Paper abstracts and bios

I. Food and Nourishment in Italian Literature 1. Middle Ages.

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold: Betrayal in Giovanni Boccaccio’s Novella of the Eaten Heart (Decameron IV, 9)

Ernesto Virgulti (Brock University)

This proposal represents a different take on the conference theme and the concept of nourishment. My focus is the Decameron’s novella of the “cuore mangiato” (Day IV, story 9), essentially a tale of adultery, but complicated by the fact that the wronged husband, Guiglielmo Rossiglione, is betrayed by his most intimate friend, Guiglielmo Guardastagno, whom he loves like a brother. The two Guiglielmos are both valorous knights, who share not just a powerful bond, but the same first name as well. For this reason, Rossiglione’s revenge is especially brutal and sadistic. Discovering the adultery, he ambushes and murders his friend, Guardastagno. But his thirst for vengeance also drives him to take a knife, cut open his friend’s chest and extract his heart, which has just stopped beating. The heart is then brought back to his castle, where he orders his cook to prepare a most delectable meal with it, and then serve the cold dish of revenge to his wife at dinner, who savors it quite willingly. The betrayed husband’s gruesome punishment of the lovers is complete. Or is it? What is his wife’s unexpected reaction? Rather than divide, has the husband unknowingly brought about the symbolic ‘communion’ of the two lovers? Although intended as retribution (not unlike the Ugolino-Ruggieri contappasso in Inf. XXXII), does the macabre meal end up (metaphorically) nourishing the passion of the lovers? As a narrative motif, the “Eaten Heart” appears in several tales and episodes in medieval literature (even making its way into Dante’s Vita Nuova). I shall examine briefly some of the possible sources (French, Provencal, German etc.) of Boccaccio’s story that circulated in Europe during the 12th and 14th centuries. In so doing, I shall not only underscore how the Eaten Heart motif migrates and translates from one cultural context to another, but also attempt to categorize the versions in which this transcultural narrative component appears. Finally, I intend to examine the structural components of Boccaccio’s story in relation to some medieval tragic tales belonging to the courtly love tradition, including the Decameron Day IV novellas and the Paolo and Francesca story, in which “i due cognati” betray both husband and brother.

Ernesto Virgulti is Associate Professor of Italian at Brock University, where he teaches a variety of courses in the Italian Program and in the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. His publications include: Medieval European and Italian Literature, Boccaccio’s Decameron, Literary Theory (Narratology, Semiotics), Cinema (Bernardo Bertolucci, Gianni Amelio), Literature and Art (Dante & Rodin), Popular Music, Theatre (a critical edition of Pirandello’s Cosí è (se vi pare)) and five co-edited volumes on Images and Imagery.

Galenic Strategies for Regulating the Spirits through Diet and Lifestyle in Boccaccio’s Decameron

Kelsey Cunningham (University of Toronto)

“Let thy food be thy medicine, and they medicine thy food”. In this presentation, I will discuss how Boccaccio applies Hippocrates’ famous dictum throughout the Decameron in his presentation of food as a means of ‘controlling the passions of the soul’ in order to restore health that has been compromised by emotional casues. Both within the narrations as well as the framework of the Decameron, foods are presented as a means of healing according to the humoral theory of Hippocratic/Galenic medicine in which the properties of food were thought to counteract imbalances of certain semi-abstract bodily fluids. Central to my discussion will be Boccaccio’s role for food and drink in recovery from lovesickness and heartbreak. I will also briefly discuss the philological question of Hippocrates’ reception by Boccaccio via Galen through his access to the Angevin court of Naples and its extensive medical library.

Kelsey Cunningham is in her first year of doctoral studies at UofT. Her area of research is the application of medical thought to Boccaccio’s strategy of consolational storytelling. She holds a master’s degree in Italian studies (2019), a master’s of Theological studies(to be conferred 2023) and has been active as a Herbalist and Acupuncturist since 2016.

