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Manuela Marchesini

Manuela Marchesini
Associate Professor
Areas of Speciality
  • Italian
  • (979) 845-2124
  • ACAD 230B
Professional Links


My current research centers on questions of method, interpretation, and aesthetic value. My field of expertise is the literature and culture of modern and contemporary Italy, which I study in its intersections with broader historical and theoretical traditions.

It has been argued that the hatred of literature has always pervaded the Western tradition, beginning with Plato’s exile of the poets from his republic and stretching to the present day in the form of the rebukes lobbed against it by the hard and social sciences, and even, at times, by contemporary literature. My work argues that art, and particularly storytelling, narrative, and criticism, are forms of historical presence capable of displacing ontology and recovering the provisional, yet indispensable, truth or myth sustaining human action. My approach is thus characterized by historically grounded interdisciplinary research and a sustained engagement with the Western theoretical tradition.

My first book (Scrittori in funzione d’altro, Mucchi, Modena, Italy, 2005) studies the category of literary style as a “mode of knowledge” in the works of three influential 20th century Italian intellectuals: Gianfranco Contini (a literary critic), Roberto Longhi (an art historian) and Carlo Emilio Gadda (a novelist).

A second book (La galleria interiore dell’Ingegnere, Bollati Boringhieri, Turin, Italy, 2014) offers a reassessment of Gadda’s allegedly unsolved, incomplete mystery novel Quer Pasticciaccio by exploring the role played in the novel by the figurative arts and by Dante’s Comedy.

I am currently completing a book called Merchants of Enchantment: The Existence of Italy, in which I examine how a set of modern and contemporary Italian works are marked by complementary drives to theorize what is historical and to historicize what is theoretical, constantly matching myth-making with myth-smashing in order to evade the binarism that informs not just the hatred of literature but hatred tout court.

I explore similar issues in a collection co-edited with Stefano Franchi (Filosofia dei mondi globali, Bollati Boringhieri, 2017), as well as in essays that have appeared in MLN, ItalicaIntersezioniStrumenti criticiLettere italiane, and Nuovi argomenti, among other journals and edited collections.

I have a longstanding interest in modernity and postmodernity, genre (especially the novel), art history, queer studies, posthumanism, postcriticism, film theory, textual criticism, comparative literature, feminist theory, and cultural studies.

Current Research Projects

The Existence of Italy/Merchants of Enchantments, monograph in progress.

Courses Taught

  • INTS 481 – Senior Seminar in International Studies: Transnational Humanism and the Politics of Literature
  • MODL/ENGL 222 Nature, Culture, and the Environment in the Literature of the Anthropocene
  • ITAL 453  –Italian Literature: Facts and Fiction, the Return of the Real
  • ITAL/FILM 455– Italian Cinema: from Neorealism to the Present
  • ITAL/WST 452 – Women and Gender in Italian Literature: the Who and the What
  • ITAL/EURO 451 – Italian Culture: Sprezzatura vs Virtù; Negotiating the Modern and the Classical in Italian Art and Culture (Santa  Chiara);
  • ITAL 454 – Italian Drama
  • Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced Italian