William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Service Professor Emerita of Italian Literature, and the Department of Cinema and Media Studies
Program(s): Italian Studies

Educated as an Italianist at Yale University, I have focused my research and pedagogy on twentieth-century Italian literature, with a concentration on poetry and prose fiction, and more recently, on cinema. I have maintained as well my longstanding interest in Dante, on whose Divina commedia I have published several articles. The modern authors and issues on which I work are diverse, but are united by my longstanding interest in that which escapes from the so-called “center” of cultural production and canonization: to wit, women’s writing; experimental writers; mass medial works. My book on the poet Eugenio Montale explored the concept of the liminal in his poetry, while my book on prose writer and documentary filmmaker Gianni Celati studied the manner in which his work is allied with oral storytelling and the validation of past modes of verbal and visual communication.

I have published numerous articles on my areas of interest in American and Italian journals, I serve on several editorial boards for book series and journals, and I have been a Visiting Professor at Northwestern University, Stanford, The University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. Especially satisfying are the editing and co-editing I have done for volumes in our Mazzoni Series (see below under “Publications”), which publish work by our graduate students.

My current project is a study of film adaptations of selected novels by Patricia Highsmith, an author most commonly categorized as a “suspense” writer. In this book, I seek to explore the diverse ways in which transnational film adaptations by such directors as Wim Wenders, René Clément, and Liliana Cavani embody on screen her American anti-hero Tom Ripley.

My work overall in the area of cinema studies has focused on issues pertaining to gender, stardom, and adaptation, instead of exclusively on the Italian filmic tradition. Having served as the Director of the Center for Gender Studies, and being a full member of the Department of Cinema and Media Studies for the last several years, I have been enabled greatly in developing my ever expanding areas of scholarly interests by interacting with faculty and students outside of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. I bring my interdisciplinary orientation to my courses and to the mentoring of students. See my website page in Cinema and Media Studies for detailed information about my publications and courses in that program: http://humanities.uchicago.edu/cmtes/cms/faculty/west.html.

Selected Publications on Italian Literature

Books and Edited Volumes

  • Eugenio Montale: Poet on the Edge (Harvard UP, 1981). Awarded the Howard Marraro Prize by the MLA.
  • Gianni Celati: The Craft of Everyday Storytelling (U of Toronto Press, 2000). Awarded the Scaglione Publication Prize by the MLA.
  • Pagina, pellicola, pratica: Studi sul cinema italiano, edited volume in Mazzoni Series (Longo Editore, 2000).
  • The Cambridge Companion to Modern Italian Culture, co-edited with Z. Baranski (Cambridge UP, 2001).
  • Italian Feminist Theory and Practice: Equality and Sexual Difference, co-edited with G. Parati (Fairleigh Dickinson Press, 2002).
  • Cinema e Gender Studies (monographic issue of the journal La Valle dell’Eden), co-edited with G. Alonge, 2007.
  • Scrittori inconvenienti: Essays on and by P. P. Pasolini and G. Celati, co-edited volume with A, Maggi in Mazzoni Series (Longo Editore, 2009).

Recent Articles

  • “Death and Disremembering in Antonioni’s Blowup and Malerba’s Salto mortale, in Italica, autumn, 2010.
  • “Wives and Lovers in Dante and Montale” in Metamorphosing Dante, eds. M. Gragnolati, F. Camilletti, and F. Lampert (Verlag, 2011).

Selected Recent Courses

  • Montale’s Cities: Poetry and Place
  • “Outsiders”: Part I: Italo Svevo and Part II: Elsa Morante
  • Film Adaptations of Pinocchio
  • Comparative Masculinities on the Screen