Dante and the Food of Justice (Par. XVIII-XX)

Giulia Gaimari (University of Toronto)

“Solvetemi, spirando, il gran digiuno / che lungamente m’ha tenuto in fame, / non trovandoli in terra cibo alcuno” – Dante proclaims questioning the Eagle of the just about divine Justice and Salvation (Par. XIX, 25-27). Throughout the corpus of Dante’s writings, justice and knowledge go hand in hand. To give everyone ius suum, it is necessary to see the true nature of things. In other words, wisdom, prudence, and caution play a key role in discerning between right and wrong before making a judgment. When it comes to understanding the mystery of divine Justice, however, humility and faith enter into the picture. The proposed paper will offer a meditation on how Dante grounds his discussion about human knowledge of divine Justice in Paradiso XVIII-XX on conspicuous food imagery, whose polysemy is rooted in a cluster of medieval traditions – from bestiaries to Scriptural exegesis, up to mid thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century texts on the life of Saint Francis. Already active in the first book of the Convivio, the sapiential and eucharistic nuances of the cibo Dante is looking for (and providing to his readers) will nurture his affective, Christological vision of earthly justice. 

Giulia Gaimari was a Wolfson Postgraduate Scholar in the Humanities at University College London, where she completed her PhD in 2018. After a 2-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Bologna (2020-2022), she has now joined the Department of Italian Studies at the University of Toronto as a Postdoctoral Fellow. Her research interests focus on Dante Alighieri, on the reception of classical moral philosophy (especially Aristotle and Cicero) in Dante’s Italy; on medieval encyclopaedic and didactic culture; on civic rhetoric and ideals; on the history of emotions in the Middle Ages. Her current research project is devoted to Dante’s reception and reuses of Cicero’s Laelius de amicitia. Her first monograph Per amore di giustizia. Dante fra diritto, politica e teologia has been published in 2022 for Angelo Longo Editore. In 2019, Gaimari co-edited with Catherine Keen the volume Ethics, Politics and Justice in Dante (London: UCL Press).

II. Cultivating Food and Nourishment in the Italian-Canadian Community

Italian-Canadian Food Practices for People with Eating Difficulties

Joseph Pivato and Emma Pivato (Athabasca University)

In our family we have tried to maintain some of our Italian food practices and the tradition of slow food. For over 40 years we have prepared food for our daughter, Alexis who is severely disabled and lives at home with us. In order to have her enjoy some traditional Italian dishes and to make then suitable for someone who cannot feed herself or chew it is necessary to prepare food from scratch and to adapt dishes to her needs. Alexis is blind but has very good hearing and enjoys Italian music, such as Andrea Bocelli. Does she know that he too is blind? Likewise she has developed a sophisticated taste for quality Italian food. For us and for her food is very much linked to a sense of self-worth and self-identity.
The speaker for this presentation is Emma Pivato who is in the process of writing a narrative cookbook based on our experience of preparing food.

Emma Pivato, Ph.D. Educational Psychology, University of Alberta. Before she retired in 2014 she had a number of careers: Clinical Psychologist at Alberta Hospital, School Psychologist in Toronto and in Edmonton, Psychologist at Catholic Social Services and Academic Instructor in the graduate program at Athabasca University. She has undertaken various advocacy projects to help people with developmental disabilities over the years. She has published 9 mystery novels and a memoir, And Along Came Alexis (2021).

Joseph Pivato, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Athabasca University. His major research area is Comparative Literature with a focuses on ethnic minority writers such as George Elliott Clarke. He has published several books on Italian-Canadian writers such Mary di Michele, F.G. Paci, Pier Giorgio Di Cicco and recently, Comparative Literature for the New Century (2018).

Gardens of Survival: Nourishing Body and Soul in the Italian Canadian Diaspora

Jan Marta (University of Toronto)

Domestic gardening practices among Italian immigrants to North America, of both the first and second mass waves of migration, and of their descendants, served multiple functions to sustain them through difficult financial times, isolation from the mainstream, and nostalgia for their homelands. Whether urban, or later, suburban, confined to a few pots on the staircase, a balcony, a small backyard, or the larger plots of suburbia, gardens provided familiar fruits, vegetables, and herbs either unavailable or too expensive to buy in their new country. Both women and men transposed their knowledge and experience gained with domestic gardening and farm labour in Italy to new climates and spaces, a significant step in transitioning to life in the new world, creating what scholar Gilberto Mazzoli calls “informal hybrid spaces”. The act of gardening provided a connection not only with homeland activities, but with the salutary effects of creating and being with nature, no matter how small, in what were otherwise often discouraging settings. The therapeutic effects of gardening on body, mind, and soul are elaborated by British psychiatrist Sue Stuart-Smith in her well-argued and well-documented book The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature. This paper relies on primary and secondary research to examine the effects of domestic gardening practices on Italian immigrants’ survival, body and soul, their creation of hybrid identities and communities, and their adaptation to their new country.

