Assistant Professor of Modern Italian Literature; Italian Undergraduate Adviser
Wieboldt 215
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.

In my current book project, Against Survival: Literature After Catastrophe, I ask: what happens to the survivor who wants to regain the capacity to say ‘I’ instead of simply functioning as a mouthpiece for the voices of the dead? What choices are available to escape from the witnessing that corrodes her singularity? Bringing together the experiences of Hiroshima and Holocaust survivors and exploring both factual and fictional works, this project disturbs the clear-cut relationship between the “drowned” and the “saved” by asking a series of uncomfortable questions: what is the task of the survivor? Should one renounce the possibility of an unencumbered life, fusing with the dead by speaking for them alone; or can one shrug off this onerous responsibility, even at the cost of leaving the dead forever unredeemed?

I am concurrently working on another project, Italy and the Bomb, examining how Italian intellectuals responded to the atomic bomb. I will teach a course on this topic in 2016-17, which will be followed by an international conference. I am also in the process of assembling a collection of essays about Italy and nuclear warfare by imminent writers (Elsa Morante, Alberto Moravia, Paolo Volponi, Ernesto de Martino) that have never before been published.

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 2016-17

·       Italian-Short Story of the 20th Century (undergrad)

·       Theories of Autobiography (grad)

·       Italy and the Bomb (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.