Welcome to Sante's Website! Benvenuti al sito di Sante!
Sante Matteo, Professor Emeritus of Italian Studies, Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio, was born in Petrella Tifernina, in the Molise region of southern Italy. He emigrated to the United States with his family at the age of nine. He received a BA in French from Kenyon College in 1971, and after a stint in the US Army, earned an MA in French from Miami University and an MA and a PhD in Italian from the Johns Hopkins University. In addition to Johns Hopkins and Miami, he also taught at Brigham Young University and Middlebury College. His academic publications include several books and numerous essays, in Italian and in English. In retirement, he has focused on creative writing and has published short fiction, memoirs, and poetry.
Sante Matteo, Professore Emerito d'Italianistica alla Miami University, a Oxford, Ohio, nato a Petrella Tifernina (CB), è emigrato negli Stati Uniti con la famiglia nel 1958, quasi decenne. Laureato in Lettere francesi al Kenyon College, a Gambier, Ohio, nel 1971, dopo aver prestato servizio militare per due anni, riprese i suoi studi, ottenendo un Master (Master of Arts) in Letteratura francese alla Miami University e un Master e un PhD (Dottorato di ricerca, 1983) in Letteratura italiana alla Johns Hopkins University. Le sue pubblicazioni, in inglese e in italiano, contano numerosi saggi e libri. Dopo la carriera accademica, si è dedicato alla scrittura creativa e ha pubblicato racconti, memorie, e poesie.
Department of French and Italian
Oxford, Ohio 45056
E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Home page: https://www.santematteo.com
PhD, Italian: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. Earned 10/82; awarded 5/83. Dissertation: "Jacopo, Yorick, and Didimo: Textual Voices in Search of a Reader" (a study of the role of the implicit reader in Laurence Sterne and Ugo Foscolo). Dissertation Advisor: Eduardo Saccone.
MA, Italian: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, 5/77.
MA, French: Miami University, Oxford, OH, 12/76.
BA, French: Kenyon College, Gambier, OH, 6/71.
ACADEMIC WORK EXPERIENCE
8/1989-5/2015: Department of French and Italian, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio:
8/1996-5/2015: Professor of Italian; 8/04-5/15: Coordinator of Italian Studies;
8/1992-7/1996: Associate Professor of Italian (tenured 4/93);
8/1990-7/1992: Assistant Professor of Italian;
8/1989-7/1990: Visiting Associate Professor of Italian, on leave from Brigham Young University, where I was a tenured Associate Professor. The following year I voluntarily relinquished that position to accept a tenure-track appointment at Miami as Assistant Professor.
Courses taught: Beginning and Intermediate Italian; Introduction to Italian Literature; Italian Cinema; Dante's Divine Comedy; Italian Humanism and Renaissance, Introduction to Film History and Criticism, Italian Culture; Italian-American Culture; Honors courses on the Italian Intellectual Tradition ("Humanism and Terrorism") and the Columbian Legacy in Italian and American Culture ("1492: When Worlds Collide"); created and taught new Miami Plan Foundation (liberal education) courses: “Italy, Matrix of Civilization” and “Italian American-Culture”; trained and supervised Teaching Assistants for Elementary and Intermediate Italian courses; numerous independent studies on Italian literature, thought, and cinema.
8/1980-7/1990: Department of French and Italian, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah:
8/1987-9/1990: Associate Professor of Italian with continuing status (tenure); on leave 89-90;
10/1982-8/1987: Assistant Professor of Italian;
9/198010/1982: Instructor of Italian.
General courses taught: Introduction to Italian Literature, Italian Culture, and Italian Language courses at all levels. Specialized upper-division courses taught: Dante's Divine Comedy, Italian Literature of the Baroque and Enlightenment, Italian Literature of the Romantic Period, French and Italian Cinema, and French and Italian Literary Theory. Served as director of the first and second-year Italian language program from 1980 to 1985; trained and supervised teaching assistants.
9/19765/1979: Visiting Instructor of Italian, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. Organized, supervised, and taught first and second-year Italian language courses; trained and supervised graduate teaching assistants.
ADDITIONAL TEACHING EXPERIENCE AND RELATED APPOINTMENTS:
2009-2014: Director, Miami University Summer Language Institute in Italy. An intensive, seven-week, summer language program held in Urbino, Italy, offering 8 semester credits at three levels: elementary, intermediate, and advanced Italian.
Summer 2008: Italian Language School, Middlebury College: Introduction to Literature, Italian Cinema
Summers 2014, ‘13, ’12, ’11, ‘10, ‘09, 1997, ‘95, ‘91, ‘81, ‘79, ‘78: Taught intensive 1st, 2nd and 3rd-year Italian courses (grammar, reading, composition) at the Miami University Summer Language Institute in Urbino, Italy. Also served as Director, 2009-2010.
9/19755/1976: Graduate Instructor (Teaching Assistant), Third-year Italian, Johns Hopkins University. Developed and taught seminars on Italian Poetry of the 20th Century and on the Italian Novel of the 20th Century.
9/19746/1975: Teaching Assistant at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio: Beginning Italian and Italian Conversation, while enrolled in French MA program.
9/197312/1973: Graduate Instructor (Teaching Assistant), Johns Hopkins U.; Beginning Italian.
PROFESSIONAL OFFICES AND EDITORSHIPS
Editor: Italian Culture, The Journal of the American Association for Italian Studies, volumes 19-20 (2001-2002).
Editorial Boards: El Ghibli – Rivista di Letteratura della Migrazione, online: http://www.el-ghibli.org/, 2014-present; Italica, 1997-2003; Italian Culture, 1996-2001; Machiavelli Studies: The Journal of the International Machiavelli Society, 1987-.
Executive Secretary of the American Association for Italian Studies (AAIS), two terms: 1987 to 1993.
Editor of Il Gonfaloniere, the newsletter of the American Association for Italian Studies. From 1987 to 1993. I compiled, wrote, and distributed the semiannual newsletter, which typically consisted of 20-50 pages of notes on the Association's meetings and activities, on members' publications and professional accomplishments, and other items of professional and bibliographic interest; distributed to more than 750 Italianists and programs throughout the world.
Associate Editor of Italian Culture, the journal sponsored by the AAIS, from vol. VI (1985), published in 1987, to vol VIII (1990).
Executive Committee of the Modern Language Association Division, Italian Literature, 17th. Century to the Present, for five-year term, 1988-1992; Chair in 1991. During my term the committee successfully petitioned the MLA to create another Division for Italian Literature, dividing ours in two: 1) Seventeenth through Nineteenth Century, 2) Twentieth Century. After my term as chair of the previous division (17th. Century to Present), I also acted as convener and founding chair for the newly formed division, Italian Literature, 17th through 19th Century, at the MLA Convention, Dec. 1992.
Reader/referee/evaluator for PMLA, Italian Culture, Italica, Forum italicum, Purdue Romance Language Annual, Encyclia, the Journal of the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association; Cambridge U. Press, RMMLA monograph series, Paramount Publishing, University of Florida Press, University of Toronto Press, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, University of California.
National Task Force on Italian Studies: produced a document related to maintaining and enhancing Italian programs at the university level, highlighting issues in the areas of program and curricular development, hiring and faculty development, funding, and student aid and retention; Spring, 2005.
National Board of Readers for the Italian AM Exam: appointed as a Reader for the College Board’s AP Italian exams, at the College of New Jersey. Served as Table Leader in scoring the 2007 exam.
7. Il secondo occhio di Ulisse: Saggi di letteratura e cultura italiana. Author. Pisa: Pacini Editore, 2019. A collection of my previously published essays, selected, translated, and edited by Silvia Carlorosi, Maria Silvia Riccio, and Simone Dubrovic.
6. Radici sporadiche: Letteratura, viaggi, migrazioni. Author. Isernia: Cosmo Iannone, 2007. A collection of essays in Italian, some previously published; some written in Italian, others translated from English for this volume by Maria Silvia Riccio, on the topic of migration, displacement, and identity. Edited by Simone Dubrovic.
5. ItaliAfrica: Bridging Continents and Cultures. Editor. Stony Brook, NY: Forum Italicum Press, 2001.
A collection of twenty-five interdisciplinary articles in English on historical, economic, political, and cultural relations between Africa and Italy.
4. Africa Italia: Due continenti si avvicinano. Editor, with Stefano Bellucci. Santarcangelo di Romagna, Italy: Fara Editore, 1999. A collection of fifteen articles in Italian on historical and cultural relations between Africa and Italy.
3. Italian Echoes in the Rocky Mountains: Papers from the 1988 conference of the American Association for Italian Studies. Editor, with Cinzia Donatelli Noble and Madison U. Sowell. Provo, UT: American Association for Italian Studies and David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies at Brigham Young University, 1990. A collection of twenty articles on Italian thought, art, politics, cinema, literature, and society.
2. The Reasonable Romantic: Essays on Alessandro Manzoni. Editor, with Larry H. Peer. New York: Lang, 1986. A collection of seventeen essays on various aspects of Manzoni's work.
1. Textual Exile: The Reader in Sterne and Foscolo. Author. New York: Lang, 1985.
Editor, Italian Culture, The Journal of the American Association for Italian Studies: 4 issues: vol. 19.1, 19.2 (2001), and vol. 20.1-2 (2002).
Chapters, Introductions, Prefaces, Essays in Edited Volumes
37. “Flesh Made Word Made Flesh,” Re-reading Rimanelli in America: Six Decades in the United States, eds. Sheryl Lynn Postman and Anthony Julian Tamburri (New York: Bordighera, 2016): 67-85
36. “What Italy Got for Her Twenty-first Birthday,” FIAC 3: Proceedings of the Forum in Italian American Criticism: “Theatre of the Mind, Scene of History,” (New York: Bordighera, 2014): 76-113.
35. "Horizontal and Vertical Journeys in the Italian Imagination: Marco Polo and Garibaldi versus Dante and Victor Emanuel II,” lead article in a special issue of MLN in honor of Eduardo Saccone, 129.3S (2014): 7-20.
34. “Italian Roots in Global Soil,” Preface to Poets of the Italian Diaspora, Eds Luigi Bonaffini and Joe Perricone (Fordham UP, 2014).
33. “Marco Polo,” The Literary Encyclopedia: http://www.litencyc.com/, 2010.
32. “Molise-Ohio, via Utah,” in Radici sporadiche (2007): 83-93.
31. “I petrellesi di Cleveland,” in Radici sporadiche (2007): 37-62.
30. “Lamefricatalia: Lezioni italiane di elisione, troncamento e contrazione,” in Incontri culturali da oltre oceano. Ed. Antonio Vitti (Pesaro: Metauro, 2008): 133-151. Previously published in Radici sporadiche (2007): 161-176, and Borderlines: migrazioni e identita' nel Novecento. Ed. Jennifer Burns and Loredana Polezzi (Isernia: Cosmo Iannone, 2003): 25-39.
29. “To Hell with Meaning! Vesting Authority in Belfagor,” in Seeking Real Truths: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Machiavelli, edited by Gerald Seaman and Patricia Vilches (Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2007): 245-70. Revised version of “To Hell with Men and Meaning! Vesting Authority in Machiavelli’s Belfagor,” Italica, 79.1 (2002): 1-22.
28. “L’Italia dall’aia alla piscina, dall’emigrazione all’immigrazione,” in Radici sporadiche (2007): 187-203.
27. “Sangue e memi sul marciapiede: la memetica e la migrazione” in Radici sporadiche (2007): 83-93. Translation of “Blood and Memes on the ‘Marciapiede’: Memetics and Migration.” Italian Studies in Southern Africa, Special Issue: Margins at the Centre: African Italian Voices, 8.2 (1995): 67-82.
26. “Marco Polo in cammino verso Hollywood” in Radici sporadiche (2007): 63-72. Translation of "Marco Polo on the Road to Hollywood." Selecta, the Journal of the Pacific Northwest Council on Foreign Languages, 9 (1988): 68-75.
25. “Pluralismo o unità: stiamo abbaiando ai piedi dell’albero giusto?” in Radici sporadiche (2007): 73-81. Translation of "Pluralism or Unity: Are We Barking up the Right Tree?" VIA (Voice in Italian Americana), 6.2 (1995): 177-185.
24. “Quando la neve era più neve e le strade più strade e C’eravamo tanto amati” in Radici sporadiche (2007): 109-124. Translation of "When Snow Was Snowier and Roads Were Roadier and We All Loved Each Other so Much." Michigan Romance Studies, 16 (1996) 87-102.
23. “Pontifex maximus: I romanzi e i ponti di Giose Rimanelli” in Radici sporadiche (2007): 125-145.
22. "Trovatello o rimanello sul ponte: A quale riva arriva e a quale sponda risponde Rimanelli?" in Radici sporadiche (2007): 147-156. Earlier versions appeared in Rimanelliana, ed. Sebastiano Martelli (Stony Brook, NY: Forum Italicum Press, 2000), and in Italian Culture (1997): 357-369.
21. “Traduzione come contagio: Di come la traduzione ha diffuso l’epidemia ossianica,” trans. Luca Manini, in Radici sporadiche (2007): 95-108. First appeared in Testo a fronte, 19 (1998): 71-93.
20. “Il Molise perduto e ritrovato nell’odissea americana di Rimanelli” in Radici sporadiche (2007): 177-186. Translation of “Molise Lost and Regained in Rimanelli’s American Odyssey.” Rivista di Studi Italiani, 19.1 (2001): 228-245.
19. “Lamefricatalia: Lezioni italiane di elisione, troncamento e contrazione,” in Radici sporadiche (2007): 161-176. Previously published in Borderlines: migrazioni e identita' nel Novecento. Ed. Jennifer Burns and Loredana Polezzi (Isernia: Cosmo Iannone, 2003): 25-39.
18. “Migrazione: smembrare e rimembrare,” in Radici sporadiche (2007): 157-159. Translation of the Preface to the novella, Winter in Montreal, by Pietro Corsi (Toronto: Guernica, 2000).
17. “Volponi in Utah,” in Il cerchio: omaggio a Paolo Volponi. Ed., Evelina De Signoriubus (Casette d’Ete [AP]: La Luna/ISTMI, 2005): 93-102.
16. “Why Didn’t I Identify Myself as African American in the Census?” in Italian Cultural Studies 2001. Eds. Anthony J. Tamburri, Myriam S. Rutherberg, Graziella Parati, Ben Lawton (Boca Raton, FL: Bordighera Press, 2004): 93-107.
15. “Lettera all’Italia degli immigrati da un italiano emigrato,” opening essay in In Search of Italia: Saggi sulla cultura dell’Italia contemporanea, edited by Antonio Vitti and Roberta Morosini (Pesaro: Metauro Edizioni, 2003): 13-27. Modified version of the Introduction to Africa Italia (1999).
13, 14. “Lamefricatalia: Lezioni italiane di elisione, troncamento e contrazione” and "Lamefricatalia: Italian Lessons in Elision, Truncation, and Contraction." Opening essay in Borderlines: migrazioni e identita' nel Novecento. Ed. Jennifer Burns and Loredana Polezzi (Isernia: Cosmo Iannone, 2003). The essay appears both in Italian, pp. 25-39, and in English, pp. 239-51.
12. “African Italy, Bridging Continents and Cultures,” Introduction of ItaliAfrica (Stony Brook, NY: Forum Italicum, 2001): 1-20.
11. Preface, Winter in Montreal, novella by Pietro Corsi (Toronto: Guernica, 2000); translated and reprinted as: “Migrazione: smembrare e rimembrare,” in Radici sporadiche (2007): 157-159.
10. "Trovatello o rimanello sul ponte: A quale riva arriva e a quale sponda risponde Rimanelli?" in Rimanelliana, ed. Sebastiano Martelli (Stony Brook, NY: Forum Italicum Press, 2000): 129-139. An earlier version was published in Italian Culture (1997): 357-369.
9. “Africa e/è Italia: Lettera-introduzione di un figlio lontano,” introductory essay in Africa Italia (Santarcangelo di Romagna: Fara, 1999): 11-25.
8. "Italian Cinema," course description and syllabus, in Position Papers and Syllabi Presented at the Politics and Ideology in the Italian Cinema Workshop, Occasional Paper Series 103-9 (Bloomington, IN: West European Studies National Resource Center, 1994): 131-137.
7. “Ossianism and Risorgimento,” in Romanticism across the Disciplines, ed. Larry Peer (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1998): 27-40. Previously published in Prism(s): Essays in Romanticism, 3 (1995): 15-34.
6. "When Snow Was Snowier and Roads Were Roadier and We All Loved Each Other So Much." In The Flight of Ulysses: Studies in Memory of Emmanuel Hatzantonis, ed. Augusto Mastri (Chapel Hill, NC: Annali d’italianistica, 1997): 326-339. An earlier version appeared in Michigan Romance Studies, 16 (1996) 87-102.
5. "Giose Rimanelli," six-thousand-word article in Italian Novelists Since World War II, 1945-1965, ed. Augustus Pallotta; vol. 177 of Dictionary of Literary Bibliography (Detroit: Gale Research, 1997): 304-313.