Jan Marta holds a French Doctorate in Comparative Literature (English, French, and Spanish) and is an academic psychiatrist. She has published in peer-reviewed literary, medical, psychiatric, and bioethics journals—and more recently on Italian Studies. Her ongoing research interests are in 20th century literatures, medical humanities, and Italian North American and North African Studies. Currently she is pursuing an MA in Italian Studies at the University of Toronto.

A Photographic Archive of Italian Canadian Subsistence Gardens in Toronto between 1970s- 1990s

Rosaria Moretti-Lawrie (York University)

Recently, subsistence gardening has become quite popular in many urban and suburban homes. Unlike the many commodities of gardening supplies, exotic seeds and plants that flood today’s markets, such a luxury was unheard of half a century ago. This paper will examine photos and interviews of Italian Canadian gardens and gardeners from the 1970s to 1990s in urban and suburban Toronto. For Many Italian Canadian immigrants who moved to Toronto in the postwar era, gardening was a way to connect to their new home via the memories of the soils they had left behind. Dried seeds were brought to Toronto from Italy wrapped within cloth rags and tucked in luggage. Through seed saving and sharing, the urban and suburban gardens of postwar Italian immigrants bloomed with the presence of grape vines, Italian tomatoes (such as San Marzano), zucchini, fig trees and olive trees, radicchio, and other bitter salad greens. Vegetable gardening was an inexpensive way to grow fresh produce that was preserved and enjoyed throughout many harsh Canadian winters despite the required intensive labor. Italian Canadian gardeners found innovative and inexpensive ways to source materials for constructing pergolas, greenhouses and holding up tomato plants and other climbing edible plants. Finally, as many Italian Canadian gardeners retired and no longer needed to garden for subsistence, it became a hobby that in turn led to increased mental and physical health. whilst fostering a nostalgic connection to the people and places they had left behind.

Rosaria Moretti-Lawrie is a PhD candidate in History at York University. Her interests include, immigrant subsistence gardening and preserving, domestic winemaking and Italian foodways.

III. Food and Nourishment in Italian Literature 2. 20th Century.

Sintesi marinettiane. Cibo, digestione e antropofagia tra presente, passato e futuro

Thea Santangelo (Freie Universät Berlin)

Il cibo, il mangiare e il divorare, la metabolizzazione ed infine l’espulsione dell’assimilato sono nuclei tematici e metaforici importanti per la produzione letteraria del leader del Futurismo italiano, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Sin dagli esordi letterari in lingua francese fino agli ultimi manifesti prodotti in quanto funzionario del regime fascista, Marinetti ha continuamente sfruttato il nutrimento per promuovere ed attualizzare le proprie idee futuriste. Partendo da Re Baldoria (1905), una ‘pièce’teatrale oscillante tra un gargantuismo rabelaisiano e un avanguardismo di Ubu Roi,fino ai provocanti contributi sulla cucina futurista negli anni trenta, che inneggiavano all’abolizione della pastasciutta, il presente contributo si propone di analizzare come la tematica del cibo sia funzionale al Futurismo marinettiano. Da un canto, l’atto divorativo è consono al progetto apparentemente demolitore del futurismo che vuole radere al suolo qualsiasi traccia di passato o di tradizionalismo incontrata sul proprio percorso slanciato in avanti. D’altro canto però, analizzando in dettaglio le strategie letterarie di Marinetti, emerge un quadro diverso. Non raramente le metafore della nutrizione, della metabolizzazione e della digestione sono sfruttate per invece negoziare e rapportarsi condeterminati elementi del passato e della tradizione. Attraverso l’analisi di questo filone tematico emergerà una visione più complessa e sfaccettata della produzione futurista di Marinetti, che sposta l’accento sul meccanismo compositivo della sintesi, così da renderlo il tratto distintivo e più genuinamente innovativo del futurismo marinettiano.

Thea Santangelo is doctoral researcher and assistant at the institute for Romance Philology in the Free University of Berlin. She teaches French and Italian literature and coordinates the binational BA ‘Italian Studies’. She is also an associate member of the PhD Program ‘Entangled Temporalities of the Global South’ at the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen. Her doctoral project focuses on temporal primitivism in F.T. Marinetti’s oeuvre and the relationship between futuristic progress and original past. Other research interests are Female Futurism as well as Postcolonial Francophone and Italophone Literature.

