Research Profile

Giovanni Pietro Vitali

Biography

I come from the mountains of Northern Tuscany, from a small village of the Apennines called Vico Pancellorum. The peasants there knew Dante by heart and invented a way of speaking in order to recognise themselves on their journeys far from home: the jargon of the Arivaro.The meetings with the other and his/her culture has always fascinated me and, in my experience as an expatriate, it has always come with the desire to understand other people speaking their language. The interaction between language and culture is undoubtedly my main research interest and has always been at the centre of my education at the University of Pisa where I studied Literature and I specialized in Italian Language and Literature.Following this, I began a double PhD program in Language Sciences (University for Foreigners of Perugia - Italy) and in Literature (University of Lorraine - France), specializing in onomastic studies with a thesis on the use of noms de guerre in the partisan literature of the Italian author Beppe Fenoglio. Following the defence of my thesis, I became a lecturer of Italian Studies for four years in France, at the University of Lorraine and at the University of Poitiers. During this period, I became affiliated with the Digital Humanities community of the European Summer University in Digital Humanities at the University of Leipzig, and began to cultivate my interests in NPL, Textometry, Stilometry, Mapping and Data Visualization.The new field of Digital Humanities has profoundly changed my approach to research and, together with my traditional linguistic-literary interests, I have experimented with a new critical analysis working on the language and the themes of politically-committed popular music and on the street poetry of the districts of Rome. In February 2018, I became a Marie S. Curie Research Fellow with a linguistic-thematic analysis project on the last letters of those condemned to death in the First and Second World Wars. This research, based on the digital examination of the texts is entitled Last Letters from the World Wars: Forming Italian Language, Identity and Memory in Texts of Conflict and enfolds collaboration with University College Cork (main host), the University of Reading (UK), and New York University (USA).

Research Interests

My research activities reflect my highly interdisciplinary background, which began with my double course of study, literary and linguistic-philological, obtained as part of a dual doctoral program between France and Italy. As a result, my scientific production is focused on several themes that appear different, but are all grounded in the same approach. In fact, what interests me most is to study the relationships between artistic productions, social movements and political positions. This is why analysing the texts of violent conflicts— such as the two world wars, as well as ideological and cultural conflicts—are at the core of my work.

The disciplines I have covered so far are literature, linguistics (particularly sociolinguistics and computational linguistics), dialectology, onomastics, musicology and digital humanities. In my research, I have practiced historical analysis or applied a methodological approach such as that of Cultural Studies.

My methodology has therefore evolved over the years in a composite and interdisciplinary manner. I approach a project by alternating research questions with digital interrogations of textual corpora. Then, after my initial intuitions are confirmed, I interpret the text in dialogue with criticism. I represent my findings in visualisations such as maps or graphs that provide data to demonstrate my hypotheses. My methodology uses digital tools and criticism in an analysis that constantly alternates between Close Reading and Distant Reading according to the needs of interpretation.
My literary criticism activity can be described in three main groups: 

§Italian Literature
I began my research career as an Italian Studies specialist and I have continued to publish and work on Italian literature to this day. In particular, I specialise in the literature of the Resistance and Neorealism, my period of reference starting at the beginning of the twentieth century and ending in the 1980s. For example, I worked on Vasco Pratolini (1913-1991), Italo Calvino (1923-1985), Beppe Fenoglio (1922-1963), Elio Vittorini (1908-1966), Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), Primo Levi (1919-1987), Carlo Cassola (1917-1987), Giorgio Bassani (1916-2000) and Curzio Malaparte (1898-1957). I am interested in questions of literary analysis but also in the works’ reception in today’s society. I am currently working on a monograph on Vasco Pratolini and Fenoglio that I will soon propose to a publishing house, and I am currently editing a volume on Curzio Malaparte with Rachel Montel, lecturer at the University of Lorraine (France).
§Comparative Literature
Over time, I have adopted a comparative approach that led me to participate in the Prismatic Jane Eyre project of the Creative Multilingualism programme at University of Oxford. This international research project aims to study and analyse translations, from a diatopic and diachronic perspective, of Charlotte Brönte’s novel
Jane Eyre, in order to understand how the novel’s perception and the practice of translation change over time and space. Since 2018, I have been in charge of this project’s digital analysis portion as an Associate Researcher at the University of Oxford.
At the same time, I worked on French literature and in particular on 17th century French theatre, proposing a spatial and digital analysis of place names mentioned by Pierre Du Ryer (1628-1655), Georges de Scudéry (1631-1643), Paul Scarron (1648-1658), Claude Boyer (1646-1697), Thomas Corneille (1651-1696), Molière (1655-1673), Jean Racine (1664-1675) and Pierre Corneille (1629-1675). I have also worked on the work of Jean Giono (1895-1970) by proposing an analysis of his short story L'Homme qui plantait des arbres (1953), compared with literary or musical productions, and in particular with the work of other writers or intellectuals who lived the First World War, such as Giuseppe Ungaretti (1888-1970). My comparative analyses concern different types of studies. One example is my first monograph published by Peter Lang LTD Oxford entitled Voices of Dissent: Interdisciplinary Approaches to New Italian Popular and Political Music. In this work I proposed a linguistic-thematic analysis of Italian political music from the 1960s to the present day. The book is divided into three parts: § The role of Italian political music, right-wing and left-wing, in the European political, musical and social context. 