4. "Italian Echoes in Faraway Places," Prologue in Italian Echoes in the Rocky Mountains (Provo, UT: AAIS & Kennedy Intl. Ctr., BYU, 1990): vii-xiv.
3. "The Centripetal Romantic: Symphonious Discourse in Polyphonous Italy." Introductory article in The Reasonable Romantic: Essays on Alessandro Manzoni (New York: Lang, 1986): 33-45.
2. "Manzoni's 'Twenty-five Readers': The Other Betrothal in I promessi sposi." In The Reasonable Romantic: Essays on Alessandro Manzoni (New York: Lang, 1986): 135-158.
1. "Le Roman de la rose: Text in Search of a Reader." In From Vergil to Akhmatova: A Collection of Essays. Ed. HansWilhelm Kelling (Provo: BYU Press, 1983): 31-40.
Articles in Professional Journals
23. “Hallowed Be My Name: A Transplant's Trials, Tribulations, and Triumphs in Translation,” Journal of Italian Translation, 15.1 (2020): 28-50.
21-22. “The Empty Suitcase and the Hungry Donkey: Giose Rimanelli’s Odyssey,” Journal of Italian Translation, 13.1 (2018): 222-28. An Italian translation by Maria Silvia Riccio, “La valigia vuota e l'asino affamato: L'odissea di Giose Rimanelli,” Il Bene Comune, Nov. 2018: 44-49.
20. “To Hell with Men and Meaning! Vesting Authority in Machiavelli’s Belfagor.” Italica: Journal of the American Association of Teachers of Italian, 79.1 (2002): 1-22.
19. “Molise Lost and Regained in Rimanelli’s American Odyssey.” Rivista di Studi Italiani, 19.1 (2001): 228-245.
18. “Baseball, Abortion, and Fellini’s 8 1/2, and maybe Sammy Sosa, Too.” Romance Language Annual 1999, 11 (2000): 255-260.
17. “Traduzione come contagio: Di come la traduzione ha diffuso l’epidemia ossianica.” Trans. Luca Manini. Testo a fronte, 19 (1998): 71-93.
16. "Trovatello o rimanello sul ponte: A quale riva arriva e a quale sponda risponde Rimanelli?" Italian Culture, XV (1997): 357-369.
15. “How Giacomo Taught James to Become Joyce.” Romance Language Annual, 8 (1996): 232-237.
14. "When Snow Was Snowier and Roads Were Roadier and We All Loved Each Other So Much." Michigan Romance Studies, 16 (1996) 87-102.
13. "Ossianism and Risorgimento." Prism[s]: Essays in Romanticism, 3 (1995): 15-34.
12. "Monks, Journalists, Beasts, and Heroes Loose in the Labyrinth: Vico and Joyce on Literature." Romance Language Annual, 7 (1995): 384-289.
11. “Blood and Memes on the ‘Marciapiede’: Memetics and Migration.” Italian Studies in Southern Africa, Special Issue: Margins at the Centre: African Italian Voices, 8.2 (1995): 67-82.
10. "Pluralism or Unity: Are We Barking up the Right Tree?" Review Essay of The Arbor Scientiae Reconceived and the History of Vico's Resurrection by Giorgio Tagliacozzo. VIA (Voice in Italian Americana), 6.2 (1995): 177-185.
9. "Ossian's Memes and Translation." Deseret Language and Linguistics Society: Selected Papers from the Proceedings of the Annual Symposium. Ed. Jeff Turley (Provo, UT: DLLS, 1995): 137-141.
8. "History as a Web of Fictions: Plato, Borges, and Bertolucci." Weber Studies 6.1 (1989): 12-29.
7. "Marco Polo on the Road to Hollywood." Selecta, the Journal of the Pacific Northwest Council on Foreign Languages, 9 (1988): 68-75.
6. "The Beast, the Hieroglyph, and Pizza: Vico on Language and Poetry." Deseret Language and Linguistics Society: Selected Papers from the Proceedings, Thirteenth Annual Symposium. Ed. Diane Strong-Krause (Provo: DLLS, 1987): 104-111.
5. "Vico at the American Association for Italian Studies Conference." Note in New Vico Studies 5 (1987): 219-220.
3-4. "Language as 'Always Already' Metaphor: The Primacy of Writing in Vico, Said and Derrida." Deseret Language and Linguistics Society: Selected Papers from the Proceedings, Twelfth Annual Symposium. Eds. R. Kirk Belnap and Dilworth B. Parkinson (Provo: DLLS, 1986): 142-148. An abstract of the article was subsequently published in New Vico Studies 5 (1987): 205.
2. "'I miei venticinque lettori': Gli altri promessi sposi nei Promessi sposi." Prometeo 20 (Dec. 1985): 116-138.
1. "Didimo and Yorick: Observations on Foscolo's Translation of Sterne." Deseret Language and Linguistic Society: Proceedings, Seventh Annual Symposium. Ed. C. Ray Graham (Provo: DLLS, 1981): 106-112.
Italian to English: “The Poetry of ‘Limited’ Exile and Its Revealing Trek Among Italy’s Small Presses,” by Giose Rimanelli. World Literature Today, Spring (1997): 289-300.
12, 13. Pietro Corsi. Omicidio in un paese di cacciatori. World Literature Today, 75.3/4 (2001): 202-203; and a longer version in Rivista di Studi Italiani, 19.1 (2002): 321-324.
11. Achille Serrao. Presunto inverno: Poesia dialettare (e dintorni) negli anni novanta. Italian Culture, 18.1 (2000): 242-245.
10. Pasquale Verdicchio. Bound by Distance: Rethinking Nationalism through the Italian Diaspora. Italian Culture 16.2 (1998): 246-252.
9. Robert S. Dombroski. Properties of Writing: Ideological Discourse in Modern Italian Fiction. Rivista di studi italiani, 15.2 (1997): 283-290.
8. Luigi Bonaffini and Sebastiano Martelli, eds. La poesia dialettale del Molise. Italica, 73.3 (1996): 446-448.
7. Bruno Rosada. La giovinezza di Niccolò Ugo Foscolo. Italica, 73.1 (1996): 120-121.
6. Antonino Musumeci. La musa e mammona: L'uso borghese della parola nell'Ottocento italiano. Italica 72.1 (1995): 121-122.
5. Gino Bedani. Vico Revisited: Orthodoxy, Naturalism, and Science in the "Scienza nuova". Italica 70.1 (1993): 99-103.
4. Robert S. Dombroski. L'apologia del vero. Forum Italicum 22.2 (1988): 280-283.
3. Vittorio Spinazzola. Il libro per tutti: Saggio su "I promessi sposi". Annali d'italianistica 5 (1987): 297-300.
2. Gregory Lucente. The Narrative of Realism and Myth: Verga, Lawrence, Faulkner, Pavese. Forum Italicum 19.1 (1985): 190-92.
1. Vincenzo Tripodi. Studi su Laurence Sterne e Ugo Foscolo. Forum Italicum 14.2 (1980): 253-55.
Other Publications: Videos, Broadcasts, Interviews, Newspaper articles, Miscellaneous
26. TELEVISION INTERVIEW: RAI News 24, Alfredo Di Giovampaolo, “Cammina Italia, a piedi nel belpaese che scompare: sui sentieri del Molise,” aired 17 Aug. 2019.
25. VIDEO INTERVIEW: Facebook, Rete Nazionale Donne in Cammino, by Ilaria Canali, Aug. 3, 2019.
24. EXCERPTS: “Alcune cose che ho detto di Giose Rimanelli,” Il Bene Comune, XIX, N. 08-09, Agosto/Settembre 2019: 71-73.
23. ARTICLE: “La valigia vuota e l'asino affamato: L'Odissea di Giose Rimanelli,” Il Bene Comune, XVIII, N. 011, novembre 2018: 44-49.
22. FLASHMOB: I participated in a Flashmob on 10 Nov. 2011, for the “Are You In?” campaign, part of the international “It Gets Better” campaign to prevent suicide and despair among university students who feel excluded because of bias and prejudice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJi8qbcTAnU
21. NEWSPAPER INTERVIEW ARTICLE IN MALTA: “Rebel with a lost cause / Giuseppe Garibaldi and the Mediterranean are the subjects of two lectures to be delivered this week by Italian Scholar Sante Matteo. Interview by Gloria Lauri-Lucente”; The Sunday Times of Malta, full-page article in Arts section, p. 44; March 8, 2009.
20. TV INTERVIEWS AND VIDEO RECORDING: Interviewed by national network RAI-3 and recorded by local television on the presentation of my book Radici sporadiche in Petrella Tifernina (CB), 12 Aug. 2007.
19. SILK ROAD BLOG: I wrote the trip blog on three occasions for the Silk Road Project: Naryn, Kyrgyzstan, 31 May, Bukhara, Uzbekistan, 13 June, and Konya, Turkey, 29 June 2006, and contributed pictures and videos for the Project web site: ttp://montgomery.cas.muohio.edu/silkroad/index.html.
18. COMMENTARY: “How Fair Fairness?” Town Square, online commentary, Miami U, Oct. 2006.
17. COMMENTARY: “What is Berlusconi Waiting to See?” Comment in Italy Daily, the Italian insert for The International Herald Tribune, 25 Sept. 2002, p. 2.
15-16. OP-EDS (2): published in The Cincinnati Post, 18 Sept. 2002, with the title “Bush cannot justify unprovoked attack”; in The Miami Student, 17 Sept. 2002, “MU prof questions policy on Iraq.”
14. PUBLISHED INTERVIEW AND STORY: “Sentirsi abruzzese: Sante Matteo, diventato molisano suo malgrado,” interview by Dom Serafini, Il Messaggero, 10 April 2002.
13. VIDEO RECORDINGS: Presentation of the project “Molise fuori del Molise: ieri emigranti, oggi protagonisti,” Centro di Studi sui Molisani nel Mondo, Campobasso, Italy, 12 Mar. 2002; and awards ceremony with speeches in my honor and my response, Palazzo Giraldi, Petrella Tifernina (CB), 12 Mar. 2002, TSG Network.
12. INTERVIEW AND STORY: “Il Prof. torna a casa,” by Giuliana Bagnoli, in Qui Donna, no. 7, April 2002: 14-19.
10-11. PRESS CONFERENCE AND TELEVISION INTERVIEWS on “Emigrazione/Immigrazione” for newspapers (Il Tempo, Nuovo Molise oggi), magazines (Il bene comune, Qui donna), and television programs and networks (RAI, Telemolise, TLT), for regional project, “Molise fuori del Molise: ieri emigranti, oggi protagonisti,” Centro di Studi sui Molisani nel Mondo, Campobasso, Italy, 12 Mar. 2002.
8-9. OP-EDS: “A Warlike Appeal to Emotion,” Op-ed piece on the 9-11-2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, in The Cincinnati Post, 12 Oct. 2001. A longer version, “Words of War, War of Words,” circulated by e-mail and on the internet.
7. PUBLISHED INTERVIEW: “Sante Matteo e lo Zio Lilino: Nello spirito e nella corrispondenza tra letteratura e viaggi ‘Dall’aia alla piscina’, un libro che racconta le radici,” interview by Giose Rimanelli, in NUOVO oggi MOLISE, 21 Nov. 1999: p. 20.
6. PUBLISHED INTERVIEW: “Sante Matteo: un universo di spore: Molisani nel mondo,” interview by Norberto Lombardi, in NUOVO oggi MOLISE, 30 Sept. 1999: p. 19.
5. DVD: C’eravamo tanto amati: Foreign Language through Feature Films. Humanities Research Center, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, 1999. An interactive DVD of Ettore Scola’s 1974 movie with linguistic and cultural notes and exercises in English and Italian. I conceived the project and was the original subject matter expert.
4. NEWSPAPER/MAGAZINE ARTICLES (5): An op-ed piece on the presence of African immigrants in Italy appeared in The International Herald Tribune, Nov. 6, 1998, p. 9, under the title “Immigration from Africa Changing the Face of Italy.” Modified versions of the essay were published elsewhere: as “Italy Bridges Europe and Africa” in the weekly national newspaper L’Italo-Americano, Dec. 10, 1998, as “Italy Forging a New Identity” in the monthly magazine Amici in January 1999, p. 11, “Italy serves as Bridge to Africa” in the monthly Fra Noi, Feb. 1999, pp 17, 92, and “Italy Bridges Europe and Africa” in AJAR, an independent forum for social change, March 1999, p. 10.
3. RADIO BROADCAST: Panelist on one-hour WMUB radio program Forum, with host Darrel Gray and co-panelist Judith de Luce, Dept. of Classics (broadcast at 9 AM and repeated at 7 PM), to discuss African and Italian relations through history and the presence of African immigrants in Italy today and how it is changing Italian society, to compare race relations in Italy and in this country, and to promote the international symposium on Africa and Italy which was to take place at Miami the following weekend. Oct. 30, 1998.
2. ITALIAN TV INTERVIEW: 20-minute interview with Italian TV journalist Antonio Di Lallo for RAI (Italian Radio and Television), during Molisan Cultural Week, Toronto, Nov. 22-29, 1992, for regional broadcast in the Italian region of Molise, Dec. 1992.
1. NEWSPAPER ARTICLE: "Non c'è un McDonald's a San Leo." Newspaper op-ed piece on Italian culture. The Seventh East Press, Provo, Utah. 11 Nov. 198l.
30. “I's Rise,” poem, in Midsummer's Eve, Wingless Dreamer Publisher, 11 August 2022, no. 12, p. 30: https://winglessdreamer.com/winner-announcement-for-the-midsummers-eve-poetry-contest-2022/.
29. "'Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter, and Keep Hope Alive!' On (Mis?)Translating the Most Famous Verse in the Divine Comedy": Journal of Italian Translation, 17.1 (2022), pp. 66-100: https://www.academia.edu/84026435/Journal_of_Italian_Translation_Vol_XVII_No_1_Spring_2022?email_work_card=thumbnail&fbclid=IwAR1x-dDDtB_aTVmbImyifZHpcOhcjWwm2eD4HSx6fdntMoAfKmLJnYpkqRE.
28. “Cin-Cin to Pomegranate,” Moss Puppy Mag, Issue 2: Puppy Love, Spring 2022, pp. 57-59: https://mosspuppymag.wixsite.com/home/issue-2-puppylove.
27. “Glow On,” poem, Boats Against the Current, 17 April 2022: https://boatsagainstthecurrent.org/poetry/glow-on-by-sante-matteo.
26. “Dropping By,” 10-word Story, Potato Soup Journal, 13 January 2022: http://potatosoupjournal.com/dropping-by-by-sante-matteo/.
25. “Fuga dal Paradiso,” Italian version of “Escape from Paradise” (see no. 23 below), translated by Maria Silvia Riccio, Gradiva, International Journal of Italian Poetry, n. 60, autunno 2021, pp. 21-33: https://twelvewinters.com/matteo-escape-from-paradise/.
24. Commentary on “Escape from Paradise” in Twelve Winters Journal: https://twelvewinters.com/matteo-commentary-on-escape-from-paradise/.
23. “Escape from Paradise,” fiction in Twelve Winters Journal, vol. 1, 2021: https://twelvewinters.com/matteo-escape-from-paradise/. Reposted in Dante Today.
22. “To Thine Own Self Be True! But Which Self?” In Parentheses: New Modernism, 17 April 2021: https://inparentheses.art/2021/04/17/to-thine-own-self-be-true-but-which-self-by-s-matteo/.
21. “Artists Ad Astra,” 10-word story, Potato Soup Journal, March 2021: https://abstractelephant.com/2021/03/15/quantum-entanglement-between-doppelgangers-sante-matteo.
20. “Quantum Entanglement Between Doppelgangers,” essay with pictures about look-alikes, The Abstract Elephant Magazine, 15 March 2021: https://abstractelephant.com/2021/03/15/quantum-entanglement-between-doppelgangers-sante-matteo.
19. “Hallowed Be My Name: A Transplant's Trials, Tribulations, and Triumphs in Translation,” memoir in the form of an autobiography written by my name. Journal of Italian Translation, XV.1, Spring 2020, pp. 28-50. https://itamohio.lib.miamioh.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Hallowed-Name-JIT-excerpt.pdf.
18. “Escape from the Locket,” fiction: sequel/prequel to Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The Showbear Family Circus, 14 June 2020: https://lanceschaubert.org/2020/06/14/locket/.
17. “The Journey Home in Baseball: The Bible, and The Divine Comedy,” essay: KAIROS Literary Magazine, vol. 4, issue 3; April 2020: https://kairoslit.com/2020/05/01/the-journey-home-in-baseball-the-bible-and-the-divine-comedy/. Cited in DANTE TODAY: https://research.bowdoin.edu/dante-today/?s=Sante+Matteo.
16. “Coming to Dick and Jane’s America,” memoir. Ovunque Siamo: New Italian American Writing, Vol. I, Issue 4, March 2020: https://ovunquesiamoweb.com/vol-3-issue-4/sante-matteo/.
15. “Tienila stretta, quella coda!” trans. Maria Silvia Riccio of “Hold That Tail!” Il bene comune, gennaio 2020, pp. 60-64: https://www.sfogliami.it/fl/191826/xccr4ykpttbq7br3mv3v4t8vn5m21edb#page/39.