Frutti perduti. Il senso del sensibile in Pirandello

Alessio Aletta (University of Toronto)

Per quanto Luigi Pirandello sia spesso considerato autore intellettualistico e cervellotico, la sfera della corporeità entra continuamente nei suoi scritti, con cenni espliciti e significativi alle funzioni fisiologiche come il nutrimento e finanche la digestione. Partendo da questa considerazione, questo intervento si concentra sulla trattazione da parte di Pirandello del frutto, e specialmente dell’agrume: elemento centrale fin dal titolo nella famosa novella (poi atto unico) “Lumìe di Sicilia”, ma che assume una sua importanza anche in altri luoghi pirandelliani, forse meno scontati. In questi passi, l’ambito del ‘sensibile’ (che mette in gioco non solo il gusto, ma anche la vista, il tatto, e specialmente l’olfatto) si fa portatore di ‘senso’ traslato, assegnando al frutto valenze simboliche, emotive, identitarie.

Alessio Aletta è Ph.D. Candidate in Italian Studies alla University of Toronto, dove lavora a un progetto di mappatura digitale dell’opera di Luigi Pirandello. I suoi interessi di ricerca includono la letteratura modernista, la cartografia letteraria e il fumetto italiano. È tra i co-fondatori del Goggio Working Group “TICS – Toronto Italian Comics Studies”. I suoi articoli sono apparsi su riviste scientifiche tra cui Pirandello Studies, Nuova Corrente, Between, H-Ermes.

Don Fabrizio’s ‘mani in pasta’: Symbology of the Hands-Food Binomial in Lampedusa’s and Visconti’s Il Gattopardo

Giampaolo Molisina (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

In Il Gattopardo (1958), Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa portrays the manifestation of psychological tensions and chaos that has characterized the existential condition of all human beings since the dawn of time. In a sort of desperate defense, the protagonist Don Fabrizio tries in vain to control, organize, and manage the Apollonian-Dionysian antithesis of which he himself is a victim. In this essay I analyze the antinomy that arises from this conflict, proposing a reading in which the struggle between a vitality imbued with eroticism and a slow and inexorable degeneration towards death is represented by two intertwined themes along the course of the whole narration: the symbolic value of the protagonist’s hands (zampacce), and the significance of the numerous digressions on food and conviviality. Through the textual analysis of the novel, supported by its homonymous film adaptation by Luchino Visconti (1963), I will demonstrate how the hands-food binomial is articulated on two distinct semiotic paths: on the one hand, its positive symbolic charge expresses the protagonist’s vigor and vital energy; on the other hand, its negative value symbolizes the suffered crumbling of that same vital force, projecting the protagonist towards the dreariness and inexorability of death. Therefore, the physicality, corporeality, materiality, and symbology of the hands-food binomial become a significant semantic device capable of guiding the reader/spectator through the tension and superimposition of the two forces that animate the entire work: Eros and Death.

Giampaolo Molisina is a Ph.D. Candidate in Italian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (B.A. in Italian Language and Culture from Università di Pisa and M.A. in Didactics of Italian Literature from Università per Stranieri di Siena). He taught comparative literature and cinema courses at the Universidad del Pacífico in Lima, Peru, and worked as Didactic Coordinator of the Italian language courses at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura of Lima. His research spans post-war Italian cinema and literature, with an emphasis on poetry in cinematic expression. His interests include comparative literature, visual and performance studies, avant-garde/neo-avant-garde history, aesthetics, and experimental poetics.

IV. Cultural and Historical Perspectives on Italian Food and Nourishment

The Wheat of the Duchess: 1556 Siena’s Famine and Eleonora de Toledo

Elena Brizio (Georgetown University – Villa Le Balze)

In 1555, after a bloody war and a long siege that severely damaged both the city and its territory, Siena was conquered through starvation by the Imperial and Florentine troops. Continued famine was among the consequences of enforced annexation of Siena to the Duchy of Florence that followed. Siena found itself without food, grain in particular, to feed the surviving population and to appease the soldiers stationed there to control the city. Eleonora of Toledo, wife of Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, and now also Duchess of Siena, offered to provide wheat to the city, but the results were not those expected either by Siena nor by the Duchess. This paper will analyze what happened between the two sides, and why the Duchess in the end was unhappy with the results of her sale to Siena. It will describe and examine the difficult solutions that the struggling and hungry city had to adopt in order to repay expensive the wheat Eleonora ‘benignly’ gave to her new subjects. This paper offers new perspectives on the crisis that have come to light through newly discovered and as yet unpublished archival documents.