Publications

Books

 YearPublication
(2020)Voices of Dissent Interdisciplinary Approaches to New Italian Popular and Political Music.
Giovanni Pietro Vitali (2020) Voices of Dissent Interdisciplinary Approaches to New Italian Popular and Political Music. Oxford: Peter Lang LTD. [Details]

Peer Reviewed Journals

 YearPublication
(2018)'The dialect and its absence in the novels of Beppe Fenoglio'
Vitali G. (2018) 'The dialect and its absence in the novels of Beppe Fenoglio'. Italian Studies, 73 (3):321-337 [DOI] [Details]

Conference Publications

 YearPublication
(2019)ACM International Conference Proceeding Series
Gabay S.;Vitali G.P. (2019) A theatre of places mapping: 17th c. French theatre ACM International Conference Proceeding Series [DOI] [Details]

Professional Activities

Honours and Awards

 YearTitleAwarding Body
2018Marie Curie Grant European Community

Professional Associations

 AssociationFunctionFrom / To
Italian Association for the Digital Humanities (AIUCD). Member02-SEP-18 / 01-SEP-20

Education

 YearInstitutionQualificationSubject
2014Università per Stranieri di Perugia Ph.D.Linguistic Sciences

Languages

 LanguageReadingWritingSpeaking
Italian FluentFluentFluent

Teaching Activities

Teaching Interests

I consider teaching a very significant vocation, one which has always been at the centre of my academic activity. My motto is “I care”, a saying created by Don Milani, an Italian ‘worker’ priest who was an incredible innovator in education, and who spent his life teaching disadvantaged students in the countryside in defiance of the fascist ideologies enforced at that time in Italy. Being a teacher, for me, is a role that consists of much more than a simple transfer of knowledge from educator to student. The job also consists of being a pastoral caregiver, someone who broadens students’ horizons, both intellectually and personally, and someone who can help students discover their passions so they may further their academic and professional careers.

§ Literature
My experience in teaching literature began in France when, as part of my service as a lecturer and researcher at the University of Lorraine, I taught a course entitled "History of Literary Criticism" to students of the Master MEEF (Master for future teachers and researchers). The course focused on the analysis of literary texts based on the teachings of my professor Francesco Orlando (1934-2010). On this occasion, I asked the students to work on the theme "The author and his/her work" through study of Italo Calvino's essays, and on the exchanges between Italian and European literature. After this course, I had the opportunity to teach Contemporary Italian literature, one of my disciplines of reference, for two years. In the first year I gave a course on the representation of the city in the literature. In the second year, I offered a course on the theme "Literature and Conflict" in which I addressed the ways in which contemporary literary work tells the story of oppositions in love, war and ideology. I received very positive feedback for this course. When I was recruited by the University of Poitiers, I was asked to teach a course entitled "Literature and Power" in which I could deal with the sometimes conflictual and sometimes symbiotic relationship between literature and politics. As this course was not linked to a specific historical period, I was able to teach Dante, Ariosto, Machiavelli and Galileo. Once I arrived in Cork, I was given a course on "Italian Contributions to European Culture", a literature course analysing the exchange between Italian and broader European literature in terms of genres, authors and literary currents.
§ Transversal teachings
The interdisciplinary nature of my research is also reflected in my teaching. Throughout my university service in Italy, France and Ireland, I have had the opportunity to teach many different disciplines including General Linguistics as an assistant to Professor Maria Giovanna Arcamone at the University of Pisa. I also taught Italian linguistics for a year at the University of Lorraine. My teaching of linguistics, beyond issues related to the 
discipline’s history, aims to value students’ individual work in their daily linguistic environment. I use the students’ daily life as a basis, entrusting each of them with a study file for reflections on a linguistic phenomenon typical of a “real” environment such as social networks, internet, music or cinema.
I have also had the chance to teach art history and many culture and society courses at the University of Poitiers. I taught a course on Mediterranean culture in which I dealt with the historical and cultural exchanges among civilizations that have lived around the Mediterranean. My teaching of culture and society at the crossroads of history, literature, art, cinema, music and society aims to give a global image of Italy. During my four years in France, I have always taught this discipline by telling the story of the contemporary era through moments of conflict such as the two world wars, the Years of Lead and the social movements of the late 1990s.

