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.

I am currently writing a monograph on Primo Levi, provisionally entitled After Auschwitz. Primo Levi and the Burden of Survival, that focuses on the relationship between survival and testimony. In particular, it unsettles the concept of “speaking by proxy”: what happens to the survivor who wants to regain the capacity to say ‘I’ instead of simply functioning as a mouthpiece for the dead? What choices are available to escape from the witnessing that corrodes her singularity and makes her life improper? In light of these questions, I explore the theoretical and ethical boundaries between testimony, autobiography, and fiction in the work of Primo Levi.

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 has grown out of a class I am teaching this quarter. This book will reconstruct the centrality of the nuclear question in Italian Literature of the postwar years. Some of the most prominent Italian authors of the 20th Century—including Calvino, Morante, Pasolini, and Moravia—were haunted both by the memory of Hiroshima as well as the future threat of total annihilation. Often in conversation with one another, these artists sought to respond to the atomic problem via an incredibly wide range of genres and verbal and visual discourses. By recovering these largely forgotten conversations, some of which are still buried in the archives, my aim is both to uncover one of the most compelling instances of artistic engagement of the 20th century, but also call into question the lightness of Italy’s supposedly apolitical postmodern literary tradition.

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.