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Roundtable on the 'Before Ferrante' Project

Derek Duncan (University of St Andrews, UK)
Tiziana de Rogatis (Università per Stranieri di Siena, Italy)
Jenny McPhee (New York University, USA)

In past years, numerous articles have underscored the significance of Ferrante’s worldwide reception in revitalizing Italian women writers’ literature in English and foreign languages in general. In "Il Sole 24 ore," publishing historian Tommaso Munari suggests that current translations of Natalia Ginzburg, Luce D’eramo, Elsa Morante, and Italian short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri serve as an ‘indirect credit to Elena Ferrante, whose international success has reignited foreign readers' , especially interest in twentieth-century Italian fiction, particularly women's fiction (Munari 2019). More recently, an article titled 'Ferrante Before Ferrante', written by American feminist critic and essayist Vivian Gornick (Gornick, 2023), appeared in the "New York Times". It discussed Morante’s translation in the USA by Jenny McPhee, outlining a well-defined genealogy of Italian women writers who are popular and widely read abroad.

Starting from these premises, which are related to the current state of the transnational literary field, the objectives of this round table are to provide a comprehensive summary and outline potential future lines of research, building upon insights from the first four meetings of the Before Ferrante project. During this discussion, we will comprehensively examine recent translations of four prominent Italian women writers (Aleramo, Deledda, De Céspedes, Morante), emphasizing the differences and similarities in their trajectories and publishing history.

We will explore the considerations surrounding the selection of authors for translation and the evolving landscape of the publishing market. We will question the 'return effect,' reminiscent of the Ferrante phenomenon, and its impacts on the literary canon today from both national and transnational perspectives.

We will discuss these topics with the esteemed presence of Prof. Tiziana De Rogatis (Università per Stranieri di Siena), an expert in contemporary writings and female identity, and Ferrante studies (Elena Ferrante. Parole Chiave, 2018), and Prof. Derek Duncan (University of St Andrews), renowned for his interdisciplinary perspective on the transnational cultural field (director of the AHRC-founded project Transnationalizing Modern Languages: Mobility, Identity, and Translation in Modern Italian Cultures,2016-2018). The panel discussion will be enriched by the presence of Jenny PcPhee: author, faculty member of the Masters in Translation program at NYU and translator of some of the most important Italian female authors such as Natalia Ginzburg, Anna Maria Ortese and, more recently, Elsa Morante.

All are welcome to attend this free seminar which will be held online via Zoom, starting at 6pm BST (UK time). Please register to receive the zoom link, by clicking Book Now at the top of this page.

Seminar Series Convenors: Carolina Rossi (Pisa University) and Mara Travella (Zurich University)

4 April
Translating Feminism in the Early 20th Century. Una donna by Sibilla Aleramo
11 April
Grazia Deledda's Trajectory. National and Foreign Reception of a Nobel Prize-Winning Female Author
18 April
Becoming a cosmopolitan writer. Alba De Céspedes between Italy and France
25 April
National Literary Prizes and Translation: Elsa Morante’s transnational reception
2 May
Roundtable on the 'Before Ferrante' Project