Elena Brizio was Visiting Fellow, among others, at The Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies, and the Center for Reformation and Renaissance Studies both at the University of Toronto, and she is a Fulbright Scholar. Her current research focuses on the cultural, economic, and social power of Sienese women in the Renaissance, on which she has published extensively. She is co-editor of “Idealizing Women in the Italian Renaissance”. Toronto: Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2022.

Tarallo: cibo-simbolo del popolo partenopeo

Frances Clemente (University of Oxford)

Attraversando produzioni letterarie e drammaturgiche, report di viaggiatori stranieri, pratiche devozionali, modi di dire, il tarallo rappresenta uno dei simboli dell’identità nazionale e, in particolare, meridionale italiana. Secondo la tradizione il tarallo nasce nel Regno delle due Sicilie durante il periodo di dominazione aragonese quando gli strati poveri della popolazione meridionale, non sapendo di che cibarsi, ricreano con i pochi alimenti rimasti a loro disposizione questo prodotto da forno dalla forma di anello. A partire dal 1700 il tarallo si lega sempre più all’identità popolare napoletana. Dalla commedia La folla pe lu ppane francese (1849) di Pasquale Altavilla a Il ventre di Napoli (1884) di Matilde Serao alle crude descrizioni sulla Napoli del dopoguerra di Curzio Malaparte ne La pelle (1949), il tarallo appare come metonimia alimentare di un popolo, quello napoletano, storicamente vessato dalla misera e dalla fame. All’aspetto di indigenza vanno aggiunte le componenti folkloriche e devozionali del tarallo, riscontrabili nei report di viaggiatori stranieri a Napoli che ritraggono i cosiddetti tarallari (venditori ambulanti di tarallo, ormai scomparsi) e nelle manifestazioni legati ai culti dei Santi Biagio e Antonio Abate. Altrettanto importante il ruolo che il tarallo riveste all’interno delle tradizioni di ospitalità e spensieratezza tipiche del popolo napoletano, che emerge in proverbi dialettali quali “fernesce tutto a tarallucce e vino”. Il presento contributo si propone di ricostruire una storia culturale del tarallo come simbolo dell’identità popolare partenopea, riflettendo sugli aspetti storici, folclorici, devozionali e tradizionali di quest’alimento unico.

Frances Clemente is a DPhil in Modern Languages at the University of Oxford, investigating the notion of ecstasy in Italian culture and literature between 1861 and 1914, and funded by the AHRC OOCDTP, the Clarendon Fund, and the Baillie-Gifford Scholarship. She holds a double degree in Humanities and Italian Studies at the University of Pisa and a MSt in Modern Languages at the University of Oxford. She was visiting student at the Sorbonne University and at Warwick University. She has published articles in journals like Quaderni d’italianistica, Intersezioni, Women Language Literature, Cuadernos de filologia italiana. Her research interests include Nineteenth and Twentieth century Italian Culture and Literature, Leopardi studies, Queer studies, National and local cultural heritage, Neapolitan culture.

Nievo rusticale: il cibo tra questione alimentare e identità nazionale

Elisa Chiocchetti (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano)

Negli anni Quaranta e Cinquanta dell’Ottocento, in vista dell’unificazione nazionale, diversi studi analizzarono le condizioni di vita delle plebi rurali, sollevando, fra l’altro, la questione alimentare. In questo ambito, un posto d’onore spetta al giovane Stefano Jacini, per aver rivelato, con La proprietà fondiaria e le popolazioni agricole in Lombardia (1853), le pessime condizioni di vita di gran parte dei contadini del Lombardo-Veneto. La sua inchiesta si colloca in un più ampio coinvolgimento del mondo delle campagne, che trascina anche la letteratura, nella sua declinazione rusticale avviata da Cesare Correnti. Anche Ippolito Nievo, prima di intraprendere la stesura delle Confessioni di un italiano, si accosta a questo filone narrativo, con prove quali Novelliere campagnuolo e Il conte pecoraio. In queste sue produzioni, in particolare, il cibo diventa il mezzo con cui l’autore comunica il suo programma socio-politico, già espresso nel Frammento sulla rivoluzione nazionale, di coinvolgimento delle masse rurali nel processo unitario. Col presente intervento mi propongo di indagare le modalità con cui Nievo ha riflettuto sulla questione unitaria attraverso la rilevazione di una questione sociale e alimentare insieme: per l’autore il coinvolgimento delle masse rurali nella rivoluzione nazionale passa anche attraverso il miglioramento della loro cucina, il livellamento tra le classi sociali e la fine delle disuguaglianze alimentari. Il cibo diventa però anche il tramite per suggerire l’identità contadinesca in opposizione all’ambiente urbano, in coerenza con la poetica rusticale e con l’avanzare della modernità.