14. “Birds of Passage,” short story/memoir. River River Journal, Issue 10, Dec. 2019: http://riverriver.org/issues/ten/birds-of-passage/.
11-13. Three poems: “Window Gazing,” “Floating Anchor,” “Making It”. Metamorphosis, I, Sept. 2019, pp. 16, 28, 38. https://issuu.com/theparagonjournal/docs/metamorphosis.pdf0-merged__1_.
10. “No Words," short story. Martian Chronicle, III, August 2019, pp. 86-87. https://issuu.com/theparagonjournal/docs/volume_eight___september_2017-merged.
9. “Through Leaves and Bricks,” poem: Snapdragon: A Journal of Art and Healing—Poetry, Fall, 2019, Issue 5.3 Broken / Whole, p. 37. https://pub.lucidpress.com/51a11598-c06e-42e3-bebf-13ee31bb387f/#77NOB2p.28x0.
8. “Assignation,” ten-word story: Dime Show Review, June 2019: https://www.dimeshowreview.com/assignation-by-sante-matteo/. Posted in Dante Today: Citings and Sightings of Dante's Works in Contemporary Culture, 22 March 2020: https://research.bowdoin.edu/dante-today/tag/2020/page/2/.
7. “Hold That Tail!” flash prose: The New Southern Fugitives, May 2019: https://newsouthernfugitives.com/?s=sante+matteo.
6. “Go Find Nonno: Holding My Namesake's Hand,” memoir: Ruminate, Issue 50: “What Sustains,” Spring 2019, pp. 12-13.
5. “Can I Keep Them?” flash fiction contest winner, “In Their Voices: A Dog's POV,” Bark, Spring 2019, p. 79. https://thebark.com/content/can-i-keep-them.
4. “Bite in the Moonlight,” flash fiction: Coffin Bell Journal, 2.2, April 2019: https://coffinbell.com/bite-in-the-moonlight/.
3. “Climbed Mountains,” ten-word story: Dime Show Review, Jan. 2019: https://www.dimeshowreview.com/climbed-mountains-by-sante-matteo/.
2. “After Winning a Lottery and a Beauty Contest,” flash fiction: Dime Show Review, Sept. 2018: https://www.dimeshowreview.com/after-winning-a-lottery-and-a-beauty-contest-by-sante-matteo/.
1. “The Meeting Was Not Called to Order,” flash fiction: The Chaffin Journal, 2018, pp. 124-126.
Repostings in Dante Today: “Assignation,” “The Journey Home in the Bible, The Divine Comedy, and Baseball,” “Escape from Paradise”: https://research.bowdoin.edu/dante-today/?s=Sante+Matteo.
Literary Encyclopedia Newsletter, Dec. 2021, p. 5: https://www.litencyc.com/archive/newsletters/2021-12-newsletter.pdf.
RECOGNITION: AWARDS, GRANTS, PROFESSIONAL SEMINARS
OUTSTANDING PROFESSOR NOMINEE AWARD, Associated Student Government, Miami University, 1 April 2009.
GRANT: Dept. of French and Italian, College of Arts and Science, and the Faculty Development Fund for International Travel, for a trip to Brazil to deliver a paper at an international symposium on Giuseppe Garibaldi, 10-12 Sept. 2008.
GRANT: Dept. of French and Italian, College of Arts and Science, for travel to Europe to present a paper at a symposium in honor of Eduardo Saccone, at the University of Ireland, Cork, 19 May, to present a paper at the AAIS/AATI conference at Giardini Naxos, Sicily, 22 May, and to meet with administrators at the University of Malta to discuss developing ties between our universities to promote Mediterranean Studies, 28 May-3 June 2008.
LANSDOWNE SCHOLAR: I was invited by the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, to be their Lansdowne visiting lecturer for 2007: “A Lansdowne Visitor is a leading scholar . . . with an international reputation who . . . engages in activities of interest to students and faculty of the department where s/he will be based, as well as to other departments in the Humanities, the University, and to the community at large. Other Lansdowne Visitors to the University have included Saul Bellow, Terry Eagleton, Alan Deyermond, David Lodge, Colin Smith, Toril Moi, Melveen McKendrick, Jean Franco, Amilcare Iannucci, Angelina Muniz-Huberman, Dorothy Severin . . .” 15-19 October 2007.
BOOK PRESENTATION AND AWARD: of Radici sporadiche, in my hometown, Petrella Tifernina, in the Molise region, with comments by the mayor, Domenico Marinelli; the Assessore alla cultura, Guido Pette; the editor of the series in which the volume appeared, Norberto Lombardi; writer Pietro Corsi; and the main presentation of the volume by renowned literary scholar, Sebastiano Martelli, Professor of Literature at the University of Salerno. 12 Aug. 2007.
QUOTED on the back cover of Italian Cultural Lineages, Jonathan White (Toronto: U Toronto P, 2007)
OUTSTANDING PROFESSOR AWARD, Associated Student Government, Miami University, 26 March 2007.
FULLBRIGHT GRANT, Hampton Fund, OAST grant, with CAS and FRI funds: c. $10,000 to travel on the Silk Road trip, from Xian, China, to Istanbul, Turkey, through Kyrgizstan and Uzbekistan, on a traveling seminar with 14 other MU professors, May 21-July 2, 2006.
GRANT: Havighurst Center: $3000 for lecture series “All Roads Lead to Rome,” as part of the Center’s Silk Road Initiative. Two of the three speakers in our series, Roberto Dainotto, of Duke U., and Sharon Kinoshita, of UC-Santa Cruz, came in the Fall, 2005. The third, Bill Granara, Harvard University, in March 2006.
GRANT: Hampton Faculty Development Fund for International Travel ($300), plus from FRI ($100) and CAS ($300), to deliver a paper at the Society for Italian Studies conference in Salford/Manchester, UK, July 2005.
HONORED OUTSTANDING FACULTY, Sigma Tau Gamma: Scholarship Reception, Panhellenic Association and Interfraternity Council, Miami U., Oxford, OH, 20 April 2004.
PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION: I represented Miami University at the inauguration of S. Georgia Nugent as President of Kenyon College, themed “To Seek a Newer World,” participating in a panel discussion, “Ancient Voices in a Postmodern World,” and in other activities and ceremonies. Gambier, OH, 24-26 Oct. 2003.
BOOK PRESENTATION: Presentation of my edited book ItaliAfrica: Bridging Continents and Cultures (Stony Brook: Forum Italicum, 2001), Sponsored by the Italian Cultural Institute and the Center for Italian Studies, SUNY-Stony Brook Manhattan Center; New York, 27 Feb. 2003.
BOOK PRIZE: F. G. Bressani Prize Competition, first prize for novels: Winter in Montreal, by Pietro Corsi, with my Preface, awarded by the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver, Canada, Sept. 14, 2002.
RESEARCH GRANT: Summer, 2002: Summer Research Appointment ($6200), selected by the Committee on Faculty Research, awarded by the Office for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching, for research in Italy on how Africa and Africans have been depicted in Italian cinema.
MOLISE REGIONAL HONORS: Italian Regional Recognition: Mar. 2002: Grant ($1025) from Philip and Elaina Hampton Fund for Faculty International Initiatives, French and Italian Irvin Fund, and College of Arts and Science Alumni Travel grant, to present a paper at a symposium at the U. of Warwick, in England, 8-9 March; travel to the region of Molise in Italy, for a series public lectures on emigration in Campobasso; the donation of my books and articles to the Centro di Studi sui Molisani nel Mondo, at the Biblioteca Provinciale Pasquale Albino; and a ceremony of recognition in my hometown, Petrella Tifernina, 11-12 March. Stories and interviews about the events and ceremonies appeared on Italian television; articles were published in magazines, Il bene comune, Qui donna;, in Italian newspapers, Il Tempo, Il Messaggero, Nuovo oggi Molisei; and local American papers, MU Report, Oxford Press, Hamilton Journal-News, Dayton Daily News.
GRANT: Book subsidy ($3000), Aug. 2001: from various Miami University departments and offices, including the Dept. of French and Italian Irvin Fund and the Office for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching, for the publication of ItaliAfrica: Bridging Continents and Cultures, a collection of twenty-five articles derived from presentations at the 1998 Africa/Italy symposium.
VIP LISTING, 2001: Listed as one of 30 “VIP Molisani nel mondo” (Molisan VIPs the World--i.e. persons from the Italian region of Molise), on the web site “Molisani.net.”
GRANT: Book subsidy ($3500), Dec. 1999: from various Miami University departments and offices for the publication of Africa Italia: due continenti si avvicinano, a collection of Italian translations of fifteen articles derived from presentations at the 1998 Africa/Italy symposium.
MEDIA RECOGNITION: Newspaper articles, Sept. and Nov. 1999: Three articles about me appeared in Italian regional newspaper Nuovo oggi Molise: two by novelist and poet Giose Rimanelli 20, 23 Nov., and one by Norberto Lombardi, 30 Sept.
QUOTED on the back cover of Italo Calvino: A Journey toward Postmodernism, Constance Markey (Gainesville: UP Florida, 1999)
GRANTS: ($14,000), Nov. 1998: from various Miami University departments and offices, including President, Provost, and Dean of Arts and Science, to sponsor an international, interdisciplinary symposium on Africa and Italy.
BOOK PROFILE: Profiled in book, Molisani: Milleuno profili e biografie, compiled by Barbara Bertolini and Rita Frattolillo (Campobasso: Edizioni Enne, 1998): 244-245.
SELECTION: Diversity Seminar, June 1998: Selected to participate in a seminar conducted by Ron Takaki, U. of California at Berkeley, on ways to promote diversity on campus and in the curriculum and incorporate issues of diversity in the classroom. Miami U.
SELECTION: “Visioning Workshop,” July 1994: Invited to participate in a workshop exploring trends and strategies for university library development.
GRANT: Travel/Research grant ($3750), Brigham Young U. College of Humanities, for travel to Italy for research on Italo Calvino. Summer, 1988.
GRANT: Travel/Research grant ($2500), BYU College of Humanities, for travel to Italy for research on Giambattista Vico. Summer, 1987.
SELECTION: General Education Faculty Seminar, "Critical Thinking and Writing Across the Curriculum." Directed by Joseph Williams, University of Chicago. Held at Brigham Young University, with honorarium. May 12-16, 1986.
SELECTION: General Education Faculty Seminar, "Film Art and Social Concern." Directed by Thomas G. Plummer, University of Minnesota. Held at Brigham Young University, with honorarium. May 610, 1985.
SELECTION: General Education Faculty Seminar, "The Past before Us." Directed by William H. McNeill, University of Chicago. BYU, honorarium. May 1518, 1984.
NEH SUMMER SEMINAR: "Russian Formalism and Contemporary French and American Criticism." Directed by Edward Wasiolek, Univ. of Chicago; with stipend. Summer 83.
GRANTS: College of Humanities Spring/Summer Research Grants (9% of salary plus expenses for research materials, student assistants, travel, etc.), awarded on a competitive basis. Brigham Young U. Summers 86, 85, 84, 83, 82.
GRANT: International Semiotics and Linguistics Center to attend its annual threeweek summer program in Urbino, Italy. Summer 77.
2015: 163. “The Globetrotter and the Astronaut: Traveling to the Ends of the Earth with Marco Polo or Jouneying to the Stars with Dante.” The Italian Cultural Institute of Louisville, Chao Auditorium, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, 1 March.
162.” Flesh Made Word.” Symposium: “Giose Rimanelli: 90 Years: An American Celebration.” The John D. Calandra Ialian American Institute. New York, 25 Feb.
2014: 161. “Fishing for Goldfish in ‘Low Tide’,” on Roberto Minervini’s film Low Tide. Hawaii International Conference on Arts & Humanities. Honolulu, 10-13 Jan.
2013: 160. “Cincinati (sic), Gomorra (sic): Misspelling, Displacement, Corruption.” Louisville Literature Conference. 22 Feb.
159. “Che cosa si sorpassa nel Sorpasso?” NEMLA Conference. Tufts U. Boston, 21-24 March.
2012: 158. “Can You Go Home Again? The Notion of Return in Bondi' DE REDITU (2004) and in Italian History” Indiana University Conference on Modern Italian Cinema, 12-15 April 2012.
2011: 156-57. “How To Make an Italian!” American Association for Italian Studies (AAIS) Annual Conference, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, 7-9 April; a different version presented at the 38th Western Pennsylvania Symposium on World Literatures, “Italy Then and Now: 150th Anniversary,” Duquesne Univ., Pittsburgh, PA, Oct. 17.
155. CAMPUS VISIT: “The Power of Translation: The Case of Ossian” Kenyon College, Gambier, OH, 2 Sept. Students had been assigned an article of mine to read, which we then discussed in a seminar format.
154. “Garibaldi, Pinocchio, Emigration: ‘There Are No Strings on Me!’ Or Are there?” The Third Forum in Italian American Criticism (FIAC): THEATRE OF THE MIND, STAGE OF HISTORY: Italian Legacies Between Europe, the Mediterranean, and North America on the 150th Anniversary of Unification: A Festschrift in Honor of Mario Mignone; Stony Brook University, Long Island, NY, 18-19 March.
153. “Dictator’s Weapons of Mass Instruction Found in Cincinnati,” The Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900, Louisville, KY, 25 Feb.
152. “The Lynching and Internment of Italian Americans,” 1809 Club, Oxford, OH, 21 Feb.
2010: 151. “Bricks or Books? Building a Legacy of the Voiceless,” 2nd Forum in Italian American Criticism: Creating Italian American History, Stony Brook University-Manhattan, 29 October.
150. “Fascism in Cincinnati: Weapons of Mass Instruction Found,” 1809 Club, Oxford, OH, 19 October.
149. “The Duce as Educator Abroad: Leading Expatriates and the World back to Rome,” Workshop: “Classical Education and American Slavery,” Humanities Center and Dept. of Classics, Miami U., 24 Sept.
148. VISITING SCHOLAR LECTURE: “The Vertical and Horizontal Journeys of Dante and Marco Polo,” Kenyon College, Gambier, OH, 10 Sept.
147. DISCUSSANT: Vincere, film by Marco Bellocchio, Cincinnati World Cinema, Carnegie Arts Center, Covington, KY, 19, 20 May.
2009: 146. VISITING SCHOLAR LECTURE: “The Mediterranean as Bridge: Roots and Spores in Italian/European Culture,” University of Malta, 13 March.
145. PUBLIC LECTURE: “Garibaldi, Novelist: Rebel with a Lost Cause,” National Cultural Institute, Valletta, Malta, 12 March.
144. “Mi scappa la pipí, papà! Pee Is for Patriarchy,” The Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900, Louisville, KY, 20 Feb.
2008: 143. “Shooting D’Annunzio: Looking for Realist, Decadent, and Symbolist Traces in Cabiria,” Fiftieth Annual Convention of the Midwest Modern Language Association, Minneapolis, MN, 13-16 Nov.
142. “Pinocchio garibaldino,” Simpósio A Globalização do Pensamento Libertário: Imagens e representações de Garibaldi em movimentos internacionais, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 10-12 Sept.
141. “Per la Via della seta, sulle tracce di Marco Polo,” public lecture, Scuola Italiana, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT, 11 July.
140. “Garibaldi romanziere,” combined conference of the American Association for Italian Studies and the American Association of Teachers of Italian, Taormina, Sicily, Italy, 22 May.
139. “Sporadic Radicals in Italian Culture, from Marco Polo to Pap Khouma,” Giornata di Studi in Onore di Eduardo Saccone, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland, 19 May.
138. “Garibaldi, Sporadic Radical of Two Worlds: Roots, Spores, and Migration in the Making of Italy and Italians,” for the “Garibaldi Abroad” symposium, U. of South Carolina, Columbia, 3-5 April.
137. VISITING SCHOLAR LECTURE: “Dante vs. Marco Polo: Roots and Spores in Italian Culture,” University of Maryland, College Park, 5 March 2008.
136. “Puccini’s America: Land of Death, Gold, and Mounted Butterflies,” The Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900, Louisville, KY, 21-23 Feb. 2008.
2007: 135. “America through the Realist-Decadentist-Symbolist Prism,” in the panel “Realism, Decadence, Symbolism: Definitions of Modernity at the Dawn of Italian Modernism,” 49th Annual Convention of the Midwest Modern Language Association, Cleveland, Ohio, 10 Nov.
134. KEYNOTE ADDRESS: “Garibaldi: Rebel with Many Causes” for the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies 23rd Annual Colloquium, “In and Out of the Law in the Hispanic and Italian World,” University of Victoria, BC, Canada, 18-19 Oct.
132-33. LANSDOWNE LECTURES, UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA: “Dante vs. Marco Polo: Excursions and Deviations on the Road to the Renaissance,” 15 October, and “Mussolini, Maciste, and Machismo: Screening Africa and Fashioning Fascism in Italian Cinema,” 16 October, as a Lansdowne distinguished visiting scholar, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
131. VISITING SCHOLAR LECTURE: "From Marco Polo to Pap Khouma: Renaissance (of the Old) or Renovation (through the New)," University of Illinois at Chicago, 6 April.
