Romance Languages and Literatures

Maria Anna Mariani

Assistant Professor of Modern Italian Literature; Italian Undergraduate Adviser


Wieboldt 215

Office Hours: 

Wednesday 4:30-5:30 and by appointment

Phone Number: 




PhD, University of Siena, 2010

Program(s): Italian Studies

My work focuses on memory—its tricks and its feats. What fascinates me is the shifting tale that memory incessantly weaves for itself and through which the I models itself and its history. At the heart of my research, then, I examine the ‘literature of the I’ in all its various forms—from the beguiling autofiction to the patchy witnessings of survivors. My thought is often in dialog with philosophy, especially with the philosophy of time and with phenomenology.

My book Sull’autobiografia contemporanea. Nathalie Sarraute, Elias Canetti, Alice Munro, Primo Levi, Carocci 2012 (On Contemporary Autobiography) focuses on the encounter between temporality and narrative, expanding Paul Ricœur’s theory of mimetic levels. I argue that, when autobiography is involved, memory acts as a form of natural mimesis that can give shape to lived time, even before the artificial figuration performed by narrative. Despite this emphasis on the formal equivalence between memory and narrative, I never deny the facticity of the autobiographical genre. Throughout my book, in fact, I continuously grapple with one of the central features of memory, its vow of faithfulness to the past, recognizing that this vow persists despite the structural unreliability of the recollection.

I am currently completing the book manuscript Primo Levi/Anne Frank: The Sin of Fiction. The book puts Anne Frank and Primo Levi in critical conversation for the first time, delving into their respective testimonies and comparing their posthumous lives, including their transformation into fictional characters endowed with new possibilities of thought and action. The theoretical problem that connects the two figures in particular, mutually illuminating them, is the “sin of fiction.” For Levi – the quintessential witness of the Shoah – fiction was an indispensable but forbidden form of escapism which he first attempted to camouflage under a pseudonym only to later reclaim it as form of “indirect” testimony. In the case of Anne Frank, the “sin of fiction” refers to the progressive dilution of her work: a process that originated in the editing begun by Anne herself, was continued by her father, and culminated in the theater and film adaptations of the diary, which some view as potentially selling out its testimonial content in exchange for universal literary appeal.

I have also begun to work on a second, more comparative project, tentatively entitled Italy and the Bomb. Literary Recreation in a Nuclear Age, which will reconstruct the centrality of the nuclear question in Italian Literature of the postwar years.
Before joining the UChicago faculty, I taught for four years at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Korea. Teaching in a context devoid of standard interpretive assumptions fueled my appreciation for the problems of pedagogy and canonization in a global context--issues I had already reflected on while working as a co-author on a history of Italian literature designed for high-schools (LiberaMente, Palumbo 2010). Building on these experiences, I hope to further investigate the possibilities of Italian literature in increasingly global contexts.

Mariani CV

Selected publications


·       Sull’autobiografia contemporanea. Nathalie Sarraute, Elias Canetti, Alice Munro, Primo Levi (On Contemporary Autobiography. Nathalie Sarraute, Elias Canetti, Alice Munro, Primo Levi), Carocci 2012.

·       [with R. Saviano, E. Angioloni, L. Giustolisi, G. Muller Pozzebon, S. Panichi], LiberaMente. Storia e antologia della letteratura italiana, 3 vols., Palumbo 2010 (three-volume anthology intended for upper-level secondary school students).


·       “Paper Memories, Inked Genealogies: About Primo Levi’s The Search for Roots,” in Interpreting Primo Levi: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

·       “Regresso e fallimento in Petrolio,” in “Pier Paolo Pasolini entre régression et échec,” ed. by Paolo Desogus, Manuele Gragnolati, Christoph F.E. Holzhey, and Davide Luglio, LaRivista. Études culturelles italiennes Sorbonne Universités, 4, 2015.

·       “Decantare il ricordo. Fiction e non fiction in Primo Levi,” in Esperienze letterarie, 36, 4, 2011.

·       “Svevo e Nietzsche,” in Allegoria, 21, 59, 11, 2009.


Courses 2017-18
·       Italian-Short Story of the 20th Century (undergrad)
·       Primo Levi (grad)
·       The Dark Side of Italo Calvino (grad and undergrad)
·       Readings in World Literature (undergrad)


Education and Academic Appointments

• Assistant Professor of Italian at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, South Korea, 2013-2015.

• Full-Time Lecturer in Italian at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, South Korea, 2011-2013

• PhD, University of Siena, 2010.