Elisa Chiocchetti is a Ph.D. student at the Catholic University of Milan. She studies the relationship between literature and food during the period between 1830 and 1890. The goal of her research is to demonstrate, through the selection of canonical authors such as Nievo, Percoto, Verga, Capuana, Serao, and Mastriani, how the food issue is represented in literary texts, with a focus on the differences between the country and city environments.

V. Food and Nourishment across Borders

Food as a Passport. The Gastronomic Borders of “Italianity” in Italian American Communities (1930-1940)

Federico Sessolo (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa)

In the 1930s, a significant number of Italian writers traveled to the United States reporting on the socio-cultural state of a country towards which the fascist regime had an ambivalent relationship. An interesting subgenre of travel literature rapidly took form around a series of handy stereotypes, such as the devilish vastness of metropolis, the American “spiritual poverty”, the out-of-scale landscapes, the originality of cinema, etc. One of the most debated topics was the life and identity of Italian immigrants in the United States. When Italian writers dared do access the peculiar environment of “Little Italies”, they found themselves perplexed and often unprepared to deal with such divergent an idea of “Italianity”. The Italian American communities, as Mario Soldati stated in “America primo amore” (1935), had lost their identity, for they kept floating between a vanished Italy–of which they often retained an idolized image–and the puzzling United States, a country they usually did not care to comprehend. In their analysis, Italian writers used food as an anthropological device to understand the sociological position of Italian Americans in respect of their loved/hated motherland. As a tangible way to measure “Italianity”, food helped the observers to draw a clearer line of demarcation between national culture and its outgrowths abroad. This contribution intends to offer a collection of “food analysis” provided by Mario Soldati (America primo amore, 1935), G. A. Borgese (Atlante americano, 1936), and Emilio Cecchi (America amara, 1939).

In 2018 Federico Sessolo graduated from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice with a dissertation on the American myth in Italian literature. In 2019, he won a “borsa di perfezionamento” (PhD scholarship) at Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. In the spring term of 2022, he was visiting graduate student at Yale University. He is now writing his doctoral thesis on Giuseppe Antonio Borgese and Thomas Mann. In the forthcoming months, he is publishing two articles on the American exile of G. A. Borgese.

What People Do with Media and Food”: Black Italians and the Italian Digital Foodscape in Tommy Kuti’s Videos for Chef in Camicia

Daniele Laudadio (University of Toronto)

This presentation examines the video recipes by singer, writer, artist, and content creator Tommy Kuti for the “Fuori di…sede” series featured in the YouTube channel Chef in camicia. In this series, Kuti, who is Nigerian and Italian, presents dishes belonging to the Nigerian and West African diaspora spanning from Jollof Rice to Akara, from Pepper Soup to Fried Yam. I adopt a theoretical framework based on Isabelle de Solier’s conceptualization of material culture that considers not only food per se but also the media focusing on it as concurring constitutive elements of the material culture of food. Exploring the relationship between people and things, such an approach illuminates how we create a sense of identity through consumption and production of food as well as the knowledge that this material culture generates (Food and the Self 2-3). In this sense, I will analyze how, by addressing a wide audience through a popular outlet, Kuti highlights the homely quality of his recipes to reflect politically upon his own belonging to transnational contexts, among which postcolonial Italy, and his experience as a Black Italian. I argue that his video recipes also expand Italy’s digital foodscape as they bring to the fore compelling issues in contemporary Italy such as racism, forms of anti-racist resistance, citizenship, and belonging. Simultaneously, Kuti’s videos can also be seen as an attempt to dismantle monolithically constructed and conceived Italian foodways as they position racialized, diasporic and transnational culinary cultures on the figurative national table. 