130. PLENARY ADDRESS: “Looking for Marco Polo on the Silk Road, Finding Adriano Celentano,” Northeast Modern Language Association (NEMLA) annual meeting, Baltimore, MD, 3 March.
129. “Who Is Besieged and Who Sells Out in Bertolucci’s L’assedio?” The Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900, Louisville, KY, 23 Feb.
2006: 127. “From Marco Polo to Machiavelli: Asian Influences and Classical Renaissance in Italian Culture,” in the roundtable “Mapping a Silk Road Curriculum,” at the Central Eurasian Studies Society annual conference, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 1 Oct.
126. “Garibaldi’s Malpractice Suits,” The International Conference on Romanticism, Arizona State U., Tempe, AZ, 10 Nov.
124-125. VISITING SCHOLAR LECTURES: “On the Silk Road: Tracking Marco Polo and Finding the Renaissance,” 27 Sept., and “The Representation of Africa and Africans in Italian Cinema,” Ohio, 28 Sept., Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio.
123. “Marco Polo’s (Not-so-)Great (Non-)National (Non-)Novel: A Bridge to (sic) Far,” The Tenth International Conference of the International Society for the Studies of European Ideas, University of Malta, 24-29 July;
122. “Marco Polo and the Polarization of Europe,” part of the traveling seminar along the Silk Road funded partly by a Fullbright grant, Khiva, Uzbekistan, 11 June.
121. “The Silk Road, the Rhizome, and the Web,” preface to a discussion with faculty and librarians at the Bishkek Humanities University, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 3 June.
120. "Marco Polo on the Silk Road: Did Spaghetti and the Renaissance Come from China?" public lecture, Silk Road ExplorAsian: Pathways of Cultures, Art Museum, Miami University, 27 Mar.
119. “Pinocchio in Louisville: It's not about the King,” Twentieth-Century Conference, University of Louisville, 25 Feb.
2005: 118. “Italy Is Made! Now Go Away! Garibaldi, Pinocchio, and Other Unstrung Italians,” American Association of Teachers of Italian Annual Conference, Washington DC, 15 Oct.
117. “Garibaldi & Maciste vs. Mussolini & Pinocchio, or Hybrids vs. Authochthons, in the Battle of Italian Identity.” The Department of French and Italian Works in Progress Series. 5 Oct.
116. “Maciste, Machismo, and Mussolini,” Society for Italian Studies Biennial Conference, University of Salford, UK, 8 July.
115. “How Garibaldi Became Homeless,” American Association for Italian Studies Annual Conference, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 15 April.
114. “Totò/Iago: Yanking Our Racist Chains,” Twentieth-Century Conference, U. of Louisville, 25 Feb.
2004: 113. “How Maciste Muscled His Way Out of Africa and Back Again,” American Association for Italian Studies Annual Meeting, University of Ottawa, 29 Apr.-2 May.
112. CONVENING/CONCLUDING ADDRESS: “Assessing the Status of Italian American Studies,” opening remarks, and “Italian American Studies: Where We’ve Been, where We Are, where We’re Going,” concluding remarks, Symposium on the Status of Italian American Studies, Miami University, Oxford, OH, 26 March.
111. “Miss America and Toto’ Tarzan Do Africa and Italy with Bongo the Chimp,” Twentieth-Century Conference, University of Louisville, 27 Feb.
2003: 110. “Maciste’s Transfer from the Punic Wars to WWI.” Twentieth-Century Literature Conference, U. of Louisville, KY, 27 Feb.
109. “Italian and African Migration: Losses and Gains.” Keynote talk at the Presentation of my edited book ItaliAfrica: Bridging Continents and Cultures (Stony Brook: Forum Italicum, 2001), SUNY-Stony Brook Manhattan Center; New York, 27 Feb.
2002: 108. VISITING SCHOLAR LECTURE: “Does Italy End at Rome and Africa Begin at Naples? Italian Perceptions of Africa,” University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, 22 Nov.
107. “Axis of Evil or Axes to Grind?” Peace Teach-In, Miami University, Oxford, OH, 4 Oct.
106. KEYNOTE PANEL: "How I Stopped Being Abruzzese and Became White: Take Some Roots, Add a Pinch of Rhizome, Sprinkle with Spores." Plenary opening panel, Symposium: Italian Roots, American Soil: Generations of Immigrants to the Philadelphia Area, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 2 May.
105. "When Roads Were less Roady and We All Ate Each Other So Much: Pasolini's Porcile and Uccellacci e Uccellini." American Association for Italian Studies Annual Meeting, Columbia, MO, 19 Apr.
104. “Emigranti: Piante sradicate o spore diffuse?” Public lecture, Provincial Council Chambers, Palazzo Provinciale, Campobasso, Italy, 12 Mar.
103. “Le radici che tengono.” Remarks of appreciation for public ceremony in my honor in my hometown, Petrella Tifernina, province of Campobasso, Molise, 11 Mar.
102. “Emigrazione: ieri emigranti, oggi protagonisti.” Public address to students from four schools (scuole medie superiori), Provincial Library, Biblioteca Provinciale Pasquale Albino, Campobasso, Italy, 11 Mar.
101. “Lamefricatalia: Italian Lessons in Elision, Truncation, and Contraction,” Borderlines: Migrant Writing and Italian Identities (1870-2000) Conference, U. of Warwick, Coventry, UK, 9 Mar.
2001: 100. KEYNOTE PANEL: “Preventing the Individual in Italian Romanticism.” Plenary opening panel at the 8th annual American Conference on Romanticism, “Inventing the Individual,” Miami University, Oxford, OH, Nov. 8-12.
99. “Why Didn’t I Identify Myself as African American in the Census?” Annual Symposium of the Italian Cultural Studies Association. Boca Raton, FL, 19 Oct.
98. “Molise Lost and Regained: Departure and Return in Corsi and Rimanelli.” American Association for Italian Studies Annual Conference, Philadelphia, PA, 20 Apr.
97. VISITING SCHOLAR LECTURE: “Dido’s or Hannibal’s Children? The African Presence in Italy.” The Annual Tucci Lecture on Italian Culture, University of Pittsburgh, 30 Mar.
96. “Hunting in Pietro Corsi’s Omicidio in un paese di cacciatori and in Gregory Lucente’s Over the Mountain: To Find or to Kill?” Twentieth-Century Literature Conference, University of Louisville, 23 Feb.
95. “Greece and the Romantics.” 1809 Club, Oxford, OH, 6 Feb.
2000: 94. “Greek Mothers and Nostalgia for Mother Greece: Filial Philhellenism and Oedipal Romanticism in Chenier and Foscolo.” American Conference on Romanticism. Park City, Utah, 13 Oct.
92-93. VISITING SCHOLAR LECTURES: “Machiavelli and the Devil,” 11 Oct., and “African Italy: Bridging Continents and Cultures,” Brigham Young Univ., Provo, Utah, 12 Oct.
91. “Rimanelli Pontifex maximus.” American Association for Italian Studies 20th Annual Conference, New York, NY, 15 Apr.
1999: 89-90. “Greece, Italy and England Lost and Found: Foscolo and Byron between Classicism and Romanticism.” American Conference on Romanticism, U of Indiana, Bloomington, IN, 12 Nov. A longer, 50-minute version, “Greece Lost and Found: Byron and Foscolo on the Classicism/Romanticism Shuttle,” was presented at the Dept. of French and Italian Lecture Series, Miami U., 4 Nov.
88. “Baseball, Abortion, and Fellini’s 8 1/2, and Maybe Sammy Sosa, Too.” Purdue Univesity Conference on Romance Languages, Literatures & Film. West Lafayette, IN, 8 Oct.
87. “Back to Africa, Back to the Future: Toward African-Italian Studies.” American Association for Italian Studies 19th Annual Conference, Eugene, OR, 16 Apr.
1998: 85-86. “To Hell with Affabulation! Machiavelli’s ‘Fable’ Belfagor.” American Association for Italian Studies 18th Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, 3 Apr. A longer, 45-minute version, “Machiavelli and the Devil.” Presented Dept. of French and Italian Lecture Series, Miami U, 19 Nov.
84. “Playing Hide and Seek with the Invisible Man: Visions of Blackness in Italy and America,” a longer, 50-minute version of the 20-minute paper delivered at the AIHA meeting in 1997. Department of French and Italian Lecture Series, Miami U., 29 Jan.
83. “1815: What Gets Restored in Italy? From ‘masses’ to ‘Masses’: Manzoni and Cuoco Do Vico.” American Conference on Romanticism, U of Georgia, Athens, GA, 23 Jan.
1997: 82. “Playing Hide and Seek with the Invisible Man.” American Italian Historical Association, 30th Annual Conference: “Shades of Black and White: Conflict and Collaboration Between Two Communities,” Cleveland, OH, 14 Nov.
81. “Cabiria: From Baggage to Street-Walker, from D’Annunzio to Fellini.” American Association for Italian Studies Seventeenth Annual Conference, Winston-Salem, NC, 23 Feb.
1996: 80. “How Giacomo Taught James to Become Joyce.” Purdue University Conference on Romance Languages, Literatures, and Film, Bloomington, IN, 10 Oct.
79. Panelist: “Power and Powerlessness in the Italian Imaginary,” a two-day symposium in honor of Angela Jeannet, Franklin and Marshall College, 5-6 Oct.
77-78. VISITING SCHOLAR LECTURE: “Eating Crow in Pasolini’s Uccellacci e uccellini: Roadkill as Bread of Angels.” 50-minute public lecture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 15 Nov. A shorter, twenty-minute version was presented as a paper at the American Association for Italian Studies annual convention, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 12 Apr.
76. “The Call of the ‘Reel’ World in Fascist Italy.” Twentieth-Century Literature Conference, University of Louisville, KY, 22 Feb.
1995: 75. “Monks, Journalists, Beasts, and Heroes Loose in the Labyrinth: Vico and Joyce on Literature.” Purdue University Conference on Romance Languages, Literatures and Film, West Lafayette, IN, 6 Oct.
74. “Roads Taken and not Taken in Italian Cinema,” in the symposium “European Cinemas, European Societies, 1895-1995,” Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 1 Oct.
73. "Trovatello o rimanello: A quale riva arriva e a quali sponde risponde Rimanelli?" American Association for Italian Studies Annual Meeting. Arizona State U., Tempe, Arizona, 21 Apr.
70-72. VISITING SCHOLAR LECTURES: "When Snow Was Snowier and Roads Were Roadier and We All Loved Each Other so Much," 9 Mar. [A different, 45-minute version, Miami U. Art Museum, 28 Feb., based on twenty-minute paper presented at the Twentieth-Century Conference, U. of Louisville, KY, Feb. 1994] and "'La diritta via era smarrita': Le strade del dopoguerra," 10 Mar., Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
68-69. "Ossian's Memes and Translation." Deseret Language and Linguistic Society Annual Symposium, Provo, UT, 9 Mar. ; A modified, expanded 40-minute version, "How Translation Spread the Ossianic Epidemic," presented as a public lecture at the "Food for Thought" lecture series, Campus Ministry Center, Oxford, Ohio, 17 Sept.
1994: 67. "Bread and Chocolate, Pizza and Blood: Consuming Racism, Screening Differences." 27th. Annual Conference of the American Italian Historical Association, "Through the Looking Glass: Images of Italians and Italian Americans in the Media." Chicago, IL, Nov. 10-12.
66. "'Ossian': Does Translation Change the 'Meming'?" Invited presentation, Italian Translation Symposium, U. of Michigan/Ann Arbor, April 11-12.
65. "Blood and Solitude on the Marciapiede: Africans in Italy." In session, "Race and Regionalism," American Assn. for Italian Studies, U. of Wisconsin/Madison, Apr. 7-10.
64. "When Snow Was Snowier and Roads Were Roadier and We All Loved Each Other so Much." Twentieth-Century Conference, U. of Louisville, KY, Feb. 24-26.
1993: 63. "Ossianism and Risorgimento." American Association of Teachers of Italian convention, San Antonio, TX, Nov.
62. "Crack Wars: Unseamly [sic] Morphing in the Cracks of Meaning." American Association for Italian Studies annual meeting, U. of Texas/Austin, Apr. 18,
61. "The Life and Works of Giose Rimanelli." Presentation of the Honorary President of the American Association for Italian Studies for 1993, at the AAIS annual convention, U. of Texas/Austin, Apr.
1992: 60. "Noi Molisani." TV interviews, presentations, panel discussions: I was invited by the Federazione Associazioni Molisane Canadesi for a "Settimana molisana," a week of roundtables, interviews, and discussions held in Toronto, Canada, Nov. 23-29. Other invited guests included poets, novelists, journalists, scholars, and political figures from Italy, Canada, and the United States. My participation included two interviews for Italian Canadian television, a 20-minute interview for Italian television, panel presentations at the U. of Toronto and at several Italian Canadian cultural organizations, and an interview for the Italian monthly periodical Molise.
59. "Round Trip to Here and Back: Fellini's and Calvino's 'Roads'," Literature/Film Association 1992 Conference: "Literature, Film, History," Towson State U., Towson, MD, 19 June.
1991: 58. "Doubling Dublin: Joyce in Trieste." Annual conference of the American Association for Italian Studies, Ann Arbor, MI, Apr. Keynote presentation introducing four panels I organized around the theme of "Exile."
54-57. VISITING SCHOLAR LECTURES: "Giacomo Joyce Teaches James Joyce How to Write Ulysses and Finnegans Wake" [a shorter, 40-minute version, "James Joyce: Italian Author," presented to the 1809 Club, Oxford, OH, Feb] and "Echoes, Mirrors, and Quilts: 'Weak Thought' and the 'Body' of Literature," [a shorter, 40-minute version was presented at the Dept. of French and Italian Lecture Series, Miami U., Oxford, OH, Mar.], Loyola College, Baltimore, MD, Apr.
53. "Sandcastles on the Shores of Reality: Calvino and the 'Sea of Objectivity,’" Twentieth-Century Literature Conference, U. of Louisville, KY, Feb.
1990: 52. "Roots or Spores? Whence and Whither Italian Americana?" Panel: "Voices in Italian Americana," American Association of Teachers of Italian Annual Conference, Nashville, TN, Nov.
51. "Dubbed Sirens: The Call of the 'Reel' World in Fascist Italy: Calvino's 'Autobiografia di uno spettatore' and Fellini's Amarcord." 1990 Salisbury Conference on Literature, Film, and the Humanities. Salisbury State U., Salsbury, MD, June.
50. "Ulysses and the Cyclops, Marco Polo and the Great Khan: Stereoscopic Vision in Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities." Twentieth-century Literature Conference. U. of Louisville, Louisville, KY, Feb.
1989: 49. "The Eternal Departure: Exile in Italian Literature." Dept. of French and Italian Lecture Series. Miami U., Oxford, OH, Dec.
48. "Marco Polo/Marco Laudato: L'eterna partenza." Second International Symposium on Southern Italy and America: Regional, Cultural, and Political Life, SUNY, Albany, NY, Nov.
47. "Eco's Mirror and the Mirror's Echo." American Association for Italian Studies Annual Conference. U. of Lowell, Lowell, Mass., 15 April.
46. VISITING SCHOLAR LECTURE: "Amore/Patria nella letteratura dell'Ottocento." Smith College, Northampton, Mass., 12 April.
45. "Fellini's 8 1/2: The How and Why of Art." International Cinema Lecture Series. Brigham Young University. 15 Feb.
1988: 44. "Mirrors, Quilts, and Echoes: Eco, 'Weak Thought,' and Literature." Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association Annual Conference, Las Cruces, NM, Oct.
43. "Marco Polo on the Road to Hollywood." Pacific Northwest Council on Foreign Languages Annual Conference. Eugene, OR. 6 May.
42. "Fellini and I vitelloni." International Cinema Lecture Series. Brigham Young University. 17 Feb.
1987: 41. "Vico-Manzoni, via Cuoco: from 'masses' to 'Masses'?" Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association Annual Conference. Spokane, WA. 15 Oct.
40. "Christ Stopped at Eboli: Levi's Book and Rosi's Movie." International Cinema Lecture Series. BYU. 23 Sept.
39."Fellini's Ginger & Fred." International Cinema Lecture Series. BYU. 2 April.
38. "Marco Polo on the Road from the Monastery to the Pressroom." American Association for Italian Studies (AAIS) Annual Convention. Pittsburgh, PA, April.
37. "The Beast, the Hieroglyph, and Pizza: Vico on Language and Poetry." The Deseret Language and Linguistic Society (DLLS) Annual Symposium. Brigham Young University, Provo, UT. 26 March.
36. "Pirandello, the Taviani Brothers, and Kaos." International Cinema Lecture Series. BYU. 19 March.
35. "Pioneers of French Cinema." Illustrated Lecture. The French Club. BYU. 5 Feb.
34. "History as a Spider's Fictive Web: Borges's Theme of the Traitor and the Hero and Bertolucci's The Spider's Stratagem." The Florida State University Conference on Literature and Film: "Crosscurrents: Art, History, Politics; Literary and Cinematic Representations." Tallahassee, Florida. 30 January.
