Romance Languages and Literatures

Maria Anna Mariani

Assistant Professor of Modern Italian Literature


Wieboldt 215

Office Hours: 

W 4:30-5:30 & by appt.

Phone Number: 




PhD, University of Siena, 2010

Program(s): Italian Studies

I am a specialist of Modern Italian Literature (19th- 21st Century), with a particular interest in Jewish Italian authors. My approach to texts is anchored in literary theory, and it is often in dialogue with philosophy, especially with the branches of phenomenology, existentialism, and biopolitics.

My first book, Sull’autobiografia contemporanea. Nathalie Sarraute, Elias Canetti, Alice Munro, Primo Levi, Carocci, 2012 (On Contemporary Autobiography), investigates contemporary autobiography from an international, comparative perspective. Engaging with Paul Ricœur’s narrative theory, I argue that in autobiography memory acts as another form—or “level”— of Ricœurian mimesis, which gives shape to lived time even before the action of narrative emplotment takes place. 

My second book Primo Levi e Anna Frank: Tra testimonianza e letteratura, Carocci, 2018 (Primo Levi and Anne Frank: Between Testimony and Literature) puts Anne Frank and Primo Levi in critical conversation for the first time, delving into their respective testimonies and comparing their posthumous lives.  The theoretical problem that connects the two figures, and which mutually illuminates 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 Frank herself, which was continued by her father. This process culminated in theater and film adaptations of the diary, which some critics view as potentially exchanging its testimonial content for universal literary appeal.

I have also begun to work on a more comparative project, tentatively entitled Italy and the Bomb. Literary Recreation in a Nuclear Age, which will reconstruct the Italian cultural response to the nuclear threat, especially in the works of Italo Calvino, Elsa Morante, Alberto Moravia, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Leonardo Sciascia.

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.