Daniele Laudadio is a Doctoral Candidate and Course Instructor in the Department of Italian Studies in the University of Toronto. His dissertation, titled A Seat at the Table: Food and National Belonging in Contemporary Postcolonial Italy explores how racialized Italian cultural agents represent and use food in literary texts and digital media to explore articulations of belonging, inclusion, and exclusion in contemporary Italy. In addition to food studies and postcolonial studies, Daniele’s research interests include Italian identity in transnational and diasporic contexts, language teaching and learning, and popular culture.

Parla come mangi: Italian Food as a Cultural Icon across Language and Society in the Italian-Canadian Community

Letizia Tesi (University of Toronto)

Italian food has travelled across boundaries over a century, either literally in the suitcases of migrants, or symbolically as cultural icon eventually enjoyed globally. In my paper, I will investigate how Italian food has shaped identity, language, and social traditions within Italian community abroad. As Simone Cinotti points out, “The first convincing idea of an Italian cuisine, in which all Italians at home and abroad could recognize, nonexistant in Italy by the time mass migration started in the late nineteenth century, emerged in the diaspora, from creative experience in migrant kitchens.” Retracing the cultural and anthropological roots which made Italian food so fashionable world-wide, my paper will analyze the historical reasons which made it a quintessential aspect of Italian immigration and culture. I will also explore the role that food has played in unifying Italians abroad, as social coagulant, from an anthropologic point of view. An emphasy will be put on the Northamerican stereotypes related to Italian food, from spaghetti meatballs to Alfredo sauce.

Letizia Tesi holds a PhD in Italian Studies from University of Toronto with a dissertation on Gabriele d’Annunzio and Modernism. Before moving to Canada, she graduated in Italian Literature at Università degli studi of Florence and she has been working as a journalist for more than fifteen years. Her main academic research interests are Nineteenth and Twentieth century literature with a special focus on the fin de siècle crisis and Modernism.

VI. Talking Food and Nourishment: Linguistic Perspectives

Lingua, vino, cultura, identità: parlare, scrivere, immaginare il vino italiano nel mondo globale

Simone Casini (University of Toronto Mississauga)

Il vino non è solo un prodotto dell’agricoltura e della viticultura, non è solo una bevanda alcolica. Il vino è anche e soprattutto un prodotto culturale, luogo di incontro di lingue e linguaggi, forme culturali e sistemi di attese. L’ipotesi che muove le ricerche vede il vino italiano e la lingua ad esso legata portatori di valori non misurabili solo in termini economici, di profitto e export, ma analizzabili in termini culturali ed identitari, valori cioè capaci di evocare tradizioni, storie, miti con l’intento di costruire nell’acquirente una aspettativa culturale e identitaria, prima che un appagamento sensoriale di gusto. Sul piano del metodo la ricerca è condotta attraverso la raccolta e l’analisi dei linguaggi verbali e non verbali contenuti nelle etichette e nelle controetichette delle bottiglie di vino che costituiscono un nuovo genere testuale: il genere testuale enogrammatico. La scrittura enogrammatica deve rispondere a obblighi dettati dai limiti di spazio di etichetta e controetichetta e dalle indicazioni legislative italiane e internazionali in tema di etichettatura; tuttavia, a fronte di vincoli, l’enogramma si costruisce attraverso l’uso di contenuti e elementi linguistici sistematici (usi tecnici propri, collaterali e surdeterminati, esotismi) che sono testimonianza di regole macrostrutturali di testualità. Il contributo presenta specifici casi di studio e analisi linguistico-semiotica degli enogrammi con particolare attenzione alle forme linguistiche e ai contenuti sistematici e strutturali che consentono all’enogramma di sviluppare funzioni comunicative specifiche superando la pura dimensione soggettiva dell’esperienza sensoriale. Attenzione è data alla dimensione terminologica degli enogrammi, considerata come un nucleo dove le forze della creatività linguistica e testuale sono controbilanciate dalle spinte alla regolarizzazione.

Simone Casini is Associate Professor of Italian Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga. He authored many scholarly activities including several books such as Language Creativity: A Semiotic Perspective. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books (2020), Lingue e linguaggi d’Italia in Canada. Riflessioni di linguistica educative su Quannu nun era matrimoniu ‘ppi procura di Lina Riccobene. Toronto-Ottawa-New York: Legas (2021) with Salvatore Bancheri and Che cosa è la linguistica educativa. Roma: Carocci (2016) with Massimo Vedovelli. Simone Casini published over 45 publications in the most important international journals including Forum Italicum, Italian Canadiana, Italica, Le forme e la storia. Rivista di filologia moderna, Mosaic, Semiotica, Studi canadesi, and Studi italiani di linguistica teorica e applicata. Professor Casini’s areas of research include educational linguistics, Italian linguistics, semiotics, language policies, language teaching and learning, Italian-Canadian studies, and second-language acquisition. It should be noted that the present study encompasses all seven of these domains of expertise. He was a part of numerous international research groups and won funding for two projects In 2019 and 2021 financed by the Jackman Humanities Institute. His latest publication is What Is the Language of Power? Theoretical Reflection on Italian, Italiese and Other Languages published by Legas in 2022.