1986: 33. "The Beast and the Hieroglyph: Vico in Contemporary Italian Criticism." American Association of Teachers of Italian (AATI) Convention. New York, NY. 27 December.
32. "History as a Web of Lies: Bertolucci's La strategia del ragno." AAIS Annual Conference, Toronto, Canada, April.
31. "The Spider's Stratagem: How a Film Spins Its Web for You." Fifty-minute lecture, Flea Market of Ideas, an Honors Symposium, BYU, March.
30. "Language as 'Always Already' Metaphor: The Primacy of Writing in Vico and Derrida." DLLS 12th Annual Symposium. Brigham Young University. Feb.
1985: 29. "The Visual Language of Tarkovsky's Nostalghia." International Cinema Lecture Series. BYU. 10 Oct.
28. "Ermanno Olmi's L'albero degli zoccoli." International Cinema Lecture Series. BYU. 18 Sept.
27. "The Monk, the Journalist, and the Hero: The Function of Literature in Vico and Joyce." Vico and Joyce: An International Symposium. Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, Italy. 1721 June.
26. "Man and History in Machiavelli and Vico." AAIS Annual Convention. University of Southern Florida, Tampa, Florida. April.
25. "Truffaut's The 400 Blows and the French New Wave." Intl. Cin. Lect. BYU. 13 Mar.
24. “James Joyce: Italian Writer.” University of Iowa, invited public lecture, 40 mins., Mar. 1985.
23. "De Sica between Neorealism and Hollywood: Terminal Station and The Roof." Intl. Cin. Lect. BYU. 27 Feb.
22. "French Contributions to the Birth of Cinema." Illustrated Lecture. The French Club. BYU. 23 Feb. 1985.
1984: 21. "Horizontal and Vertical Journeys in Jacopo Ortis: Destination: Silence." National AATI Convention. Washington, D.C. 28 Dec.
20. "'I miei venticinque lettori': The Implicit Reader in the Promessi sposi." International Manzoni Symposium. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. 6 Nov.
19. "Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers." International Cinema Lecture Series. BYU. Nov.
18. "Language and the Novel: The Romantic Experience in France and Italy." Department of French and Italian Culture and Civilization Lecture Series. BYU. 25 Oct.
17. "Sacco and Vanzetti in History and in Montaldo's Movie." Intl. Cin. Lect. BYU. Jan.
1983: 16. "De Sica's The Bicycle Thieves and Italian Neorealism." Intl. Cin. Lect. BYU. Nov.
15. "What is the Spider's Strategy in Bertolucci's The Spider's Stratagem." International Cinema Lecture Series, BYU, Sept.
14. "Terrorism in Italy: Red Brigades and Political Change." French and Italian Culture and Civilization Lecture Series. BYU. 10 March.
13. "Giacomo Joyce Teaches James Joyce How to Write Ulysses and Finnegans Wake." Eleventh Annual Twentieth-Century Literature Conference: Rage and Order, U. of Louisville, KY, Feb.
12. "Marco Polo: Bridge Between Europe and Asia; Bridge from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance." Europe and Asia: 6001600--Institutions and Ideas Conference, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, Jan.
1982: 11. "The Problem of Death in Montaigne and Pascal." Department of French and Italian Symposium. Brigham Young University. 18 Nov.
10. "Jacopo Ortis: Suicide, Homicide, Logocide." Rocky Mountain Modern Language Assn. (RMMLA) Convention. Salt Lake City, Utah. 23 Oct.
9. "Joyce's Italian Writings." National James Joyce Symposium, Brigham Young U., Sept.
8. "The Taviani Brothers' Padrepadrone." Presentation to the Honors Program. BYU. 25 Mar.
7. "Memory and Tradition in Fellini's 8 1/2." 20th Century Literature Conference. University of Louisville, Louisville, KY. Feb.
1981: 6. "Roberto Rossellini's Paisà and Italian Neorealism." Circolo Studentesco Italiano. BYU. Oct.
5. "Didimo and Yorick: Observations on Foscolo's Translation of Sterne." Deseret Language and Linguistic Society, Seventh Annual Symposium. Brigham Young University. April.
4. "Bertolucci's The Spider's Stratagem," Circolo Studentesco Italiano, BYU, March.
1980: 3. "Il corpo e la parola nella poesia di Pasolini." First Annual Convention of the American Association of University Professors of Italian (AAUPI). University of Illinois. 22 Nov.
2. "Le Roman de la rose: Text in Search of a Reader." Department of French and Italian Symposium. Brigham Young University. 6 Nov.
1. "Neorealism and Italian Cinema." Public lecture sponsored by Circolo Studentesco Italiano. Brigham Young University. Oct.
CONFERENCES, SYMPOSIA ORGANIZED AND HOSTED
5. Mediterranean and Transalpine Connections. The colloquium consisted of twenty-two participants: two invited lecturers: Italian scholars, Simone Dubrovic, from Kenyon College, and Ernesto Livorni, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, speaking about Transalpine influences in art and literature in the first part of the 20th century; and fourteen local speakers and chair-discussants from Miami University and University of Cincinnati from various disciplines: Arabic, Architecture, Art, Classics, English, French, Geology, History, Italian, and Linguistics, discussing cross-Mediterranean and trans-Alpine influences and connections in their fields; Miami University, Oxford, OH, 31 March 2011.
4. Symposium on the Status of Italian American Studies. Seventeen scholars met at Miami University, Oxford, OH, on 26 March 2004, to review and discuss the evolution of Italian American Studies in the first decade of the field’s acceptance as an academic discipline. Roundtable panels addressed topics, such as “Building Italian American Studies Programs: Hurdles and Opportunities,” “Italian American Literature: Is there an Italian American Voice Yet?” “Italian American Presence in the Media, the Arts, and Popular Culture,” and concluding reflections on “Where We’ve Been, Where We Are, Where We’re Going.” The symposium also included a screening and discussion of the recently re-discovered 1949 movie, Christ in Concrete, directed by black-listed director Edward Dmytryk, and loosely based on Pietro Di Donato’s homonymous novel of 1929. Video director and documentarist Bianca Pasquini videotaped the proceedings and interviewed several of the participants to prepare a documentary to distribute in Italy.
3. AFRICA/ITALY: An International Interdisciplinary symposium: I organized and convened this important, ground-breaking symposium which drew 36 speakers from various disciplines (e.g., Italian studies, political science, history, geography, sociology, archeology) and from various parts of the world (North America, Italy, Africa, and the United Kingdom), Miami U, 6-8 Nov. 1998. Led to publication of Africa Italia: Due continenti si avvicinano and ItaliAfrica: Bridging Continents and Cultures (see above, under Publications).
2. AAIS: American Association for Italian Studies Conference at Brigham Young University, 14-17 April 1988. More than 225 speakers, from many parts of the United States and Canada as well as from Europe and Australia, participated in 80 sessions. The keynote speaker was the novelist, poet, and Italian senator, Paolo Volponi. Other plenary speakers included Giorgio Tagliacozzo, founder and director of the Center for Vico Studies, the Italo-German philosopher, Ernesto Grassi, Renaissance scholars, Maristella Lorch and Aldo Scaglione, novelist and poet Giose Rimanelli, and representatives of the RAI Corporation and of the Italian government. Led to publication of Italian Echoes in the Rocky Mountains (see above).
1. International Manzoni Symposium, Brigham Young University, 5-6 Nov. 1984, with 12 speakers from the United States and Canada. Led to publication of The Reasonable Romantic: Essays on Alessandro Manzoni (see above).
PANELS, LECTURES, EVENTS ORGANIZED/CHAIRED
2015: 81-82. Chair of 2 panels: “Cinema, storia, letteratura e cultura nazionale” and “Representations of Ancient Ills.” The Sixth Annual Film Symposium on New Trends in Modern and Contemporary Italian Cinema, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 25 April.
80. Invited filmmaker: I invited, hosted, and presented Ghanaian-Italian filmmaker Fred Kuwornu, who presented and discussed two of his award-winning documentaries, 18 JUS SOLI (2010), about the difficulties of obtaining citizenship in Italy, and Inside Buffalo (2012), about the “Buffalo Soldiers” who fought in Italy in World War II in the segregated African-American 92nd Infantry Division. Mr. Kuwornu also visited a Black World Studies class and met with students and faculty over lunch and dinner, 16 and 17 February.
2014: 79. Chair: “Commedia contemporanea,” The Fifth Annual Film Symposium on New Trends in Modern and Contemporary Italian Cinema, Indiana U., Bloomington, IN, 25 April.
78. Invited filmmaker: I invited, hosted, and presented Michael Angelo Di Lauro, who introduced, screened, and discussed his award-winning documentary, La Mia Strada/My Road: A Personal Journey of Ethnicity & Culture (2012. In addition to the screening and discussion, Mr. DiLauro visited a class on the Italian American experience and met with students and faculty over lunch and dinner, 3 March.
2013: 76-77. Chair of 2 panels: “Meta-Cinema Italian Style” and “Organized Crime and Political Cinema II,” The Fourth Annual Film Symposium on New Trends in Modern and Contemporary Italian Cinema, Indiana U., Bloomington, IN, 18 and 20 April.
2011: 75. Chair: “Memoria storica e marginalità nel cinema di oggi e di Mimmo Calopresti,” Symposium: New Trends in Modern and Contemporary Italian Cinema, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 15 April.
74. Chair: “The Idea of Italy II,” American Association for Italian Studies (AAIS) annual meeting, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, 9 April.
2009: 73. Organizer, host, invited speaker: Hon. Leoluca Orlando, Member of the Italian Parliament and President of the Sicilian Renaissance Institute, for class visits and public lecture, “Fighting the Mafia and Renewing Sicilian Culture: Combining Identity and Human Rights,” 11-12 Feb.
2008: 72. Organizer, chair: “Garibaldi letterato,” joint AAIS/AATI annual meeting, Taormina, Sicily, Italy, 22-25 May.
2006: 69-71. Invited speakers: I assisted my colleague Karla Mallette in inviting and hosting speakers in the “All Roads Lead to Rome” Silk Road Lecture Series in the spring and “The 1001 Nights: Story Without End” series in the fall:
71. “Mediterranean Studies: Challenging Traditional Disciplinary Approaches,” Piotr Salwa, University of Warsaw, Poland (Visiting Prof. at Notre Dame U.), 30 Oct.
70. “The Long and the Short of It: the 1001 Nights, Voltaire and Proust,” Daniel of Beaumont, U. of Rochester, 14 Sept.
69. “Anecdotes of Betrayal in Arab Sicily,” by William Granara, from Harvard U., 23 Mar.
2005: 67-68. Invited speakers: sought and received grant to for a Lecture Series related to the Silk Road: “All Roads Lead to Rome”; collaborated with my colleague Karla Mallette in inviting and hosting:
68. “Marco Polo and the Wonders of the Tributary East,” by Sharon Kinoshita, from the University of California at Santa Cruz, 6 Dec.
67. “Orientalism, Mediterranean Style: Michele Amari and the Limits of History,” by Roberto Dainotto, Duke University, 22 Sept.
66. Invited filmmaker: I invited, hosted, and presented Michael Angelo Di Lauro, who introduced, screened, and discussed his award-winning documentary, Prisoners among Us: Italian-American Identity and World War II, on the internment of Italian Americans during the war. In addition to the screening and discussion, Mr. DiLauro visited my Italian American class (AMS/FST/ITL 222) and was feted at a dinner in his honor at Paesano’s, attended by students, faculty, members of the Italian American community and film aficionados from Cincinnati and the surrounding area, 4 April.
2004: 65. Chair: Introduced the speakers and led discussion for three presentations: Mark McKinney, “The Algerian War in Road to America (Baru, Thévenet and Ledran)”; Francois Le Roy, “Les Chevaliers du ciel: Promoting the Military through Pop Culture”; Cécile Danehy, “Absence du texte, couleur de texte: voyage au pays de la mémoire—Saigon Hanoi de Cosey”; at the “History and Politics in French-Language Comics” Colloquium, Miami U., Oxford, OH, 11 Nov.
64. Chair: “Language and Literature, in and outside the Department?” Plenary Session IV, Association of Departments of Foreign Languages, MLA, Seminar East. Miami U. Oxford, OH, 26 June.
63. Organizer, chair: “Africa-Italy: One Way or Round Trip?” American Association for Italian Studies Annual Meeting, University of Ottawa, 2 May.
62. Organizer, chair: “Italian American Studies: Where We’ve Been, where We Are, where We’re Going.” Concluding roundtable, Symposium on the Status of Italian American Studies. Miami University, Oxford, OH, 26 March.
2002: 61. Organizer, chair, roundtable: “Africa/Italia: Presentation of the volume and discussion of Italian-African studies.” American Association for Italian Studies annual meeting, U. of Missouri, Columbia, MO. 18 Apr.
60. Chair, Closing Roundtable, Borderlines: Migrant Writing and Italian Identities (1870-2000) Conference, U. of Warwick, Coventry, UK, 9 Mar.
2001: 59. Chair: “Italian Romanticism,” American Conference on Romanticism, 8th Annual Meeting, Miami University, Oxford, OH, 8-12 Nov.
58. Organizer, host, introduction: campus visit, class presentation, public lecture: “Roberto Benigni and Pinocchio,” by Carlo Celli of Bowling Green University, 25 Oct.
57. Organizer, chair, roundtable: “Book Presentation and Roundtable: ItaliAfrica,” 3rd Annual Symposium of the Italian Cultural Studies Association, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL, 20 Oct.
2000: 56. Organizer, host, introduction: campus visit, class presentation, and public lecture: “Authorizing Cinema: Writing Silent Film in Italy,” by John Welle of the University of Notre Dame, 7 Nov.
55. Chair, panel: “Italian Romanticisms,” American Conference on Romanticism, 7th Annual Meeting, Park City, UT, 13 Oct.
54. Organizer and chair, panel: “Special Session: Beyond the Critic’s Horizon: Gregory Lucente’s Novel Over the Mountain,” American Association for Italian Studies 20th Annual Conference, New York, NY, 14 Apr.
53. Organizer, campus visit and public lectures: “The Making of The Thin Red Line” and “Pursuing a Career in Film,” by filmmaker and scholar Claudia Myers of Columbia University, 28 Feb.
1999: 52. Chair, panel: “Dancing with the Public, II: Theater,” The 6th Annual American Conference on Romanticism, Indiana U, Bloomington, IN, 13 Nov.
51. Organizer and chair, panel: “African Italy,” American Association for Italian Studies 19th Annual Conference, Eugene, OR, 16 Apr.
1998: 50. Organizer and chair, panel: “Machiavelli as letterato,” American Association for Italian Studies 18th Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, 3. Apr.
49. Organizer and chair, panel: “In/Visibility in the Italian Imaginary.” American Association for Italian Studies 18th Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, 5 Apr.
48. Organizer, host, presentation: “Art as Political Argument” and “Art as Hieroghyphic,” interdisciplinary presentations on art and politics by Edmund Jacobitti, Professor of History, and Stephen Brown, Professor of Music, Southern Illinois U/Edwardsville. Miami U, 25-26 March.
1997: 47. Organizer and chair, panel: “Mamma mia! Padre nostro! Familial Archetypes in Italian Culture.”American Association for Italian Studies Seventeenth Annual Conference, Winston-Salem, NC, 23 Feb.
1996: 46. Organizer, host, introduction: film screenings (Oedipus Rex and The Arabian Nights by Pier Paolo Pasolini), and public lecture: “Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Sexual Ideology,” Ben Lawton, Purdue University, 22 Feb.
1995: 45. Organizer, host, introduction: Campus visit, film screening, and two public lectures: "Strip Tease: Nichetti's Retreat from the Phallus" and "Frontline Feminism: The Women's Movement in Zagreb," by Marguerite Waller, U. of California at Riverside, at Miami U., 3 Oct.
44. Organizer, host, introduction: Campus visit, film screening, and two public lectures: "Crossing the Divide in an Age of Difference" and "From Lapsed to Lost: Scorsese's Boy and Ferrara's Man," by Rebecca West, U. of Chicago, at Miami U., 15-17 Feb.
1994: 43. Organizer and chair: "Roads and Journeys in Italian Literature and Cinema," panel presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Italian Studies, U. of Wisconsin, Madison, 10 Apr.
42. Co-organizer, with Paul Sandro, French: Campus visit and film and slide presentation on filmmaker Dorothy Arsner by Judith Mayne, Ohio State U., at Miami U., 14 Apr.
41. Organizer, with Michael Bachem, German: Campus visit and talk, "Dantean Echoes in Thomas Mann's Walpurgisnacht Episode," by Raymond Fleming of Pennsylvania State U., at Miami U., 3 Mar.
1993: 40. Organizer, host, introduction: Campus visit and public lecture, "Critics: Who Needs Them?" by Terry Lawson, film critic for the Dayton Daily News, at Miami U., Oct.
39. Organizer, host, introduction: Campus visit, class discussions, and public lecture, "The Birth of an Auteur: Fellini's Artistic Origins," by Peter Bondanella of Indiana U., at Miami U., 2-3 March.
