Academic Programs and Support

During the fall of the 2002-2003 academic year the Devers Program launched its Distinguished Visiting Professor series with the appointment of Professor Piero Boitani of the Dept. of Comparative Literature at the University of Rome. This initiative, designed to significantly improve the environment for advanced literary study in the languages and literatures and to prepare the way for a permanent senior distinguished appointment in Italian literature at Notre Dame, was conceived and funded by the Directorship of the Devers Dante Program in collaboration with the Department of Romance Languagesthe Medieval Institute, and the College of Arts and Letters.

Boitani taught an undergraduate seminar on Dante and a graduate comparative literature seminar on medieval literature in the vernaculars. In addition, Boitani published a book with the University of Notre Dame Press (The Art of Improving an Invention, Notre Dame UP, 2002) and accepted our invitation to join the editorial board of the William and Katherine Devers Series in Dante Studies.

In connection with his visit, Professor Boitani invited one of Italy's leading literary critics, Professor Remo Ceserani, Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Bologna, to give a lecture and a seminar at Notre Dame which was co-sponsored by the Dante Program, the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, and the Ph.D in Literature Program. Professor Ceserani spoke on "Melancholy and Wit: A Humorous Relationship" on Oct. 15, 2002 in the Hesburgh Center Auditorium.

The Devers Program also co-sponsored with the Dept. of Romance Languages & Literatures a lecture by William J. Kennedy, Professor of Comparative Literature at Cornell University, “Du Bellay's Strategic Defense: Petrarchan Illustrations of National Sentiment in Early Modern France” on October 29. Professor Kennedy teaches the history of European literature and literary criticism from antiquity to the early modern period. His interests focus on Italian, French, English, and German texts from Dante to Milton.

As a part of our efforts to support and encourage the development and advancement of graduate literary study in the foreign languages and literatures at Notre Dame, the Devers Dante Program organized and co-sponsored with the Departments of English and Romance Languages and the Ph.D, in Literature and allied departments the visit of Professor Roland Greene, Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Chair of the Division of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at Stanford University. Professor Greene gave a well-attended lecture on 23 April 2003 ("A Syntax of Early Modern Semantic") and led a panel discussion "English and the Foreign Languages: Cultures in Transition" featuring several Notre Dame faculty. The panel, which was inspired by the "Conference on the Relation between English and Foreign Languages in the Academy: Constructing Dialogue, Imagining Change," organized by the Modern Languages Association [see PMLA117.5 (2002): 1233-1294], was designed to stimulate conversation at Notre Dame about evolving relations, including institutional arrangements, between English and the other language and literature departments, in both theoretical and practical terms, with an focus on new intellectual challenges and opportunities.

The Devers Program successfully managed its second appointment of a post-doctoral in Italian Studies. During the past two academic years Professor Justin Steinberg taught courses at every level in the Italian Studies Program including language courses and graduate seminars in the areas of his specialization, medieval Italian literature. He also taught successfully several semesters in the Core Course as well as contributed to the Dante Program's efforts to support the teaching of Dante in the Core. Steinberg gave two public lectures on his research during his tenure here and made significant progress in this area. Steinberg was appointed Assistant Professor of Italian at the University of Chicago beginning in the fall of 2003.

The Devers Program continued its collaborations with the College Core Course in support of the teaching of Dante. In past years the Devers Program has organized and funded distinguished visiting scholars and exhibits in conjunction with the teaching of Dante's Inferno at the beginning of the Spring semester. This year, faculty associated with the Devers Dante Program, Professors Cachey, Moevs and Steinberg gave the slide lecture "What's Wrong with this Picture: Reading Dante Reading Hell" to between 250-300 students in the Core in the Hesburgh Library Auditorium on Jan. 29, 2003. Faculty associated with the Devers Program, in conjunction with the Department of Special Collection, once again organized library tours of the rare book holdings in the John A. Zahm Dante collection for Core Course faculty and their students.

During 2002-2003, the Program also sponsored:

  • the travel of Professor Christian Moevs to two meetings of the Dante Society of America of which he is an elected Councillor

  • the travel of Professor Justin Steinberg to the annual MLA meeting where he was interviewed for several positions

Scholarly Publication

The Devers Series in Dante Studies edited by Professors Cachey and Moevs published its fifth volume during 2002-2003: Dante and the Grammar of the Nursing Body by Gary P. Cestaro. This volume takes a serious look at Dante's relation to Latin grammar and the new "mother tongue" – Italian vernacular – by exploring the cultural significance of the nursing mother in medieval discussions of language and selfhood. Inspired by Julia Kristeva's meditations on the maternal semiotic, Cestaro's book uncovers ancient and medieval discourses that assert the nursing body's essential role in the development of a mature linguistic self.

Internet Research and Publications

A major new scholarly project was undertaken by the Devers Dante Program in conjunction with the Medieval Institute and the Ambrosiana Library in Milan: "Inventory of Italian Vernacular Manuscripts in the Ambrosiana Library." The project has as its goal the creation of an inventory-catalogue for all writings in the Italian vernacular(s) from the origini to 1600 found in manuscripts in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana. For Italian writing after this date, the inventory listing will be limited to literary texts including poetry and literary prose as well as translations and epistolary collections of literary significance. The initial selection of manuscripts to be included will be made by F. Sberlati, based on a search through the Inventario Ceruti.

Since April 2002, Marcus Green, a Ph.D. candidate in political philosophy at the University of Toronto, has been maintaining the Web site of the International Gramsci Society (IGS) in collaboration with technical staff in the library at Notre Dame and in consultation with Joseph Buttigieg, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English and editor of the Gramsci Society Newsletter. During the past year, Green has implemented several design improvements to the site to insure proper display and functionality across platforms and to improve navigation. He has also added much new content to this site, including a valuable set of indexes to the various editions and translations of Gramsci's Prison Notebooks. Green also launched and administers an electronic discussion list for the IGS.

In September 2002, the corpus of the Franco-Italian Online Archive (FIOLA) was enhanced by the addition of the "Continuazione dell'Entrée d'Espagne," also known as the "La Prise de Pamplune" from Franca Di Ninni's edition (Venice, Marsilio, 1992), to which scanning rights had been obtained previously. This addition supplements the other major variant of "La Prise de Pamplune" previously represented in the corpus from the edition of Antoine Thomas (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1913). At the same time, the other texts in the corpus were reviewed and corrections made as needed.

As projected in last year's report, the graphical design of the Ambrosiana Drawings Project Web site was recreated to conform with the appearance of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana Web site that was released last spring. The new design, which includes full documentation in both English and Italian, was tested during the early part of the Fall semester 2002, and released to the public in October. In conjunction with the graphical redesign, a new database search engine was developed and implemented using MySQL and Perl. The new search engine offers a host of new search and display features with a more attractive interface.

Support for this project was effectively transitioned to a new group of library technical and support staff during the Spring semester 2003, as necessitated by changes in library personnel and the acquisition of new computer hardware and software for project staff earlier in the year.

Rare Book Acquisitions

A list of works purchased during the 2002-2003 academic year is available here.