Italian at Bristol has an international reputation for world-leading research in cultural studies, spanning the Middle Ages to the present day. Our staff lead research projects on modern Italian history; Dante and the idea of Italy; Italian cinema, Naples in cultural production, and the Renaissance Decameron. We are a vibrant and innovative interdisciplinary research community of academic staff, postgraduates, and occasional postdoctoral fellows.

Research areas

The Department of Italian is renowned for its innovative and wide-ranging research, ranging from the medieval period to contemporary Italy. We foster an approach that integrates textual studies into broader cultural and material histories. Our key strengths are medieval studies, book history, twentieth and twenty-first century Italian history and memory, film studies (with a focus on stars and audiences), and cultural representations of Naples.

Key Research Areas:

  • Dante and early lyric poetry: modern literary and political appropriations of Dante.
  • Medieval and Renaissance Italian literature and culture: Boccaccio and the reception of his works; manuscript and early modern print culture; histories of reading; artists’ books.
  • Twentieth-century history and memory: history of radical psychiatry: memory studies and oral history; the history and culture of sport; Milan since the war; political deportation; fascism.
  • Italian popular cinema: stars and performance; the reception of Italian film in post-war culture; audience studies; masculinity studies.
  • Late twentieth-century Italian culture: representations of Italy’s experience of political violence and terrorism in the anni di piombo; postmodernism and the Italian novel; women and violence.
  • Naples in the cultural imaginary; postcolonial approaches to the Italian South


  • Catherine O’Rawe is an investigator on the European Research Council-funded project Studiotec: Film Studios: Infrastructure, Culture, Innovation in Britain, France, Germany and Italy, 1930-60 (2019-24).The project involves researchers from the universities of Bristol, Southampton, and Queen Mary, London.
  • John Foot is working on a Leverhulme Trust-funded project (Major Research Fellowship, 2018-2021) on Fascism and everyday life in Italy with a focus on micro-history and the impact of violence at a local and family level throughout the period of the regime.
  • Tristan Kay holds a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship on ‘The Poet and the Nation: Dante and the Idea of Italy’ (2020-21). The project explores the ways in which the figure of Dante has been used to articulate different forms of Italian national identity since Unification.
  • Ruth Glynn held an AHRC Leadership Fellowship on Naples and the Nation (2018-2020). The project addresses cultural constructions of Naples and its relationship with the Italian nation-state in the Second Republic.
  • Catherine O’Rawe held a British Academy Fellowship during 2017-18 for the project Stardom and Performance in Italian Neorealist Cinema, 1945-53 (2017-18). This focuses on the casting, performance, and labour of non-professionals, particularly children.
  • The Department played a leading role in the Transnationalizing Modern Languages project, funded by the AHRC between 2014-17. Professor Charles Burdett (now Chair of Italian at Durham) was the PI, and TML examined the forms of mobility that have defined the development of modern Italian culture and its interactions with other cultures across the globe. It produced innovative impact case studies and an important policy document ‘Reframing Language Education for a Global Future’ (Sept 2018).
  • Rhiannon Daniels held an AHRC Leadership Fellowship (2014-16) for her project on The Renaissance ‘Decameron’This explores the cultural context of making and consuming a ‘modern classic’ in the first century of print and forms the basis of her monograph in progress.
  • Ruth Glynn was interim Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded research network exploring Women, Work and Value in Europe, 1945-2015(2014-16). The project brought together academics, interest groups and policy makers to discuss the relevance of past experiences for the challenges relating to women’s work and its value today.
  • Catherine O’Rawe was Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded project Italian Cinema Audiences 1945-60 (2013-16). This project mixed quantitative and qualitative research into Italian cinema-going in the post-war period, and has given rise to numerous events and publications, including an edited book (Bloomsbury, 2020).
  • John Foot was funded by the Wellcome Trust (2011-14) to carry out a large-scale research project on Franco Basaglia and the Mental Health Reform in Italy, 1960-2009. A short video account is available here.

Associated Centres

  • Centre for Material Texts: The Centre brings together scholars from across the Faculty of Arts, as well as librarians and creative professionals, in the exploration of material texts from the ancient world to the digital age.
  • Centre for Medieval Studies: The Centre for Medieval Studies draws together the research interests of all staff and postgraduate students who work on the Middle Ages.
  • Screen Research Cluster: an interdisciplinary group working in screen studies, a broad field that incorporates film, television and digital media technologies.
  • Oral History Research Cluster: aims to discuss oral history methodology and historiography across departments and faculties, but also within the city and the region.
  • Urban Humanities Research Cluster: a forum for showcasing arts and humanities research on the city; for sharing theoretical approaches and critical frameworks; and for identifying new ways of conceptualising the city in its material, discursive and virtual dimensions.

Collaborations and Activities 

The Centre for Material Texts collaborates regularly with creative practitioners, librarians, publishers and the heritage sector. 

The Italian Cinema Audiences project fostered key collaborations with non-profit organizations in Italy, namely Memoro and The University of the Third Age in Italy

Photo Credit: Student, Anna Dobbie for the 2020 Year Abroad photo competition

Research in the faculty

Our research forms part of the overall research actis and strategies of the Faculty of Arts.

Research events

We run a regular research seminar series and are frequently involved with one-off research events.

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