32-38. Organize/chair: Seven panels: 1) "Roads in Italian Literature and Cinema" (which I also chaired); 2) "'700: Giannone, Vico, Alfieri"; 3) "'800: Foscolo, Manzoni, Leopardi"; 4) "The Figure of Ulysses in Italian Literature"; 5) "Duecento-Trecento, I"; 6) "Duecento-Trecento, II"; and 7) "Renaissance Sources"; American Association for Italian Studies annual meeting, U. of Texas/Austin, 15-18 Apr.
1992: 31. Organizer, host, introduction: Campus visit and talk, "Between Humanism and New Historicism: Rewriting the New World Encounter," by Ted Cachey of the U. of Notre Dame, at Miami U., 17 Nov.
30. Organizer, host, introduction: Campus visit, film screening of Barroco, and talk, "Invasion of the Mestizos: Or, How Latin American Identity Is Distingushed from European Presumptions in Alejo Carpentier's Concierto Barroco and in Paul Leduc's Barroco," by Jerry Carlson of the City University of New York, at Miami U., 29 Oct.
29. Coordinator, organizer, host: "Rediscovering Columbus," a semester-long series of movies, lectures, and discussions by local and visiting scholars to commemorate the Columbian Quincentenary, sponsored by several departments and programs. Topics included colonialism, racism, Native American culture, ecological issues.
28. Organizer, host, introduction: Campus visit and talk, "Commedia all'italiana: Entertainment and Usefulness of Italian Film Comedy," by Augusto Mastri of the University of Louisville; at Miami U., 21 Apr.
27. Organizer, host, introduction: Campus visit and lecture, "'Ain't Singin' for Pepsi': Cultural Studies, Cultural Politics, and Academic Evasion," by Gregory Lucente of the University of Michigan/Ann Arbor; at Miami U., 15 Apr.
26. Organizer and chair: Roundtable: "Letteratura e guerra civile," with Italian historian Augusto Placanica, Italian editor Mauro Bersani, Italian scholar Sebastiano Martelli, and poet/novelist/scholar Giose Rimanelli, AAIS, University of North Carolina, 10 Apr.
24, 25. Organizer and chair: 1) "Exile/Homecoming in Italian Literature"; 2) Organizer: "Roads of Desertion and Homecoming: From Leopardi and Verga to Italia"; American Association for Italian Studies Annual Meeting, U. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, 9-10 Apr.
1991: 23. Organizer and chair: "Italian Literature from the Seventeenth Century to the Present: Open Topic," Modern Language Association Convention, San Francisco, CA, Dec.
22. Panelist: Roundtable on the topic, "Letteratura e politica nell'Italia contemporanea," with Italian scholar Filippo Bettini (U. of Rome) and Italian author and senator, Hon. Paolo Volponi; at U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 7 Nov.
18-21. Organizer: Four panels: 1) "Long Ago and Far Away: Italian Travelers' Journals, Accounts, and Impressions," 2) "Incorporating Voices on the Edge: Exile, Prison, and Textuality in the Enlightenment and Risorgimento," 3) "Inner and Outer Exile: Fictional Strategies of Displacement," and 4) (also chair) "Homebound Exiles: Salgari, Deledda, Volponi." AAIS Annual Conference, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Apr.
1990: 17. Organizer and chair: "Cultural Production and the Social Subject: From the Enlightenment to a Unified Europe." MLA Convention, Chicago, IL, Dec.
16. Organizer, host, introduction: Campus visit and lecture, "Dante's Poetics of Sexuality," by Madison U. Sowell of Brigham Young University; at Miami U., Oxford, OH, Oct.
15. Chair: "Italo Calvino: Recent Critical Trends." American Assn. for Italian Studies (AAIS) Annual Conference, U. of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, Apr.
1989: 14. Organizer and chair: "Revolution in Italy: From Campanella to Toni Negri." Modern Language Assn. Convention. Washington, D.C., Dec.
13. Organizer, host, introduction: Campus visit and lecture, "Le tendenze attuali della cultura italiana," by Dr. Mauro Bersani, Italian editor, journalist and literary critic; Miami U., Oxford, OH, Sept.
12. Organizer: "Mythology and Literature." American Association for Italian Studies (AAIS) Annual Conference, U. of Lowell, Lowell, Mass., 15 Apr.
11. Organizer and chair: "Sacco and Vanzetti in History, Literature, and Film." AAIS Conference, U. of Lowell, Lowell, Mass., 15 April.
1987: 8, 9, 10. Organizer and chair: Three panels for the 1987 AAIS Conference at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA: 1) "Literary Criticism Before De Sanctis" and two sessions on Vico: 2) "Vico and the Neapolitan Tradition" and 3) "Vico in Today's Literature." April.
1986: 6, 7. Organizer and chair: Two sessions on "Poetry and History in Vico,” American Association for Italian Studies Annual Meeting, Toronto, Canada, 11-13 April.
1984: 5. Chair: "Italian Literature" section, Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association, El Paso, Texas, Oct. Secretary of section in 1983, President in 1984.
4. Organizer and chair: "Italian Writers and their Audiences," American Association for Italian Studies, Univ. of Indiana, Apr.
1983: 3. Organizer, host, introduction: A visit by Jonathan Culler, Cornell U., to Brigham Young U., Nov., for two talks.
2. Chair: "French Literature and Cinema," Conference on Literature and Cinema, West Virginia Univ., Sept.
1. Chair: "Italian Medieval and Renaissance Literature," Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association, BYU, Apr.
COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS AND OTHER UNIVERSITY SERVICE
Coordinator of Italian Studies, an interdisciplinary major, that includes courses in Art, Architecture, Classics, History, Italian, and Music; Graduate Faculty;
Chair, Mediation Committee for Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities, fall 2010.
University Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities, 2006-2008, 2011-2014;
International Education Committee (Chair 2007-2008);
Faculty Welfare Committee (Chair 2008-2009);
Academic Program Review (reviewed 7-9 programs per year; chaired the review of the Department of Classics, 1999-2000, and the Department of History, 2000-2001; served on the Internal Review Team for the review of the Department of German, Russian, and East Asian Languages, 2005-06);
Fine Arts and Humanities Subcommittee on Faculty Research;
International Education Committee and Subcommittee;
University Committee on Faculty Research;
Graduate Council Subcommittee on Humanities and Fine Arts;
Academic Policy (University Senate liaison);
University Senate, two three-year terms as unit representative, one term as representative at large;
Liberal Education: designer and coordinator of two interdisciplinary Miami Plan (Liberal Education) Thematic sequences: "European Cinema" and "Italy in the Renaissance.
COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCE APPOINTMENTS:
Promotion Committees: Department of Spanish and Portuguese, 2012 and 2014; Department of Philosophy, 2012.
Committee for Review of Chairs and Program Directors, two terms;
College of Arts and Science Requirement Committee, Chair for two years, 1993-95 (while chair, committee revised CAS Requirements);
Film Studies Committee, Vice Chair, 1990-1996;
Committee for Enhancing Teaching Effectiveness;
Academic Planning Committee.
DEPARTMENT OF FRENCH AND ITALIAN APPOINTMENTS:
Coordinator of Italian Studies; Advisor to Italian Studies Majors and Italian Minors
Personnel Committee (P&T and Faculty Search);
Chair Search Committee (1992 and 1998-99);
Italian curriculum development;
Teaching Enhancement Committee; Teaching Liaison;
Assistant Chair, 2000-01.
Brigham Young University: Graduate Faculty, Student Advising, Research and Professional Development, Comparative Literature Committee, Department Graduate Curriculum (Chair), Department Graduate Coordinator, International Cinema Series Executive Committee, Study Abroad and Student Internships in Italy, Italian Language Coordinator and Teaching Assistant Supervisor;
Faculty Advisor: Italian Club and La Parola, Italian students' newsletter (MU); Italian Club and L'Aurora, Italian students' monthly newsletter (BYU). Advisor for Italian Studies Majors and Italian Minors (MU), for students studying abroad in Italy. Organizer of Italian Table.
OTHER RELEVANT EXPERIENCE
EXTERNAL PROGRAM REVIEWER: Served as one of three external evaluators for the program review of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Kenyon College, Gambier, OH: campus visit on 17-18 Feb.; report submitted 4 April 2014.
Scuola Italiana, Intensive Summer Language School, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT, 25 June-16 August, 2008. Taught two courses: “Cinema italiano” and “Introduzione alla lettaratura.”
AP GRADER: College Board Advanced Placement Exam Table Leader/Grader: I was selected for the national pool of qualified College Board AP examiners and was chosen by the Educational Testing Service as a Table Leader for the grading of the 2007 AP Italian exam, supervising 6 graders, College of New Jersey, June 6-18.
SILK ROAD TRIP: Six-week summer trip, 2006, through China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkey with 14 Miami University colleagues, sponsored by the MU Havighurst Center for Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies and a Fullbright Grant, with visits to museums and a series of symposia and workshops at libraries and universities. My research and presentations were on Marco Polo.
Semiotics Seminars: Attended three-week conferences sponsored by the International Semiotics and Linguistics Center which included lectures, seminars, workshops, and panel discussions by leading linguists, semioticians, and literary theorists. Participants included Umberto Eco, Paolo Valesio, Cesare Segre, Louis Marin, Tzvetan Todorov, Philippe Hamon, Luis Prieto, Ferruccio Rossi-Landi, Teun Van Dijk, Gayatri Spivak, Teresa De Lauretis. Summers 1991, ‘81, ‘79, ‘78, ’77.
Interpreter/assistant for Italo Calvino during his one-week visit to Johns Hopkins University, 4/76.
Summer study in Orléans and Paris, France, 6/758/75.
Study and research at the Johns Hopkins Villa in Florence, Italy, and travel through Italy, 1/747/74.
Service in the US Army, 11/718/73.
Summer, 1970: Italian School at Middlebury College, MA program.
Residence in Rome, Italy. Courses at the Dante Alighieri Society, 4/678/67.
Birth and childhood in Petrella Tifernina (prov. Campobasso), Molise, Italy, 7/486/58.
RECOMMENDATIONS CONTAINED IN DOSSIER
Eduardo Saccone, thesis advisor, Dept. of Romance Languages, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.
Charles S. Singleton, Professor, Dept. of Romance Languages, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.
Peter Pedroni, mentor, Dept. of French and Italian, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.
Nathaniel Wing, Chair, Dept. of French and Italian, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.
Thomas Brown, Associate Dean, Honors Program, former Chair, Dept. of French and Italian, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
Richard Cracroft, Dean, College of Humanities, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
DOSSIER LOCATION: Placement Bureau, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218
Biographical Texts-Testi biografici
A memoir of my coming to America, published in OVUNQUE SIAMO
"We got our water from a fonde nov, the new fountain, a couple hundred steps from our house. Women filled a tinuccia, an amphora-like, hourglass-shaped copper receptacle, and carried it home on their heads, balanced on a cipolla (onion), the name given to a rolled-up strand of cloth used to pad the top of the head and to steady the heavy copper urn that held ten or more liters of water. The fountain was where the women mingled and picked up the news and gossip of the town. . . ."
"The most alluring items in the packages from America were the illustrated children’s books that seemed to depict a strange fantasy world where people not only spoke an undecipherable language, but where everything was different: the houses, the clothes, the children’s toys, the dogs, even the way people stood, sat, and looked and smiled at each other. The children—with the strange, unpronounceable names Dick and Jane—usually had a cute dog, Spot, romping around them and what seemed to me outlandish contraptions: a pedal car, or bulky bicycles that looked more like motorcycles, and a red wagon that they could pull or ride or use to transport all sorts of marvelous belongings: toys, dolls, stuffed animals, picnic supplies, gardening tools and the harvested vegetables and flowers. . . ."
To read the rest, click on the picture or the title.
Birds of Passage
I’m floating over my town again, looking down at the clusters of attached stone houses in rows snaking along the contours of the hillside, surrounded by an irregular patchwork of fields along the steep slopes meandering down to the Biferno River valley. In the wheat fields only stubble remains, where it hasn’t been burned to charred brown residuum. Newly erected haystacks dot the landscape. Olive trees glint silvery green in the sunlight. Under the almond, hazelnut, and walnut trees the ground is carpeted with fallen nuts, many still in their green husks. Apples and pears, some bored by worms, and late-season figs, some pecked by birds, hang heavily from sagging branches or have fallen to the ground. Vineyards are laden with red and green grapes ready to be plucked.
I soar slowly over ochre-colored tiled roofs overlaying barren walls of hand-hewn granite blocks. Plumes of smoke waft from the chimneys, as they do year-round, because all the cooking is done in fireplaces. But now, in September, fires in the hearth are also needed for warmth; nights and mornings grow chilly.
I glide over the town’s only carriageable street, the via nova, the new road. There are rarely any motor vehicles on it: a bus in the early morning, heading toward Campobasso, the provincial capital, and another in the late afternoon going in the other direction. The children always know when the afternoon bus is coming because a quarter of an hour before it’s due, our mothers lean out their windows and shout at us to get off the street, if we don’t want to be run over. Most of the traffic on the road usually consists of the contadini, tillers of the land, going out to work in the fields outside of town in the morning and coming back into town in the evening, some with goats and sheep, some with a donkey. Sometimes there are horse-drawn carts, and once in a while even an ox-drawn wagon. But most of the time the road is just filled with us children playing: young ones playing hop-scotch or hide-and-seek, and older ones, those closer to my age, playing soccer with a ball made of rolled up rags tied with string; or p’zzill, played with a short stick sharpened at both ends with a pocket knife, and a longer stick used first to hit the short stick on a pointed end, to make it pop up into the air, and then to strike it as far as possible while it’s still up in the air. The street and alleys are our playgounds, until our mothers call us in for meals, or for the little ones to take a nap, or for the bigger ones to run errands, often to fetch water at the public fountain.
I swoop over the town’s main piazza, which serves as a border between the old and new sections of town. On one hillside, to the north, the old medieval quarter clusters around the ancient church, whose campanile can be seen rising above the rooftops, and whose bells can be heard from the fields all around the town, and when the wind is right, even from neighboring towns. On the other side, where the terrain is flatter, extends the “new” section of the town, built outside the old medieval walls and gates. Here, where my own house is located, the alleys between the rows of houses are wider and more sunlit, the homes more spacious, but built of granite stones as old as those in the oldest houses in the medieval quarter and in the ancient church itself, though not as big. From my vantage point up in the sky I can make out the difference between the old town, with weathered walls, and the new town, where the walls are less dark and sooty. The brightest walls are those of newest houses on the outskirts of the new quarter, whose freshly chiseled stones of pink-veined granite seem to glisten in the sunlight.
Some of those new houses were built by my grandfather and my father, assisted by their apprentices. They’re stonemasons—as I too will be someday, following in the footsteps of generations. I look down on those houses in the old quarter that have stood for hundreds of years, maybe more than a thousand, and the newer ones that will stand just as long, for centuries to come, and am filled with a sense of pride to belong to a family of builders. They sometimes take me along as their “helper,” and I’ve come to know many phases of their work: extracting stone from quarries outside the town; shaping and chiseling the rocks by hand on the ground floor of our house during the winter months, when it’s too cold to work outside; and then in the warm months constructing those rock-solid houses that stand for centuries; designing and building them from bottom to top, erecting walls, sculpting entries, lintels, fireplaces, mantles, cisterns. Like them, I too will become a muratore: quarryman, architect, engineer, sculptor, and mason all in one; and people will someday call me Mastro.
But will there be houses for me to build when it’s my turn to take up the family trade? So many families are emigrating, leaving empty houses behind. Will they be coming back? There are some schoolmates and play friends that have been gone so long, I can’t even remember them anymore.
I hover over my own house on the via nova—named Corso Vittorio Emanuele II after the first King of Italy, as I’ve learned in school—and watch the swallows emerge from their nests under the eaves of the roofs. The swallows, according to Nonno, my grandfather, are getting ready to return to Africa for the winter. They will all be gone in a month and won’t be back until April next year, eight long months away: a long, cold winter without their frenetic flitting and chirping filling the sky and supplying the background noise of summer days. There are more of them now than those who arrived in the spring. Their babies were born under those eaves, and it’s the young ones, Nonno says, that fly away first, all the way back to Africa across the Mediterranean Sea. They somehow know where to go even though they’ve never been there before. Nonno says that they even pause to rest in the same places where their parents stopped in their migration north to Italy and to our town. After a week or so of flying they’ll reach their destination: the same location from where the parent swallows departed and where they, the parents, will themselves return later. I don’t know how Nonno knows all this, but I believe everything he says. He doesn’t try to fool me like Papà or some of my uncles. I never know when they’re kidding, but Nonno doesn’t kid.
Nowadays, Nonno points out with sorrow in his voice, the swallows are not the only ones going away. Many of the town’s young men are also leaving, heading for faraway places that the townsfolk call “America,” by which they mean any foreign land where there is work to be found. Argentina, Venezuela, Australia, Germany, Belgium, the UK: they’re all “America.” A few of the men who left returned after a while, but most haven’t. Instead their wives and children have gone to join them in those faraway lands, in those Americas where people speak different languages than ours. Many of them, Nonno predicts, will not be coming back as the swallows always do, not next spring, not ever.