§ Digital Humanities
Digital Humanities have been another focal point of my teaching and research activities. Not having been trained in computer science when I was a student, I had to complete many trainings to acquire adequate skills in Digital Humanities. This forced me to reflect on the nature of these disciplines, which are not always easy to teach to humanists. On the basis of what I would have liked to learn and what I really learned in each training course, I have created a school, now in its third edition, which aims to equip doctoral students and colleagues who wish to include computer science in their research activities. In addition, I was recruited by the Master of Digital Humanities at the Centre d'Etudes Supérieures de la Renaissance at the University of Tours, where I taught a course in Descriptive Statistics and Data Analysis where I focused on both textual analysis and graphic data visualisation. This year, I will also have the honour of teaching a two-week (40 hours) Distant Reading in R course at the European Summer School in Digital Humanities at the University of Leipzig, Europe’s largest summer school in Digital Humanities, where I was also trained in these disciplines. My approach as a Digital Humanities teacher is bottom-up. Statistics and programming are often very difficult disciplines, especially for humanists, so it is important to teach them beginning from students’ pre-existing knowledge. To make students fully understand digital tools and methods it is crucial to show them the impact that coding has on users’ approach to a digital object. My digital humanities teaching is based on the idea that students must see the purpose for each digital manipulation, in coding or software operations, at every moment of class.

Italian Language
My experience teaching Italian as a foreign language has been varied and has forced me to be versatile, as I have taught people from all over the world, with varying levels of Italian, in several different institutions. My teaching experience started after obtaining Ditals II (diploma of Italian language teaching to foreigners) from 
the University for Foreigners of Siena, (Italy). I was subsequently commissioned by private schools and foundations in Lucca and in Florence to give Italian language lessons to immigrants with the goal of their eventual linguistic integration into Italian society. This was the start of my teaching career, immediately followed by a lengthy collaboration with the University of Richmond (London), which coordinates exchanges for American students in Europe. As an Italian lecturer at the school’s Florence campus, I gave lessons in grammar, oral expression, and phonetics, among other topics, until my appointment as lecturer at the University of Lorraine and University of Poitiers (France) four years later. During my time here, I have taught Italian language to students from different backgrounds, from beginners to masters, across three different departments: the Italian department, the Applied languages department and the Department of languages for specialists of other disciplines.
Innovative methods have always been central to my teaching activity. In the course of my experience, especially at the University of Lorraine, I have always tried to enhance my classes using alternative teaching methods that have also improved my rapport with the students.
For example, I began a collaboration with the Italian theatrical association Belteatro. At the beginning of each year I organised a two-day meeting with Italian classes and the association that prepares theatrical activities in Italian. This allowed the students to begin their school year with complete linguistic immersion, through which they could create social bonds. In these years I also found success putting videos to didactic use. I devised two different types of projects within my Italian language classes with advanced students. The first one consisted of writing a script in Italian to be filmed in the second semester. The second one, for my “Italian for Business” classes, concerned the language of advertising. The students were asked to prepare, film, and finally present promotion videos for their online streaming channel, at the final exam.

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Department of Italian

Iodáilis

First Floor Block A West, O' Rahilly Building, University College Cork, Ireland

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