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SLIM 2023 / Calvino’s Ecological Clairvoyance


2023 Week of Italian Language in the World
Italian language and sustainability

Italo Calvino’s Universe
A lecture series on literature, ecology, arts and ethics 

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Italo Calvino (1923-1985), the Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago, in collaboration with the Department of Modern Languages, Italian Program, at DePaul University, presents a series of lectures on exemplary and less known themes, from the vast body of work of the Italian author, between fantastic elements and historical issues.

2/ Calvino’s Ecological Clairvoyance: A Question of Communication
Presented by prof. Monica Seger
Thursday, October 19 at 6pm CT
Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago

Throughout his vast oeuvre, Italo Calvino depicts both a natural world fundamentally changed by human action and the struggle of human protagonists to accept that change. While decrying industrial pollution, unregulated building and increasing reliance on toxic substances, he simultaneously celebrates the persistent agency and adaptability of nonhuman nature and models the importance of acknowledging environmental change — of clear communication. This is especially true in his writing from the 1950s and 1960s, the period of Italy’s post-war industrial expansion and economic boom. In texts like La formica argentina (1952), La nuvola di smog (1958) and Marcovaldo ovvero Le stagioni in città (1963), the author describes the full emergence of our current geological era now known as the Anthropocene, while anticipating questions still very relevant today regarding industrial emissions, nonhuman-human relations, and narrative communication. Beginning with a reading of these texts, and focusing in particular on La nuvola di smog, the talk will consider what Monica Seger calls Calvino’s ecological clairvoyance in the context of more recent Italian stories of real-life environmental change, disaster and resilience. 

The presentation will be moderated by Caterina Mongiat Farina, Associate Professor and Director of the Department of Modern Languages, Italian Program, at DePaul University. 

Free and open to the public. Registration is not required. Doors open at 5:30pm CT and seats are assigned on a first-come-first-served basis, until capacity is reached.

Monica Seger is Professor of Modern Languages & Literatures at William & Mary, in Virginia. She joined the faculty there in 2014 and is affiliated with the programs of Environment & Sustainability; Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies; and Film and Media Studies. Her research and teaching address modern and contemporary Italian literature, film and media; the environmental humanities; and gender studies. Professor Seger is the author of Landscapes in Between: Environmental Change in Modern Italian Literature and Film (University of Toronto Press, 2015) and Toxic Matters: Narrating Dioxin in Today’s Italy (University of Virginia Press, 2022). 

Caterina Mongiat Farina (laurea, Università di Padova; PhD, Harvard University) is Associate Professor and Italian Program Director at DePaul University. Her research focuses on issues of language, rhetoric, and identity in Italian literature during the long sixteenth century and from the Postwar period to the present. She is the author of Questione di lingua. L’ideologia del dibattito sull’italiano nel Cinquecento (Longo editore, 2014); with Geoff Farina, the translator of Umberto Eco’s classic manual How to Write a Thesis (MIT Press, 2015), and with Paola De Santo, the editor and translator of Isabella Andreini’s 1607 Letters (Iter Press, forthcoming). Mongiat Farina’s articles on premodern literature and contemporary coming-of-age fiction appeared in journals such as Rinascimento, Stilistica e metrica italiana, Forum Italicum, Italica, Esperienze letterarie, and Strumenti critici. Her current research focuses on Italo Calvino’s use of metaphors and similes between human beings, animals, and plants and commonplaces of the bildungsroman to reflect on how to be human and embrace change as a constant process, beyond one’s formative years. She is collaborating with Paola De Santo on the Italian edition of Andreini’s Lettere.

The Week of Italian Language in the World is a yearly worldwide celebration of the Italian language and creativity. This initiative was born in 2001 in cooperation with the Accademia della Crusca. It is organized during the third week of October by the Embassies, Consulates, and Italian Cultural Institutes, with the support of the Ministry of Culture (MiC), the Ministry of University and Research (MUR), the Government of Switzerland and all of the main partners for the promotion of the Italian language.