Thursday, February 26, 2015

Women Write the Mediterranean: A Transnational Symposium in Memory of Anna Maria Ortese

This transnational symposium addresses the relationship between women writers and the modern Mediterranean, considered as a diverse region of interconnected histories and identities, with a particular focus on the Italian novelist Anna Maria Ortese (1914-1998). In its unprecedented tensions and oscillations between vivid realism and visionary transcendence, reportage and utopia, modernist allegory and postmodern fluidity, Ortese’s innovative work suggests many possible parallels with that of other important modern and contemporary Mediterranean/European women writers, from Fatema Mernissi, Hélène Cixous and Assia Djebar to lesser-known figures such as Leda Rafanelli, Etel Adnan, Maïssa Bey, and Nagwa Sha‘ban, among others. 

Although raised in Naples—a quintessential Mediterranean city that she portrayed in documentary style in her early writings—Ortese lived for a time in Libya, when that country was still an Italian colony under Fascism. As a self-taught female writer from the historically underdeveloped and colonized South of Italy, a former involuntary colonizer in North Africa, and a woman who lived most of her nomadic and solitary existence in dire poverty, Ortese epitomizes the experience of displacement, loss and exile common to many Mediterranean women writers. 

This symposium will explore the ways in which the experiences of Ortese and other creative women contributed to the emergence of a unique, unconventional approach to literature and ethics. The symposium stresses the importance of looking at women’s writing that imagines and defines the Mediterranean as a transnational, métissé, multi-confessional, cross-cultural space, offering an alternative to the divisive, oppositional model represented by national, ethnic, religious, linguistic, or continental affiliations. The question of what the modern Mediterranean is, and how it may be defined, understood or imagined has been considered by many male thinkers, critics and writers, but the perspectives of female writers have rarely been studied comparatively or taken into account. “Women Write the Mediterranean” will reflect on the possibility of a transnational critical conversation and dialogue about modern women writers and their work on Mediterranean-related themes and problems.


Thursday, March 5, 2015 USC
Doheny Library, Academic Commons, DML 233

3:00 pm.  Welcome
Peter Mancall, Vice Dean of the Humanities, USC Dornsife
Natania Meeker, Chair USC Dornsife French and Italian Department

3:15-4:30 pm

Chair: Bèatrice Mousli Bennett
Director, Francophone Research & Resource Center USC

Cristina Della Coletta
Dean of Arts and Humanities UC San Diego

Anna Maria Ortese and the Mediterranean Uncanny

Lucia Re
Department of Italian and Department of Department of Gender Studies, UCLA

Ulysses or Penelope? Italian Women Philosophers, Narrators and Poets of the

4:30-5:00 pm  Coffee Break

5:00-6:30 pm

Hala Halim
Department Comparative Literature and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and, NYU

The Mediterranean Cosmopolitics of Nagwa Sha‘ban’s Nawwat al-Karm

Andrea Baldi
Department of Italian, Rutgers University

Resisting Modernity: Anna Maria’s Ortese Negotiations with the South

Friday, March 6
UCLA – Royce Hall 236

9:00am Welcome
Tom Harrison, Chair UCLA Department of Italian
Alessandro Duranti, UCLA Dean of Social Sciences
David Schaberg, UCLA Dean of the Humanities

9:15-10:30 am

Chair: Gil Hochberg
Department of Comparative Literature UCLA

Barbara Spackman
Department of Comparative Literature and Italian Studies, UC Berkeley

From Italy to Egypt: The Ethnomasquerade of Leda Rafanelli

Gian Maria Annovi
Dornsife Department of French and Italian, USC

Anna Maria Ortese and the “Mediterranean Effect”

10:30-11:00 Coffee Break

11:00-12:30 pm

Olivia Harrison
Dornsife Department of French and Italian, USC

Etel Adnan’s Transcolonial Mediterranean

Lia Brozgal
Department of French, UCLA

«Aux oubliettes de l’histoire» : Maïssa Bey’s Microhistories

12:30-1:00 Q&A and Concluding Remarks

Event organized by USC Department of French and Italian and UCLA Department of Italian; made possible with the support of: UCLA Dean of the Humanities; Dean of the Social Sciences; Department of Gender Studies; Center for the Studies of Women; Department of French and Francophone Studies; USC Dean of Dornsife College; Francophone Research and Resource Center; Center for Feminist Research; Department of Comparative Literature; Middle East Studies Program; USC Libraries.

For additional information, please contact the organizers:
Gian Maria Annovi
Lucia Re

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