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Dr Daniela La Penna – University of Reading

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Dr Daniela La Penna

Dr Daniela La Penna
Job Title:
Associate Professor
Daniela La Penna



Head of Department, Department of Languages and Cultures.

I am the current Research Division Leader for Modern Languages and Linguistics. From 2010 to 2017 I served as the Departmental Director of Postgraduate Studies and the Programme Director of the MRes in Modern Languages. Since 2010 I have acted as the lead organiser of the Post-Graduate Training Consortium in Italian Studies (comprising the Italian Departments of Reading, UCL, RHUL, Oxford and Cambridge).  Since 2016 I have been Senior Co-Editor of international peer-reviewed journal the Italianist.


Undergraduate Teaching

I convene and teach the following UG modules:

Part 1:

  • IT10MIA Making Italians: History and Culture of Modern Italian (Advanced Italian only)
  • IT10MI Making Italians: A Journey in the History and Culture of Modern Italy

Part 2:

  • IT2INT Apocalittici e Integrati: Intellectuals and Society in Twentieth-century Italy
  • ML2GF Science, Perversion, and Dream in Global Fantastic Literature

Part 3:

  • IT3VS Voice and the Self in Modern Italian Poetry
  • IT3CCO Crisis, Change, Opportunity. Italy from 1968 to the Present


Postgraduate Teaching

I contribute to the MA module FTMWD World Cinema, and to ENRPB Researching the Printed Book module for the MA in English. I am the convenor of the Italian History option for the MA in History.


Supervision of Research Students:

I have successfully supervised and co-supervised several PhD theses in Italian Studies. These include:

Dr Sara Pesatori: Vittorio Sereni traduttore di William Carlos Williams: un'edizione critica delle version edite ed inedited (completed in 2012)

Dr Tiziana Mancinelli: La camera da letto di Attilio Bertolucci: Un'edizione critica digitale (completed in 2013)

Dr Ilaria Poeri:  Il confino di polizia: una scuola di dissenso (completed in 2014)

Dr Tamara Colacicco:  Strade e volti della propaganda Fascista: La diffusione dell'Italiano in Gran Bretagna 1921-1940 (completed in 2015)

Dr Stefano Bragato:  Strategie di composizione letteraria in Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (completed in 2015)

I welcome expressions of interest for doctoral research in Twentieth-century fiction and poetry (in particular experimentalism and multilingualism in literature); Benedetto Croce; Twentieth-century literary translation; Literary journals and Italian publishing history (post-1850); and any aspect of Twentieth-century Italian intellectual history.


Areas of Interest

My main research interest is modern Italian culture, and for a long time I have explored the interplay between tradition and experimentalism with form and language(s) in twentieth-century Italian fiction and poetry. I have published several articles, edited several books and special issues for A-rated journals. In 2013, I published a book on translingual poet Amelia Rosselli.

My current research explores issues related to resilience and change in the Italian intellectual field from 1920s to the 1960s and specifically focuses on the intellectual networks that developed around Benedetto Croce’s cultural hegemony. I am preparing a monograph provisionally entitled Capital Transfers. Resilience and Change in Intellectual Networks around Benedetto Croce.

My interests also include literary translation in twentieth-century Italy, the literature of the fantastic, and Italian film.


Mapping Literary Space: Intellectuals, Journals, and Publishing Firms in Italy 1940-1960

The research focuses on the patterns of organisation, cultural activity, and aesthetic programme of literary intellectual networks in Italy in a period of Italian history (1940-1960) characterised by radical historical, political, social and cultural changes. It does so through a detailed study of a range of literary journals, differing widely in life-span, geographical location, political allegiance, and aesthetic interests. This project builds on the hypothesis that literary journals have always serviced new writing, introduced readers to new artistic movements across continents, engendered debate, disseminated ideas, and more importantly sought to challenge settled aesthetic and cultural assumptions. This project, however, does not only look at the ways in which Italian intellectuals and writers traditionally verbalised cultural discourses and aesthetic concerns in journals in order to establish or counter forms of cultural hegemony; it also assesses and describe the ways in which intellectual networks used

(a) literary journals to create sites for discussion and dissemination of their aesthetic, literary, and political concerns to national and transnational audiences,

(b) how they sought to disseminate these ideas through strategic alliances with commercial and institutional outlets, such as emerging or established publishing houses of the day, and

(c) how intellectuals and writers used literary journals to map their new public identity and define their own space for public intervention.

Existing scholarship has never fully addressed the interconnections between journals as a fruitful way of establishing their role as a collective, rather than a single, enterprise in shaping cultural, political and aesthetic expressions within Italian society. Furthermore, the strategic alliances that some journals forged with established or emerging publishing firms has been consistently neglected, despite substantial records showing evidence of the impact of journals' patronage of foreign and Italian authors on publishers' catalogues.