In the view of the old men who sit on the bench in front of the house with Nonno on sunny afterrnoons, the war, which brought a lot of destruction to the land, also destroyed our way of life. Many men were killed, or wounded, or detained for years as prisoners of war. The poorest families in the town, hard as life had always been for them, now face ongoing hunger, with no prospects for a change in the future, making them desperate to find some way to feed their children, even if it means leaving their homes to go into the unknown. The old men lament that long-established customs and age-old traditions are disappearing. Nevertheless, some of the younger townspeople, my father among them, argue that these changing conditions also present new opportunities for those willing to risk starting over in a foreign land, facing and adapting to strange ways and conditions and an incomprehensible language.
It is a sorrowful subject in our family, because my own father recently became one of those who left. He got a work contract in what the townspeople call Nuova York, or the “Good America,” although Nonno says that the country is actually called Stati Uniti, United States, and that New York, Nuova York, is the name of a city, not of the whole country; and he should know, because he went there several times himself, as a seasonal migrant when he was just a young man at the beginning of the century. He says that they were called “birds of passage,” those who, like him, went back and forth, following the work seasons. They were like the swallows that come to our town each spring and leave in the fall. I’m sure my Papá will be coming back, just like the swallows. Almost sure.
The swallows have emerged from their roof-top nests under the eaves and dart and chirrup all around me, zigging and zagging in their jerky way. They’re scolding me, I think, for all the stones I’ve shot at them over the summer with my slingshot—my own hand-crafted masterpiece, made with a perfect y-shaped twig and the elastic band from the underpants that my mother sewed. Soon, I realize with some apprehension that after the swallows have all left and it gets colder, I will have to change from my cotton summer underwear to woolen winter underwear, and I will have to come up with an explanation for what happened to the missing elastic: “I don’t know, it just fell out. . . . The Gypsies took it. . . . Those bullies from ‘ngopp a chies, the old part of town near the church, beat me up and stole it. . . . A witch came through the wall one night and just ripped it off.”
And then suddenly, over the chorus of the swallows’ shrill chirping, I hear a much more plaintive birdsong: “kyoo, kyoo.” I look around, puzzled and alarmed. The Kyoo owl only sings at night. Its call is out of place here and now: up in the sky, in the daylight.
And then I’m suddenly falling from the sky, gasping, my arms flailing wildly trying to regain my lift. Just before hitting the ground I wake up, thrashing in my bed
My relief that it has all been a dream doesn’t last long. Now that I’m awake I still hear the mournful cry of the bird of death: “kyooo . . . kyooo . . . kyooo.” It was what called me out of my dream. What’s worse, to my increasing dread, it’s very close to our house: just outside.
Is it looking at my window? To announce my impending death? That’s what the Kyoo owl does: It perches outside the house and looks right at the window of someone who is going to die that night.
Did I say all my prayers and recite all the necessary incantantions before going to sleep? There are so many and they take so long that I sometimes fall asleep before completing the whole lot. I also have to cross my arms and legs to ward off the array of witches, ghosts, werewolves, and other horrid creatures that lurk through the town at night. But it’s hard to keep arms and legs crossed when I’m asleep. I must have uncrossed them when I was flying. Now, awake, I quickly cross them again and start anxiously to repeat the prayers and magic incantantions as fast as I can. For good measure I also cross my fingers.
Of all the frightening nocturnal creatures that populate my world, the one I fear the most is the Kyoo owl, because its doleful call can actually be heard at night; it is not just imagined. I’ve heard it many nights, sometimes far away, sometimes close by. But not this close! It sounds as if the deadly bird is perched in the big red-fig tree in our back orchard. Or it could be in the walnut tree in the neighbor’s orchard to the left, or the apple tree in the other neighbor’s yard.
After what seems like a very long time the kyooing finally stops, and I’m relieved to realize that I am still alive. I slowly relax, trying nevertheless to stay awake and keep my legs, arms, and fingers resolutely crossed. But it’s no use. Here I am flying up in the air again, with arms and fingers spread wide and legs extended, having forgotten all about the deadly birdcall. Now I’m circling under the rafters inside the ancient town church, where I’ve recently started to serve as an altar boy. Below, behind the marble altar, the recently arrived young priest, Don Benedetto, is saying mass to a sparse congregation of parishioners, mostly old women dressed in black. Once they reach a certain age, they’re always in mourning for someone, and it’s easier just to wear black all the time.
Don Benedetto arrived in town only a few months ago, and he enlisted me and the other altar boys to help him go through the archives to learn about the church’s and the town’s history. With our help, and to our fascination and that of the whole town, he has discovered that our austere, unadorned church is actually an “architectural jewel” that was built many centuries ago by the Templars, who were knights who fought in the Crusades, and that it is really a remarkable example of what he calls “Romanesque” architecture that should be studied and evaluated by art scholars and historians. Some people think he’s crazy; some think he’s given our town new prestige.
To tell the truth, I’ve never heard of Romanesque architecture or of the Templars. But I have heard of knights and of the Crusades, both in school and at home. On winter evenings, sitting around the hearth, my grandfather tells us many stories: memories of his youth and of family life, fables and folktales, ghost stories, Bible stories, and tales of knights and Crusaders. So, now as I float near the church’s ceiling I look at the austere, naked-stone walls and the two unevern rows of massive columns topped with strangely carved capitals with a new sense of reverence and admiration, seeing our imposing, unembellished church as something fabulous, built by legendary crusading knights.
And now I’m out of the church, out in the open air again, soaring over the town’s only school, which people call new, even though it was built before the war, years before I was even born, in the time of il Duce, Mussolini. Looking at it from above, I can see how different it is from the other buildings in the town. It’s made of bricks, not stones, and has two tall marble pilasters framing the entrance, in the form of two long fasces, symbols of the Fascist Party.
As I look down at the children filing in like ants—the black-smocked boys going in one side of the entrance and the girls, with white smocks, going in the other side—I hear my mother shout up to me: “Sendu’, scign’, get down here . . .!” I tumble from the sky again, startled awake, and hear the rest of her urgent command: “. . . iusht mo, right now! You’re going to be late for school!”
So, it’s morning. I’m alive. I listen anxiously. There is no more kyooing outside the window. I’ve survived through another night. And so has my mother.
I throw on my clothes, rush down to the kitchen on the second floor, and hurriedly gulp down chunks of crusty bread dunked in hot milk—taken just a few minutes earlier from a neighbor’s cow. My mother helps me put on my school smock and buttons it in the back and makes sure that my pen and pencil and homework are in my cartella, and I set off for school, a short walk from my house . . . or from any other house in town.
As soon as I step outside I see and hear the swallows streak through the sky as usual, wishing me and the world good-morning with their shrill twittering. But there is also something unusual in the air this morning: another sound that shouldn’t be there. After a moment I realize what it is: the goats are bleating next door. Strange! They shouldn’t be there at this time. Usually Zi’ Iuccio has taken the herd out of town to pasture well before now, at sunrise. I’m tempted to push the neighbors’ door open and peek in to investigate.
I like looking in on these neighbors, especially in the evening, when the goats have been herded back home from the countryside, because Teresina, the goatherd’s young daughter, often gives me a ladle of warm whey, or better yet, a clump of fresh cheese that she scoops up from the cauldron with a strainer and squeezes in her hand, forming what she calls a little bird, uccelluccio, because it really does look like a white, featherless, naked baby bird still in its nest. And it even squeaks when my teeth bite into it.
But no, I don’t want to be late for school right at the beginning of the school year. My third-grade teacher, the same teacher I had in the first and second grade, waits by the door with his ruler ever at the ready to swat the hands of miscreant boys. I have never been swatted with the ruler yet—but I was slapped once, even though I had done nothing wrong; it was my deskmate who had made the noise, not me, but he wouldn’t own up to it, and we both got slapped in the face; and I almost peed in my pants because of the shock of the blow and the injustice of the punishment and my deep humiliation in front of my classmates. I don’t want to risk being punished now, and especially don’t want to get on Signor Leonardo’s bad side.
The punishment I dread the most, meted out to those boys who do get on the teacher’s bad side, is to be made to kneel on the ground, with a handful of hard, raw ceci, chick peas, placed under each bare knee, with those sharp little protruding nebs that bite into the flesh and leave marks on the knees. I love to eat ceci: whether still green, right off the bush; or dried and hard; or boiled and used in soup, or with t’bett, short elbow maccaroni; or just by themselves, after they’ve been boiled and cooled, with a little oil and salt; or best of all, toasted in the fireplace until they are browned and crunchy. To turn our beloved ceci into instruments of torture seems particularly cruel and menacing, since the boys so tortured are reminded of the punishment every time we eat them, which is pretty often.
What is even more frightening is that it is certain to be a double jeopardy, because if I were to go home with all those red, inflamed dimples dotting my knees, my mother would be sure to recognize them for what they were: evidence of my crime and punishment in school. She would then punish me all over again.
Worse still, she would then tell the whole extended family about it at the communal Sunday dinner at my grandparents’ house: “Guess what one of our own did at school this week?” And I would be shamed in front of all my relatives. It’s triple humiliation that is at stake! So, no dallying! I rush off to school and forget about the neglected and complaining goats, and so manage to avoid humiliation and torture for that day: no slaps, no swats, no kneeling on ceci.
When I get out of school in the early afternoon, the swallows seem to be gathered in groups on the rooftops, as if taking a rest from their frenzied flying. Or perhaps they’re pondering their upcoming departure across the sea. Maybe they’ve eaten all the insects in town, and there is nothing left for them to eat. Or maybe it’s getting to be too cold for the insects, and they have migrated too, or burrowed somewhere and gone to sleep.
Summer, a stegion’ bon’, the “good season,” as folks here call it, is coming to an end. Days are getting shorter, nights longer. But the grape harvest and wine-making are coming up, and they’re a lot of fun for young and old: summer’s last festive offering. Winter is not here quite yet.
As I approach my house I’m surprised to see a throng of people gathered in front. As I get closer I see that they are actually converged next door, outside Zi’ Iuccio’s house. They all look somber. Some seem to be weeping. I see my mother among them and make my way to her. She pulls me to her and tells me in a subdued voice that Zi’ Iuccio is dead. Tears come to her eyes again, and to mine too. The neighbors’ goats are noisy and smelly, but the old man was a kind and generous neighbor, always happy to let me drink some whey and taste the fresh cheese he was making, from when I was able to toddle into the ground floor of their next-door house. He even let me try my hand at milking the goats a few times, chuckling and praising me warmly if I managed to squeeze a few white drops into the bucket.
All the men in Zi’ Iuccio’s family are now gone. His two sons were both killed in the war. Only his widow Filomena and the daughter are left. What will happen to the goats? Will Teresina and her mother be able to tend to them and to cultivate their fields without menfolk to do the heavy work? Or will they too have to go away, like the swallows, but maybe never come back? No more warm whey, no more hand-squeezed “little birds.”
Later, inside, I ask my mother if she heard the Kyoo owl calling last night. Yes, she did. She too was afraid that it might be looking at our house, but it must have been looking instead at the window next door, into the bedroom of poor old Zi’ Iuccio, good soul! She shivers and makes the sign of the cross three times, and nods to me and my little sister to do the same, and we do.
Today more swallows have flown away, and tomorrow more will follow. Tonight the Kyoo owl will cry again.
Sante Matteo was born and spent his childhood in a small agricultural town in southern Italy. He is a retired Professor Emeritus of Italian Studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Recent creative writing has appeared in Dime Show Review, Bark, The Chaffin Journal, and The New Southern Fugitives.
"I’m floating over my town again, looking down at the clusters of attached stone houses in rows snaking along the contours of the hillside, surrounded by an irregular patchwork of fields along the steep slopes meandering down to the Biferno River valley. In the wheat fields only stubble remains, where it hasn’t been burned to charred brown residuum. Newly erected haystacks dot the landscape. Olive trees glint silvery green in the sunlight. Under the almond, hazelnut, and walnut trees the ground is carpeted with fallen nuts, many still in their green husks. Apples and pears, some bored by worms, and late-season figs, some pecked by birds, hang heavily from sagging branches or have fallen to the ground. Vineyards are laden with red and green grapes ready to be plucked.
"I soar slowly over ochre-colored tiled roofs overlaying barren walls of hand-hewn granite blocks. Plumes of smoke waft from the chimneys, as they do year-round, because all the cooking is done in fireplaces. But now, in September, fires in the hearth are also needed for warmth; nights and mornings grow chilly. . . ."
To continue reading the story, click on the downward caret at the bottom of the picture.
The story of my name, as told by the name, itself, was published in the Journal of Italian Translation, XV.1, Spring 2020.
"Okay, maybe roses do 'smell as sweet' in different languages, but I'm not so sure that Romeo could 'be some other name' and still be himself. What's in a name? A lot, I think; a lot more than poor Juliet thinks. Of course, I may be prejudiced, or want to give myself more importance, because I am a name.
"For the person who bears me as his name, I have meant many different things over the decades. I have been a source of joy and a fount of pain; a cause of loss and a begetter of gain: the worst of names, the best of names. He has been regarded and treated differently because of me. So, roses may smell as sweet by any other name, but not people. Sometimes their name can make them smell sweet. Sometimes it makes them stink. Names matter.
"I am one and I am many. I am the name you see written in the byline. It is unique and unchanging in its written form, and so I am one (albeit twofold). But how do you, dear reader, pronounce that name? Each of you will probably pronounce it differently, depending on your linguistic background. I have been pronounced in many different ways throughout my bearer's lifetime. In spoken form, I am many (albeit still twofold). . . ."
To continue reading a draft, click on the title above, the picture, or here.
This partial biography was written in 1991 as part of a procedure to qualify to adopt a child, which never came to fruition--possibly because the "statement," instead of just a couple of pages long, turned out to stretch to a couple of dozen pages, probably too long for the over-worked adoption agents to read. It was translated into Italian and included in my book Radici sporadiche, with the title "Molise-Ohio, via Utah" (available below). The published memoir "Coming to Dick and Jane's America," listed above, was also extracted from it.
I was born and lived the first ten years of my life in the Middle Ages. That is, I was born in a setting and in conditions that probably hadn't changed all that much since the Middle Ages: an agricultural community in the Apennine Mountains of South-Central Italy that had remained relatively cut off from the industrial revolution, from modern progress, indeed from history. Most of life was still lived in a cyclical or mythical framework, rather than a linear or historical framework. The seasons determined activities and the age-old wisdom of elders and forebears dictated customs and behavior. Things were done the way they "had always" been done, and would always continue to be done.
My parents happened to be part of the transitional generation that would change all that, or for whom all that would be changed by forces beyond their control. History invaded their town, along with many other similar towns in central and southern Italy; it invaded their lives and thrust them and their children irrevocably into the twentieth century, with all its comforts, its technological wonders, and its social and moral ambiguities and problems.
It was a hot July afternoon in 1948 in the Molise region of southern Italy. Giuseppina, a strong and very pregnant twenty-two-year-old woman, was working hard, as usual, in a field called Via di Lucito, several kilometers outside the walls of her small hometown, Petrella Tifernina. As far as she knew all her ancestors had been born and had lived in Petrella, as had those of her husband, Nicolino Matteo, whom she had married during the Second World War. Petrella, a town of bare-stone houses perched on a hill around the ancient Romanesque church of San Giorgio, home to about two thousand people, had been her entire world. Her husband Nicolino Matteo, who was five years older, had seen more of the world since he had served in the war.
"You're going to deliver that baby right there in the middle of the field if you're not careful! Why don't you go home and get in bed, where you belong in your condition?" shouted those who walked by to work in adjacent fields. But she worked until sundown, as usual. Nicolino, a stone mason, like his father, Sante, was helping his father rebuild one of those stone houses she could see on the horizon.
I was born that night in my parents' bed in their home. There was no hospital nearby, no doctor. The midwife barely made it in time to assist with the delivery. As the first-born male child, it was a foregone conclusion that I would be named Sante, after my paternal grandfather, in whose house we lived and who lived with us. His wife, Francesca, after whom my sister is named, had died before my parents were married. I know her only from the black and white photograph on her tombstone in the cemetery outside Petrella: a thin, dark, austere woman with a determined look.
My grandfather was a heavy-set, bald, soft-spoken, gentle man with light blue eyes and a shy but ready smile. Shortly after my birth, he curtailed his work and became my primary sitter and companion. As the bearer of his name and his only son's only son, I was naturally a source of great satisfaction for him. My earliest memories are of sun-drenched days spent in the comfortable presence of my grandfather, sitting on a stone bench outside the house with him as he talked and reminisced with other old men from the neighborhood or strolling down the tree-lined street holding his calloused hand as people greeted him warmly and respectfully and typically made a big fuss over the chubby toddler at his side, pinching my fat cheeks, tickling my tummy, raising me up to kiss me loudly on both cheeks. It must have seemed to me that everyone was there, in that world, just to make a fuss over me. The whole street, the whole town, my whole world seemed to be a kind of family. I belonged to them all; they all belonged to me.
