100 Years of Italian Studies at Edinburgh

Celebrating the centenary of the study of Italian at the University of Edinburgh.

2019 marks a century since the establishment of the first lectureship in Italian at the University of Edinburgh, with our subject taught continuously ever since.

To celebrate this landmark 100th birthday, we’ve organised a series of collaborative and creative events across and beyond the University in 2019, developing new projects and promoting the engagement of Italian studies with the wider community.  

Italian then and now

Italian has been formally studied at the University of Edinburgh since the 18th century, and the city of Edinburgh is twinned with Florence.

The University’s first lectureship in Italian was established immediately after the Great War in 1919, with John Purves taking up post in May 1920.

Today, the University of Edinburgh hosts the largest community of students of Italian in Scotland and one of the largest in the UK. Our ranking continues to rise - we are firmly placed in the UK's Top 10 departments for our subject area - and the Italian Society and our postgraduate community are thriving.

Our teaching staff are also highly active and well-published researchers, and we are proud to have the only academic post sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Scotland.

Video: 100 Years of Italian Studies at Edinburgh Logo
Celebrating the centenary of the study of Italian at the University of Edinburgh.

What our students say

The Italian department feels like an extended family – we all know each other and I feel like we have a lot of support from staff, who are always friendly, engaged and willing to help. They have made my last year extremely enjoyable.

Final year student feedback from the National Student Survey

It is a real community in the Italian department and tutors are friendly and helpful.

Final year student feedback from the National Student Survey

Italian is well organised and easy to contact staff for support when needed.

Final year student feedback from the National Student Survey

Our Italian teachers have put - and continue to put - a lot of effort into creating a sense of student-staff community, which has been very beneficial and inspiring to me.

Final year student feedback from the National Student Survey

The Italian department are very friendly and put on very interesting events.

Final year student feedback from the National Student Survey

Centenary highlights

Italian-Arabic Diwan: Origins, Love, Exile

January 2019

Around the richly embroidered history of a medieval Mediterranean diwan, we shared songs of love and exile in a symposium with live music, bringing together the so-called origins of Italian poetry from the Siculo-Arabic poets to Dante. We collaborated with colleagues in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES) and the Baharat Collective, with the generous support of the Alwaleed Centre at the University of Edinburgh, and the Italian Institute of Culture.

Find out more about Italian-Arabic Diwan: Origins, Love, Exile

The Italian Play 2019: Tally’s Blood - 30 Years On

March 2019

The annual Italian Play is a highlight of our students’ cultural calendar. Performed over two nights at Assembly Roxy, our centenary year play was freely adapted and directed by Carlo Pirozzi (Teaching Fellow in Italian) from Ann Marie Di Mambro’s celebrated 1990 play, ‘Tally’s Blood’. The play was staged in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute, Italian Scotland, Italian Society, Italian Folk Connections, Drama and Performance at Queen Margaret University, Syn Festival, and Imprevisto Danza. On the second evening, we hosted a round-table discussion with Ann Marie Di Mambro, Federica Pedriali (University of Edinburgh), Anne Pia (Italian-Scots writer and poet), and Maggie Rose (playwright and academic, Milan University).

Find out more about Tally’s Blood - 30 Years On

Society for Italian Studies, Biennial Conference 2019

June 2019

In our centenary year, it was an honour to host the 2019 Biennial Conference of the Society for Italian Studies UK, bringing nearly 300 delegates to Edinburgh for a three-day programme. As well as keynote lectures by Susan Bassnett, Jhumpa Lahiri, Igiaba Scego, and Walter Siti, the programme comprised 72 panel sessions, 252 papers, three roundtables and the very first Peter Brand Lecture, this year given by Lino Pertile (Harvard – formerly, Edinburgh 1988-1995).

Find out more about the Society for Italian Studies, Biennial Conference 2019

Speaking in Cultures: The Edinburgh Gadda Prize 2019

June 2019

Comprising the opening event of the Society for Italian Studies conference, this capacity public event at the Scottish Parliament (hosted by Linda Fabiani MSP) included a keynote address by Jhumpa Lahiri and the award of two scholarly prizes as part of the sixth edition of the Edinburgh Gadda Prize, The Crolla Amato Prize (established scholars) and The Vittoria Group Prize (early career scholars). 30 international jurers evaulated this year's submission – a record 147 scholarly monographs on all aspects of contemporary Italian culture. The prize winners were Ruth Ben-Ghiat (Overall Winner, Crolla Amato Prize for Cultural Studies), Angela Borghesi (Overall Winner, Crolla Amato Prize for Literary Studies), and Mathjis Duyck (Overall Winner, Vittoria Group Prize). Federica G Pedriali is the Founder and Chair of the Prize.

Find out more about the Edinburgh Gadda Prize

Infinite Grace: Leonardo 1519-2019

October 2019

To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), we organised a series of events including a special screening of the 1984 cult comedy Non ci resta che piangere by Roberto Benigni and Massimo Troisi. Co-organised by Davide Messina and Carlo Pirozzi with the Italian Institute of Culture and the Consulate General of Italy in Edinburgh, the season also included a performance of ‘Il codice del volo’ by Flavio Albanese and Marinella Anaclerio, and the exhibition ‘Leonardo Out of Context’ by Mignon Group, Padua.

Creole Italy. Igiaba Scego in conversation with Davide Messina

October 2019

Held in collaboration with L’Associazione Culturale Wimbledon and La città dei lettori festival in Florence, with the support of the Italian Institute of Culture, this ‘FILL goes to Edinburgh’ event launched our  exciting new partnership with the Festival of Italian Literature in London. It featured Davide Messina in conversation with Italian-Somali writer, scholar, and activist Igiaba Scego, who discussed Italian literature today as written by migrant authors, read an excerpt from her new novel, and signed copies of  the English edition of her acclaimed novel ‘Adua’ (Jacaranda, 2019).

The Making of Modern Italy. Art and Design in the 1960s

November 2019

This one-day programme, comprising a workshop and roundtable seminar, formed the first event in the Department of European Languages and Cultures (DELC) Research Seminar Series 2019-2020. Centred around guest speaker Professor Giuliana Pieri's exhibition of the same name (held at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art in London) the event involved both established and early career researchers from Edinburgh College of Art and the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures. The DELC Research Seminar Series is developed and co-ordinated by Federica G Pedriali.