Through the examination of the intellectual networks sustaining the single journals over time, the project provides an analysis of the patterns of dissemination of literary practices and the role played by publishing firms in this, and also accounts for any significant shifts in political affiliations of important editors and contributors in the period under consideration. The research highlights and describes the conditions, mechanisms and circumstances that allowed some intellectuals and cultural organisers, who had either a marginal or significant role in the cultural landscape of the fascist regime, to maintain a presence or achieve prominence in the transition from the regime to the republic and beyond, through strategic alliances with journals and publishing firms. As a result, our research emphasises the adaptability of the literary journal as a form, and also highlights the centrality of its role for assessing the social and commercial dimension of post-war Italian literary exchange.


Research groups / Centres

Public-funded Research Projects

2012-2015: Principal Investigator: Mapping Literary Space: Intellectuals, Journals and Publishing houses in Italy, 1940-1960. AHRC Early Career Research Grant: £191,866

2012-2017: I am one of the two UK-based researchers contributing to the FIRB project 'Storia e mappe digitali della letteratura tedesca in Italia: l'editoria, il campo letterario, le interferenze: ll Novecento'.

2011-2014: Co-Investigator: Diasporic Literary Archives: Questions of Location, Ownership and Interpretation. An International Research Network funded by The Leverhulme Trust: £124,500

2004-2005: AHRB research leave (April-July 2005) in support of my research project on 'Style and Sources in Amelia Rosselli's oeuvre': £10,510


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Conference Organisation:

Co-organiser (with Sara Pesatori and Peter Robinson): 'Torna il tuo cielo d'un tempo': A Centenary Conference on Vittorio Sereni, Reading, 6 June 2013. (Guest speakers Edoardo Esposito; Barbara Colli; Maurizio Cucchi)

Co-organiser (with Federico Faloppa, Paola Nasti and Francesca Billiani): 'Transnational Italy: National Identity and the World Atlas', Reading, 14-15 July 2012. (Guest speakers: Vittorio Coletti, Gisèle Sapiro, Donald Sassoon, Nick Havely)

Organiser of the International Symposium 'Publishing Institutions and Translations: a European Perspective', Reading MERL, 17 January 2009.

Organiser of the International Conference 'Meneghello: Fiction, Scholarship, Passione civile', Reading MERL and Istituto Italiano di Cultura, London, 13-14 June 2008. (Guest speakers: Francesca Caputo, Paul Corner, Giulio Lepschy, John Scott; Stuart Woolf)

Co-organiser (with Dr Daniela Caselli) of the International Conference 'Value and Visibility: Twentieth-century Poetic Translation in Italian and English', the Institute of Romance Studies, 10-11 September 2004. (Guest speakers: Lawrence Venuti, George Steiner, Pier Vincenzo Mengaldo).

Professional qualifications:

2005: Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

2002: PhD in Italian Literature (University of Reading)

2001: Abilitazione all'insegnamento della Lingua e Letteratura Inglese per le Scuole Medie e Superiori(English equivalent: Postgraduate Certificate of Education in English Language and Literature)

1997: MA (Res) in Italian Studies, Distinction (University of Reading)

1995: Laurea in Lingue e Letterature Straniere Moderne, 110/110 magna cum laude (Università degli Studi di Napoli, Federico II)

Membership of Learned Societies:

Society for Italian Studies (SIS); Società Italiana delle Letterate (SIL); British Comparative Literature Association (BCLA); European Network for Comparative Literary Studies (ENCLS)

Professional Advisory or Consultancy Work

2002-present: I have acted as peer reviewer for University of Toronto Press and the following journals: Forum for Modern Language Studies, Romance Studies, Journal of Romance Studies, The Italianist, Italian Studies, Pirandello Studies, Arena Romanistica.

2012-2015: Member of the AHRC Peer Review College

Extra-mural Service and Leadership

2008-2012: National representative for Italian Studies at the University Council for Modern Languages (UCML) and member of the UCML executive committee

2010-2012: Member of the UCML REF advisory panel

2008-2012: co-opted member of the Society for Italian Studies (SIS) executive committee.

2012-2015: co-opted member of the SIS executive committee

2012-2015: national representative for Italian Studies at the UCML member of the exec committee

2012-2015: member of the peer review college of MIUR, the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities, and Research (Ministero dell'Istruzione, Universita', e Ricerca)

2012-2015: designated international member of the Italian Modern Literature panel, ANVUR (National Agency for the Evaluation of Universities and Research Institutes)

About Italian Studies at the School of Languages and European Studies

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