure of speaking with the Ann Goldstein and Aarthi Vadde about Italian literature and translation on the podcast Novel Dialogue.
I often teach “Modern European Short Fiction” (see my students’ great blogs on materials in our rare books library), “America from Abroad: Literature and Cinema” (listen to my students’ great podcasts), a first year seminar, “Adaptation: Cinema and Literature,” and a graduate course “Svevo and World Literature.” I had an Innovating with Colleagues Grant from Language, Arts and Media Program (2019-2020), a Learning Innovation Faculty Fellowship (Summer-Fall 2019), and was a Teaching for Equity Fellow (2018-19). Every year I am impressed by the curious, smart, and passionate students in my courses and am grateful that Duke offers so many resources for faculty to enhance, reconsider, and experiment with teaching. As part of our Global Jewish Modernism Lab Kata Gellen and I will be teaching “Mapping Jewish Modernism” in Spring 2023. This course is open to undergraduate and graduate students. Please see “Courses” to see descriptions of courses taught at Duke, Venice International University, the University of California at Berkeley (where I was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities for two years), and Columbia University in the past.
I hold a Ph.D. in Italian and Comparative Literature and Society from Columbia. My dissertation, “Trieste and the Migrations of Modernism: Fin-de-siècle Austria in the Italian Literary Landscape,” used Trieste to focus an examination of the relationships between some key Austro-Hungarian authors (Kafka, Musil, Rilke, Roth) and Italian modernists (Svevo, Slataper, Quarantotti Gambini). I completed my dissertation research in Trieste, dwelling – without incident – in via Belpoggio, the infamous street of Svevo’s “L’assassinio di via Belpoggio.” Several parts of my dissertation were revised and published as articles or book chapters, including one on Rainer Maria Rilke and Scipio Slataper in The Comparatist, one on Svevo and Musil in the edited volume Gender and Modernity in Central Europe, one on Joseph Roth and Quarantotti Gambini in Comparative Literature Studies.
As an undergraduate at Princeton University, I majored in Romance Languages and Literatures and wrote a thesis on Primo Levi and Natalia Ginzburg. After graduating, I studied Austrian history and German at the Universität Wien as part of a Fulbright Fellowship in Vienna, leaving me nostalgic for the Stehplätze at the Staatsoper and interested in the Austrian fin de siècle, whose widely studied modernism has been instrumental for my work on Italian modernism.
Whereas most studies of modern Italian literature delimit a canon based on chronological or geographical criteria, Kafka’s Italian Progeny uses Ludwig Wittgenstein’s idea of family resemblance to map a distinct but unexamined Kafkan tradition in Italy. From the use of animal imagery and oppressive spaces to representations of crises, alienation, and repressive bourgeois relations, the disparate themes of Kafka’s fiction are reflected throughout the peninsula’s literature. I provide one view on the book in my chapter in Kafka for the Twenty-First Century, which was reissued in paperback. My book chapters cover a variety of topics and are based upon diverse approaches, exploring thematic, generic, historical, and cultural connections between Kafka’s works and those of Italian authors. Several of my earlier publications relate to Kafka’s Italian Progeny, including ones on Elsa Morante, Primo Levi, and Italo Svevo. While these chapters and articles discuss Italian authors individually and their productive commonalities with Kafka, each chapter of my book puts multiple Italian authors in conversation with one another. My book examines Italo Calvino, Cesare Pavese, Lalla Romano, Giorgio Manganelli, Antonio Tabucchi, Massimo Bontempelli, Elsa Morante, Dino Buzzati, Paola Capriolo, Italo Svevo, and Tommaso Landolfi. Here is Mark Bernheim’s review of my book for Forum Italicum.
This is how you say my name. I answer to alternative pronunciations, but find when people do not know they just avoid it altogether.