Mapping Italian Narratives

Professor Arianna Fognani brings her scholarship into the classroom by involving students in digital mapping and research.

In Spring 2017, Professor Fognani developed a new interdisciplinary course, titled “Italians Abroad,” which introduced students to literary texts by and about Italians who lived and worked outside of the peninsula.  Their motivations for leaving Italy were diverse: colonialism, economically- or politically-driven emigration, a thirst for adventure… Equally diverse were their locations, which ranged from Argentina to Egypt, from Albania to the Horn of Africa and the United States.

Students engaged with the texts through interdisciplinary work that brought together, as Professor Fognani explains, “spatial theories, digital humanities, Italian cultural studies, human geography, Italian colonialism, and migration studies.”  Working in groups, students developed two final digital humanities projects that transformed literary texts into digital maps.  In Professor Fognani’s words, students “identified some landmarks and geographical locations (parks, streets, neighborhoods, squares, stores) that were pivotal to the development of the novel they selected.  Then, collaborating in small groups they used [a digital platform] to combine images, quotations from the texts, and English translations to create digital literary maps.”

The result of their work can be explored here: https://sites.google.com/a/fandm.edu/italiano371/

As the students observed, “the spatial analyses pushed them to pay more attention to the places described. It helped them to consider the location, buildings, and the environment as fundamental narrative and cultural elements affecting human interaction and influencing the relations between Italians and locals.”

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