Literature of Migration: The Italian case

Dr. Federica Mazzara is Post-Doctoral Mellon Fellow at University College London (UCL). The topic of the Mellon Programme for the next two years is “Translations/Transpositions -migration and non-mother-tongue writing”.

Here’s a brief outline of Federica’s project which is focused on the Italian case of the literature of migration. Federica welcomes comments and feedback on this work, as well as ideas about similar projects and relevant themes. 
You can find more information about the UCL Mellon Programme and Federica’s work at:

‘Italophone Literature of Migration and Auto-translation: A New Avant-garde in a World Literature Perspective’
Dr. Federica Mazzara

Literature of Migration in Italy is a general label that denotes a group of very diverse writers, who only share the choice of writing in Italian – a foreign language for them – as the idiom for literary expression. They have all adopted the Italian language and relate to it in multiple ways according to their personal experiences of migration and their attitudes toward the culture of the “host” country.
By focusing on the case of Italophone immigrant writing emerging over the past two decades, this project will investigate the challenge on three levels. Firstly, through an exploration of writers whose trans-cultural itineraries and personal backgrounds are very diverse, the contours of a contemporary Italophone literary field will be drawn with respect to the “internal translation” each writer engages in his or her writings, their discursive and linguistic explorations of bilingualism, and the literary forms they employ to negotiate the migration experience (notably, but not exclusively, autobiography). Secondly, the project will determine the specific dynamics within the Italian cultural, linguistic and literary landscape which condition but is also itself modified by the emergence of these immigrant voices. Thirdly, the project engages the reception and recent theorization of Italophone migrant literature in the light of available critical discourses predominantly based on British and French examples and cultural histories. The project discusses to what extent a local case, such as the one investigated here, can be described and theorized fully by reference to “global” academic discourses deriving from Anglo-American cultural studies and post-colonial theory, or whether local conditions call for local considerations.
In an attempt to bridge the gap between critical insistence on local diversity and the more globalised cultural studies discourse, this project aims at finding a middle way in order to investigate both the circulation of migrant literature in Italy and its reception and theorisation. Here the recent interest within comparative literature studies in “World Literature” (in effect Goethe’s old concept of Weltliterature), offers a perspective that has already proven productive for translation studies. One basic assumption of a World Literature perspective is that literary “works gain in translation” (Damrosch, 2003). This perspective is found to be especially productive for this project, since it offers a framework with which to approach literature and its various modes of circulation and transaction across borders (Casanova, 1999), its trans-national genres (Moretti, 2000) and its in-betweenness.


1 Comment

Filed under literature, research

One response to “Literature of Migration: The Italian case

  1. Veronica

    Why are very few italian literature departments paying attention to the works written by immigrants?
    Why have literary critics studied only marginally this cultural phenomenon?

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