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Research in Italian Studies – University of Reading

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  • Migration and language

    Examining how migrants are represented in the media
    Project lead: Dr Federico Faloppa

Research in Italian Studies

Since its foundation in 1948, the Italian Studies strand of the Department of Languages and Cultures has been defined by its multi-disciplinary and inclusive approach to teaching and research, with current strengths in Italian literature (1800-present), history of the Italian language, translation studies, linguistics, migration studies, women's studies, cultural studies, history of ideas and publishing history.

Italian Studies at Reading has a long track record of research success. It has a PhD programme in Italian Studies with an extensive coverage, consistently attracting accomplished postgraduate students from overseas as well as from this country.

Italian Studies at Reading is also the first home of The Italianist, a multi-disciplinary A-rated journal with an international reputation, which was founded in Reading in 1980.

Research Centres

Staff in Italian Studies contribute to the activities of the following research centres:

Research Centre for Health Humanities; Research Centre for Book Cultures and Publishing; and the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism.

Staff research interests

These are the primary areas of staff research.  We are happy to supervise graduate students in the following areas:

Dr Federico Faloppa

• History of the Italian Language

• Italian linguistics and dialectology

• Migration studies: Media, Policies, Discourses

• Hate speech and anti-racist discourses

• Language policy

• Critical Discourse Analysis


Dr Daniela La Penna

• Modern Italian literature and culture

 • Multilingualism in Fiction and Poetry

• Cultural and intellectual history

• Publishing history and periodical studies (1800-present)

• Literary Translation: Genres, Agents, Markets

• Women's writing (1800-present)   

Staff research activities and collaborations

Dott.ssa Rita Balestrini

Dott.sss Balestrini’s interests lie primarily in language assessment, evaluation, and independent learning. In addition, Dott.ssa Balestrini explores the discourses which inform the policies and practices of Modern Languages as a discipline; the conceptualizations of ‘language’ and ‘culture’ and the implications that their imagined relationship has for the structure of foreign languages curricula and for language teaching and learning.


Dr Chiara Ciarlo

Dr Ciarlo’s research interest is in the acquisition and expressions of agreement in L1 and L2 speakers, and its variation in adult speakers. She has carried out research on the acquisition and use of oblique subject pronouns in English speaking children, and on the variation of subject clitic pronouns in Italian varieties. She is currently studying the acquisition of agreement in foreign language learners, and how theoretical knowledge of this particular linguistic phenomenon can inform language pedagogy.


Dr Federico Faloppa

Dr Federico Faloppa has participated as co-investigator to various externally funded research projects focusing on migration and language, including: the AHRC-funded international network 'Researching and Documenting Key Words in European Migration Discourses; the ESRC-funded international network 'ProLanguage', which focuses on language policies and practices in refugee settings, and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) 'MultiMind'. He collaborates with the Academia della Crusca and is a consultant for the Italian NGO "Carta di Roma". Dr Faloppa provides training for media operators and healthcare professionals on migration discourse. Dr Faloppa is a member of the exec board of the Alexander Langer Foundation in Bozen/Bolzano. Dr Faloppa is active member of the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM) steering committee. Dr Faloppa's research contributes to the activities of the 'Corpora, Manuscripts, and Archives' and 'Identity, Migration, and Conflict' research clusters in the Research Division Modern Languages & Linguistics.


Dr Daniela La Penna

Dr Daniela La Penna is Senior Editor of The Italianist. She was P-I on the AHRC-funded project on 'Mapping Literary Space in Post-War Italy: Publishing Institutions and Literary Journals' (2012-2015).  She was co-investigator for the Leverhulme international network Diasporic Literary Archives (2012-2014), which has established partnerships with the Beinecke Library at Yale University; Centro Manoscritti in Pavia; l'Institut Mémoires de l'Edition Contemporaine (IMEC) in France; The National Library and Archives Service of Namibia, and prominent archivists from Trinidad and Tobago.  Dr La Penna hosted a British Academy-funded fellowship investigating the translation of post-war fiction in English (Dr Sara Sullam, 2018-19) and supervises a project on the Italian translations of Virginia Woolf’s works funded by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (Dr Elisa Bolchi, 2019-2021). Dr La Penna a co-founder of the Research Centre for Book Cultures and Publishing.  Her research contributes to the activities of the 'Corpora, Manuscripts, and Archives' and 'Intellectuals and Networks' research clusters in the Research Division Modern Languages & Linguistics.


Dr Charles L. Leavitt IV, Visiting Research Fellow

Dr Charles L. Leavitt IV is Assistant Professor of Italian at the University of Notre Dame (US) and a former member of the department.  He specialises in modern Italian literature and cinema in a comparative context.  He was formerly an Annese Fellow of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and a Presidential Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Notre Dame (USA).


Dr Paola Nasti, Visiting Research Fellow

Dr Paola Nasti is Associate Professor of Italian at the Northwestern University (US) and a former member of the department. A leading scholar in Dante Studies, Dr Nasti is a member of the Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies.


Dott.ssa Enza Siciliano Verruccio

Dott.ssa Siciliano Verruccio is interested in language curriculum design and development; ab initio language learning and teaching; technology-enhanced language learning and teaching; the role of explicit instruction in SLA; language teacher training.



Meneghello Exhibition, 2016

Past and present research subjects

Recent and on-going PhDs in Italian Studies span a broad range of periods and topics, and we welcome enquiries and proposals relating both to discrete specialisms and to interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary work.


The role of communication with the local community in the resettlement process of refugees: A linguistic ethnography in Chiusano d’Asti (Italy) (ongoing)

  • Cecilia Defilippi 
  • Supervisor: Federico Faloppa

Multilingualism and language learning among young migrants and refugees: Palermo, a case study (ongoing)

  • Solange Santarelli (MCSA funded)
  • Supervisor: Federico Faloppa

Dante e le Confraternite (ongoing)

  • Michael Biasin 
  • Supervisor: Dr Paola Nasti

British Military Encounters with Italian Civilians 1943-1946 (ongoing)

  • Fabio Simonetti (AHRC)
  • Supervisors: Dr Daniela La Penna and Dr Suzanne Bardgett (Imperial War Museums)

Fernanda Pivano and the Italian Beat generation: Translation and literary agency in post-war Italian publishing market (ongoing) 

  • Andrea Romanzi (SWW DTP)
  • Supervisors: Dr Daniela La Penna and Dr Carol O'Sullivan (Bristol)

Cecil and Sylvia Sprigge’s role in the cultural relations between the UK and Italy (1920s-1950s) (ongoing)

  • Penny Ditchfield
  • Supervisor: Dr Daniela La Penna

The paperback revolution: knowledge transfer between the British and Italian publishing industry: Penguin, Mondadori, Feltrinelli (ongoing)

  • Andrea De Falco
  • Supervisor: Dr Daniela La Penna

The evolution of the National Health System in Italy from the Unification to the Fascist Period (ongoing)

  • Pola Poletto
  • Supervisors: Dr Federico Faloppa and Dr Daniela La Penna

 Il misticismo ebraico nell'opera di Dante (ongoing)

  • Jacopo Buffo 
  • Supervisors: Prof Catherine Leglu and Dr George Ferzoco (Bristol)

Italian intellectual Diaspora in the UK: Luigi Meneghello and Carlo Dionisotti (2019)

  • Marta Pozzolo (SWW DTP)
  • Supervisors: Dr Daniela La Penna and Prof Charles Burdett (Bristol)


PhD opportunities


As a PhD student in the Modern Languages and European Studies Department, you will be provided with a desk in a shared office.

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