Food and Identity in Italian Textbooks Used in Bilingual Schools in Germany and Turkey

Pierangela Diadori and Anna Borghi (Università per Stranieri di Siena)

Textbooks are ‘cultural artefacts’ and can be observed from the point of view of their ability to nurture cultural reflection and identity issues. This paper will focus on the theme of food and how it is presented, through texts and images, in Italian textbooks used in bilingual schools in Germany and Turkey. This study adresses two research questions: (a) Is the approach used in the teaching materials able to lead the learners to grasp critical aspects, evaluate old and new values? (b) Is there a cross-cultural and identity comparison based on the theme of food? Data were gathered from 10 school textbooks, but also from other teaching materials and teachers interviews, in 4 different schools: 2 european schools in Berlin, 1 bilingual school in Munich, 1 bilingual school in Istanbul. These materials were analysed through categories that broaden the concept of culture, going beyond the traditional ethno-national categories and leading to the ob-servation of masked values and underlying assumptions. A preliminary investigation of the data collected reveals differences in the way this topic is pre-sented in the various contexts where Italian is part of bilingual education for children aged be-tween 6 and 12 in Germany and Turkey.

Pierangela Diadori is Full Professor of Italian Linguistics at the Università per Stranieri di Siena – Ateneo Internazionale where she teaches “Theory and Technique of Translation” and “Methodology of Teaching Italian as a First and Second Language”. Since 2005 She is Director of the DITALS Research Centre of the Università per Stranieri di Siena, offering Certifications and Training to teachers of Italian as a Foreign Language.

Anna Borghi is a PhD student in Historical Linguistics, Educational Linguistics, Italian Stud-ies, cycle XXXVII, curriculum “Linguistics and Didactics of the Italian Language to Foreign-ers” at the Università per Stranieri di Siena — Ateneo Internazionale. Her field of research includes bilingualism and plurilingualism in schools, particularly with regard to intersections with identity, social change and environmental issues. For her PhD she won a PON R&I scholarship from the Italian Ministry of University and Research (MUR).

Spaghetti and Meatballs: A Language of the White Assimilation of Italian-Americans 

Daria Bozzato and Lillian Belzer (Bryn Mawr College)

Spaghetti and meatballs is a dish that reflects Italian-Americans’ newfound prosperity and their integration into the white American society after the late 19th and early 20th-century migration. As they began to incorporate themselves more into American ideals, Italian-Americans shifted their views on what they ate, and how they ate, despite “certain features of cuisine are sometimes retained even when the original language of the culture has been forgotten” (Fischler, “Food, Self and Identity” 280). Combining one of the most important components of the American diet – meat – with pasta, spaghetti and meatballs represents a new language that tells the story of the assimilation of Italian migrants into the “white” and “civilized” American culture. The dish of spaghetti and meatballs proves the Italian immigrants’ near fluency in their new racial identity. By using the definition of language as given by Franz Fanon, and breaking it down into its constituent parts – the grammar, morphology, semantics, and racial contest of this dish as a whole – this paper analyzes spaghetti and meatballs as a form of a new language that helped Italian migrants to be accepted and seen as “white.”

Daria Bozzato is Visiting Assistant Professor of Italian at Bryn Mawr College, where she coordinates the Italian language program and teaches all levels of Italian language classes and interdisciplinary courses on Italian cinema, the culture of food, and the intersection of science and the humanities. Trained in Portuguese Studies at the La Sapienza University of Rome and in Italian Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Bozzato has written about language pedagogy and the influence of theosophy, spiritualism, and the occult on Futurist oeuvre as a return to a primitive sensibility. She is currently working on the interplay of photography, film, and science in the representation of mentally ill people.

Lillian Belzer is an undergraduate student at Bryn Mawr College, where she studies Italian, Spanish, and Anthropology.