Notre Dame Launches Italian Studies Program

Author: John Slott

The University of Notre Dame is already home to an impressive number of scholars whose research and teaching focus on Italy and the culture and history of a part of the world central to the birth and development of Western civilization.

Now, thanks to support from the College of Arts and Letters and Office of Research, the University will further extend its engagement in “all things Italian” with an international and interdisciplinary program in Italian studies.

“We are already a crossroads for scholars engaged in studying diverse aspects of Italian history and culture,” says Joseph A. Buttigieg, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English, co-chair of Italian Studies at Notre Dame, and director of the Ph.D. in Literature program. “Our new endeavor will reinforce and greatly enrich what has already been achieved.

“Notre Dame,” he says, “is on the verge of becoming a preeminent center for Italian studies outside of Italy.”

All Roads Lead to Italy

Led by Buttigieg and co-chair Theodore J. Cachey Jr., director of the William and Katherine Devers Program in Dante Studies and chair of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, the Italian Studies at Notre Dame program will bring together for the first time nearly 30 faculty members and more than 400 students from art and architecture to classics, language, literature, and history.

“The new program extends and enriches the interdisciplinary character of the humanities in general and of Italian studies in particular,” says Cachey, Albert J. and Helen M. Ravarino Family Director of Dante and Italian Studies. “Our goal is to enable and promote collaboration among faculty and graduate students from diverse units of the University and to connect them with their counterparts in universities and research institutions across the world.”

Italian Studies at Notre Dame will also help foster a vibrant intellectual life at the Notre Dame Humanities Center in Italy, which will be housed in a property the University recently purchased in the heart of Rome, just blocks from the Coliseum.

“Our strong ties with the University of Rome, Sapienza, and relationships with scholars in Italy will enable us to enhance and enrich our study-abroad programs in Rome and Bologna,” Buttigieg says. “Once the newly-acquired building in Rome is refurbished and ready to use, we will be able to launch initiatives that will make the Rome center a vibrant cultural and academic location—much like Notre Dame’s London center is today—for interaction among scholars and students from all across Europe and beyond.”

Immediate plans also include an annual, three-week Rome Summer Seminar as well as related faculty and student research projects and exchanges between Notre Dame and the University of Rome (Sapienza), the Ambrosiana Library in Milan, the Catholic University of Milan, the Italian National Dictionary Project, and the Universities of Cambridge and Leeds, among others. The inaugural seminar, “Glocal Italy,” is slated for June 13 through July 1 and will focus, in part, on the tensions among cosmopolitanism, nationalism, and regionalism.

An Ongoing Academic Tradition

The seeds for an Italian studies program date back to the 1920s and Father John Zahm’s aspiration that Notre Dame would become the center for Dante studies in the English-speaking world. Direct results of that commitment are the Hesburgh Libraries’ John A. Zahm, C.S.C. Dante Collection and the very active Devers Program in Dante Studies.

Now, to begin building the interdisciplinary Italian Studies at Notre Dame program, the University has recently appointed a world-renowned scholar Zygmunt G. Baranski as the first Notre Dame Professor of Dante and Italian Studies (see related story). The Serena Professor of Italian at the University of Cambridge, Baranski is currently a distinguished visiting professor at Notre Dame and will join the faculty full time in fall 2011. Future plans for the program also include the appointment of a historian of modern Italy and funds to support other visiting professors and lecturers.

Another key goal of the program is to use its library acquisitions grant to expand further its library collections on Roman architecture, art and art history, classics, and social and political history. Acquisitions related to cartography, monuments, and travel to Rome from antiquity to the end of the early modern period will also significantly enhance opportunities for interdisciplinary research at the University.

According to Cachey, Notre Dame’s status as a Catholic research institution, its long commitment to the liberal arts, and this new program make the University uniquely positioned to become an international center for Italian studies.

“Through our commitment to Italian studies as an interdisciplinary enterprise,” he says, “we seek to contribute to the advancement of the humanities as a whole, since Italian studies is so central to the humanities.”

Based on a story by Renee Hochstetler, Notre Dame Office of Research.

Learn More

Italian Studies at Notre Dame

Rome Seminar

Italian Studies Grants Announced

Zygmunt Baranski

William and Katherine Devers Program in Dante Studies

Ph.D. in Literature