Indeed, my mother still likes to recount how I would be passed from hand to hand among her friends and neighbors. A friend of hers would show up early in the morning and offer to take me for a stroll. Hours later, when it was time for my feeding and I still hadn't been returned, my mother would have to go searching for me: "Where's the kid?" "Oh, I gave him to so-and-so." So-and-so would say, "Oh, such-and-such came by, and she wanted him for a while; so I gave him to her." Such-and-such would explain, "What's-her-name saw him and wanted to take him to the fountain." And so on. She would finally track me down and take me home, tired and hungry, but satisfied and entertained: overall a very serene and happy child.
In such a small town, which up to that time had had little communication and exchange with the outside world, many of the residents were related in some way, either through actual kinship or through ritual kinship: godfather and godmother, best man, confirmation sponsor, etc. In such an environment a child grows up with a strong sense of belonging, of being rooted among people who care for him or her. As I played in the streets and alleys there was no such thing as being lost or being out of bounds. Everyone knew who I was. Everyone had the right and the responsibility to take care of me: to aid me if I was hurt, to admonish and scold me if I misbehaved; to act in loco parentis. As a result, I think that I learned basically to trust other people and to expect them to like and trust me. And I think that that's still the attitude with which I approach people because it was ingrained in me as a child.
Having since lived in urban settings, I now can't help but wonder if children born and raised among strangers in large cities can nurture the same kind of trust toward their fellow human beings. It seems that widespread indifference, if not outright hostility, as well as the perceived potential for abuse and danger, require us to be much more circumspect in our relations, particularly as far as our children are concerned; and apprehension and distrust have become the more usual "default" modes of interacting with others.
* * * * *
My grandfather Sante died shortly after my sister Franca (short for Francesca) was born, when I was almost four years old. It was a chilly day in April, as I recall. The mid-day meal, our main meal, was almost ready. My grandfather hadn't returned. My mother asked me to go find him and tell him to come eat. If he wasn't out in the street, I should check the outhouse in the back of the house.
There was no plumbing or running water in any of the homes in Petrella. Water had to be obtained from several public fountains located in various parts of the town. Some families had outhouses. The less fortunate simply had to use the fields around the town. The houses were all made of stones, chiseled from rock quarried outside the town, and were attached to each other in rows and back-to-back. Those built on the edge of town in more recent centuries, such as ours, had backyards, with gardens, fruit trees, chicken coops, pig stalls, etc. Most of those inside the town's medieval walls, however, did not have any yards at all. Typically, the lower floor of each house was used to store grains and keep animals--horses, donkeys, goats, pigs, chickens--for those who had them. Though most of the people in the town were cultivators, they did not live on their farmland. Rather, most owned or rented several different plots of land in different directions outside of the town. They would go work in these various small fields on different days but always return to town at night.
My grandfather wasn't on the bench in front of the house, nor on any other bench on the street as far as I could see. I walked through the ground floor of the house, past the wine and ham cellar; through my father's and grandfather's workroom full of hewn granite and marble stones, chisels, hammers, levels, and other tools of their trade, and a layer of dust underfoot; past the grain and wood storerooms; out the back door, into the garden; past the chicken coop and the large white-fig tree; to the outhouse. The door was closed. I knocked and called out, "Nonno’! Nonno’!" There was no answer. I tried to push the door open. It gave partly. I saw my grandfather's bare leg first. He appeared to be slumped over, but I couldn't get the door open far enough to see him well. I told him that dinner was ready, but he still wouldn't move or answer. I went back upstairs and told my parents that Nonno had fallen asleep in the outhouse and wouldn't wake up.
And so I learned what death was and what it meant to lose someone you loved and who loved you completely and unquestioningly, with absolutely no reservations or conditions, simply because you were there and you belonged to each other, no matter what. My grandfather continued to be my mental companion and my moral guide, a conscience of sorts. Whenever I misbehaved or was tempted to do something wrong, it was always the thought of what he would think and say to me that embarrassed me first and the most. He was my namesake and I felt, and continue to feel, an obligation to perpetuate his name and his memory with the dignity and love that I have always associated with him.
His image has remained for me an ethical and existential compass with which to chart my course through a life that has taken me to far-flung shores. Whenever I return to Petrella, one of the first things I do is to visit his grave. Seeing my own name on that tombstone, permanently fixed in that small piece of my native soil, gives me an anchor of sorts, a sense that my existence and my identity are grounded or rooted after all, despite my migratory life. It's his image, his name, and his memory that constitute the main bridge between my "here and now" and my origins--or my illusion of origins--so that "where I come from and who I was" are not completely divorced from "where and who I am." I am still, and suppose that I will always be, the grandson of that gentle man whose hands had quarried and hewn a lifetime of rocks with which he built houses that would last for centuries; and his calloused, comforting hand will always have that same firm, reassuring grip on my own unsure hand, and will continue to guide, protect, and restrain me.
* * * * *
Not long after my grandfather died, my father came to the United States. In 1954 he and two other stone masons from our town received a work contract and workers' visas to sculpt marble in Quincy, Massachusetts. They all left their families behind and went to make marble plaques and tombstones in America. Their intention was to make and save as much money as possible in a year or two and return to their families in Italy with a tidy nest egg. And, in fact, my father did return to Petrella after two years. He hadn't particularly enjoyed living in America and was glad to be back home, with his family and friends, where he knew the language and the customs, and where he was an insider. However, he had indeed made good money by the town's standards. What's more, he had discovered that in America women could work in factories as well as men. My mother, anxious to assure me and my sister a more promising future, talked my father into returning to the States, applying for permanent-resident status and requesting that his family join him. There was a quota system, which meant that we had to wait several years before our request would be processed.
We finally received our papers to emigrate in 1958. We were to leave in the late spring. I had mixed feelings. I wanted to be with my father again. My mother and other relatives had always made it a point to tell me how much I was like him: I had his blue eyes and light complexion, liked the same foods he did and ate them in the same manner, walked like him, talked like him, and thus was always encouraged by them, by my mother, and by him in his letters to identify myself with him, even though he had been away for almost half my life.
I was also anxious to see this mythical place called "America," where so many people from my town had gone to "make money." My father would occasionally send packages from "America." They were like messages from another world: strange candies and clothes that I had never seen or smelled before, toys that did not exist in my world. Once he sent a cap gun with several rolls of caps, which made me the star and the envy of the town among my friends. No one had seen or heard anything like them before. We used sticks or stones (and our imagination) for just about all our games. If we were lucky, we could occasionally get scraps of wood of different sizes and shapes from the carpenter's shop.
The most alluring items in the packages from America, however, were the coloring books and other children's books—Dick, Jane, and Spot learn-to-read books—that my father occasionally included. These books seemed to depict a strange fantasy world, a world where people not only spoke an undecipherable language with a lot of alien consonants in the words but where everything was different: the houses, the clothes, the children's toys, the dogs, even the way people looked and smiled at each other.
The children always seemed to have a red wagon, or a pedal car, or a funny-looking, massive bicycle with fat tires that looked more like a motorcycle. Our own toys were mostly home-made: discarded hoops from old wine barrels that we would roll down the street or the stone sidewalks, guided by one of those ubiquitous all-purpose sticks; slingshots made with the elastic from an old pair of home-made underpants, or sometimes from a new pair, in which case we had not only to cope with the discomfort of our underpants not staying up but had to live in fear of the punishment that would surely be meted out on the next wash day when our mothers would discover the crime.
Unlike our own houses, which were made of bare gray granite and attached to each other, and the areas in front of the houses which were also paved with stones, the houses in the pictures in the American books seemed to come in all colors and shapes and seemed to be made of different materials: bricks, wood, even some kind of metal. But most intriguingly, they seemed to be surrounded by green grass and bushes and flowers and trees, and some by wooden enclosures, fences. Sometimes, there seemed to be paved private roads leading to another building near the house--driveways and garages, I would later learn. And sometimes, these short roads or the roads passing in front of the houses had automobiles on them--enormous, shiny things that seemed to be entirely too large and extravagant to be real.
The children's clothes seemed to be more colorful as well, and always clean and new. Maybe there was no dirt in "America", and clothes never tore or got dirty, and underpants would stay up even without the elastic that your mother had to buy for such and such a price from the vendor who came only on such a day of such a month! Maybe kids never got scolded or punished, and never got into trouble in "America".
I was anxious to visit this strange new world. I had a frequently recurring dream in which airplanes flew overhead and dropped miniature versions of those gigantic American cars for me and my friends to drive all around the countryside. Sometimes I would drive into the pictures in the books, looking for my father, smiling at those clean, well-dressed American children with their red wagon, trying to look as if I belonged there too.
And yet I dreaded the thought of leaving my own world, my extended family, my friends, my "places." I told them--and myself--that it would just be an extended vacation, a kind of scouting adventure. We would surely be back in a year, two at the most; and I would tell them all about those cars and funny houses surrounded by grass and the meaning of those strange words with so many consonants in them.
I genuinely believed this. So did my mother. At least that's what she had always told me. So, I was somewhat perplexed that my grandparents--my mother's parents--and my aunts and uncles cried as disconsolately as they did when it came time for us to leave. Part of me was almost amused by this unusual spectacle: the normally impassive adults crying while the kids, who were usually crying or screaming about something, were relatively gay and excited as if we were about to embark on a fabulous adventure.
However, another part of me, on seeing my grandparents' unusual behavior, became more fearful, especially when my grandfather, Nonno Seppuccio (from Giuseppe, Joseph), a very large, imposing, stern man, clutched me almost desperately to him and cried like a child, imploring me not to go, not to leave him, that he would never see me again. What did he mean? Did he and the others know something I hadn't been told?
The thought that I would not return, that I could abandon my home, them, my family, my friends, my world, forever, was not even conceivable. That is, I simply could not formulate such a thought, or at least I could not let it surface in my consciousness. But perhaps the seed of doubt was planted somewhere in my mind. And as we boarded the car that took us out of the town, I was filled with an anxious sort of excitement and anticipation along with a profound sense of dread or panic, an overwhelming sense of awful, irreparable loss.
I couldn't wait to get going. Why was the car so slow? Why did it have to take so long?
At the same time, I couldn't bear to leave everything that belonged to me, and to which I belonged. Why was this car moving away so fast?
Why wasn't there more time to say goodbye, to look at everything and everyone again? They went out of sight so fast!
One more turn around those trees and my town, Petrella, would be out of sight for good. Where in the world was I going?
* * * * *
Boston was where we were going. My father had traveled by ship four years earlier, but we went by propeller plane. As the plane approached the Boston airport I looked out the window to get my first look at this new world. It did look like those pictures in the books: individual houses of different shapes and colors surrounded by grass and trees. "Pare un presepio!--It looks like a creche!" I said to my mother. She agreed but didn't particularly want to look out, especially when we were banking and the houses seemed to glide by right under our window.
My father, who has always enjoyed making things with his hands, had always made beautiful creches for the Christmas season, fashioning houses, churches, palaces, and huts out of cans and boxes and painting them. It's a tradition he continued in this country. So it seemed not only quaint but somehow appropriate, even a little reassuring, that this land where he now lived and where we would find him and live with him should resemble one of his creations.
My father and several of his friends were waiting for us. I was the first to spot him. He looked the same as I remembered him, and yet completely different, foreign.
By "us" I don't mean just my family. We had traveled with two other families. One of the stone-workers who had migrated with my father was Egidio Camino. They had emigrated together, worked together, and rented houses right next to each other in Quincy, Mass. Egidio's wife, Rosina, and their four-year-old son, Walter, traveled with us all the way from Petrella.
Egidio had also sponsored his younger brother, Aldo, whose family also accompanied us: his wife, Carmela, who had lived across the street from us, and their two-year-old toddler, Antonio. In Petrella, we had watched Aldo's and Carmela's courtship from our window. I recall one winter day when Aldo was visiting Carmela, or hanging around outside her door--it must have been in the interim when my father had returned from his first stint in the States--when a raucous snowball fight erupted between Aldo and my father and eventually involved much of the neighborhood, as the street echoed with the shrieks, shouts, and laughter of many of our neighbors, men, women, and children, who had gone out to watch and ended up participating. It's a scene with which I always associate Aldo, a plump, jovial fellow, always ready for a good time or a good joke.
He was also the most emotional member of the party when we left Petrella. He cried the most loudly. When we reached Campobasso, the provincial capital, he implored the driver and the rest of us to please go back to Petrella! He didn't want to leave. He was later afraid to get on the airplane and, to the somewhat anxious delight of the children, had to be coaxed on by the women. We never let him forget those moments. He later claimed that he had been faking to make us laugh.
As it turned out, Egidio actually owned one of those colossal cars from the picture books: a Pontiac; 1949, I think, with a little bust of an Indian mounted in front of the hood: Pontiac himself! We all piled into that and another cavernous car that belonged to the third "musketeer" from Petrella who had gone with my father originally, Giovanni il Marmista--the Marble-worker: a DeSoto. Egidio hadn't had the car very long and didn't drive it much. He and my father took the bus to work. But we all had our picture taken in front of it several times so that we could show people in Petrella how prosperous we were in this “America.”
If the houses looked quaint from the outside (and from above), they were like something out of a fairy tale once we went inside: wood and carpeting, rather than stone or marble tiles, on the floors; an oven and stove, rather than a fireplace, for cooking; a refrigerator, rather than just a pantry; stuffed easy chairs and couches, rather than just straight-backed wooden chairs with straw or wooden seats; and, most magical of all, a television set!
I was mesmerized by it when my father first turned it on and soon became an addicted viewer, particularly on Saturdays: Rin Tin Tin; Broken Arrow (which I called Cochise); Fury; Mighty Mouse; The Lone Ranger. Just listing the names evokes some of the same open-mouthed wonder and excitement that I felt back then in front of this futuristic marvel. Within a few weeks I knew the TV schedule by heart, knew the names of the characters and the actors, and recognized all the theme songs: Wanted, Dead or Alive, with Steve McQueen; Have Gun, Will Travel, with Richard Boone; Frontier Doctor, with John Payne; 77 Sunset Strip, with Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., and Roger Smith; Wagon Train, with Ward Bond; Zorro; Leave It to Beaver, Gunsmoke, and so on, and so on.
I watched as much TV as I could get away with, often preferring it to going outside to play. Though my parents would often send me to bed because it was late or chase me outside to get some air and exercise, they generally indulged me in my new addiction. It kept me off the streets of this strange new world, where who knew what could happen to me. There was so much traffic in Quincy compared to Petrella, where the kids had practically owned the streets for their games, except for the two or three times a day when the buses to or from Campobasso passed through. And it was also teaching me and my sister this country's apparently incomprehensible language.
So, television was my teacher. Because we had arrived in June, I did not have to go to school until the fall. I had the entire summer to learn about this place. I learned some things from the children in the neighborhood: a few words, money, where to shop for what, and a peculiar American sport called baseball, which made very little sense and seemed to be extremely dull. However, I did not learn a great deal because most of them were also recent immigrants from Italy themselves, and we talked mostly in Italian or our respective dialects, or a mixture of our dialects corrected with some standard Italian and sprinkled with a few English expressions.
Indeed, the experience of that first summer was as informative and interesting in what it revealed to me about Italy and Italians, about their various dialects and customs, as what it taught me about American language and culture. It was probably in Quincy, Massachusetts, that I first realized what a complex and rich patchwork of languages and cultures Italy is, that there are in fact many different Italies. And it was strange that I should encounter these other Italies in Quincy, Massachusetts, indeed that I could only encounter them in such a place. In Petrella I never had and probably never would have met Italians from other regions. However, on that little street in Quincy, Water St., there were families from Sicily, Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont: a veritable microcosm of Italy. So, when I ventured outside our half of the duplex we were renting, instead of America, I actually found a window with a view of Italy.
My true picture window to America was the TV set. Through that window, I peered in fascination to catch black-and-white glimpses of how Americans dressed, moved, talked, laughed (and punched, hit, stabbed, and shot each other a lot!) on such all-American venues as American Bandstand, I Love Lucy, The Wonderful World of Disney, and the Ed Sullivan Show. It was not only the language I picked up, but much of the ethos of the culture: the values, ideas, and beliefs which defined the characters and determined their conflicts; although I certainly wasn't consciously aware of all this at the time. And this ethos, I now realize, was radically different from the ethos which had formed the basis of life and social interactions in my previous world.
Flint McCullough, the scout on Wagon Train, was one of my favorite characters, in one of my favorite series, of my favorite genre, the Western. The heroes in the Westerns which dominated the TV airwaves at the time seemed to embody the American ethos: self-reliance; a certain reserve or reticence, a need for privacy; a stubborn, single-minded adherence to a personal code of justice and fair play; a willingness to fight, even to the death, for this code (but a reluctance to talk about it): the pioneer spirit that conquered the west, the wilderness: good old American individualism.
I wanted to be like Flint, the scout: stalwart, brave, serious, quiet, reliable, strong, fast and accurate with the gun, fair but dangerous, steely-gazed yet shy, honorable. I tried to walk like him, talk like him, think like him. I looked at myself and my life from the outside as if I were watching a TV series and patterned my behavior, my gestures, my "attitude," my very thoughts on those of Flint McCullough and Matt Dillon and the Lone Ranger. I Americanized myself by this kind of playacting.
The identity I was putting together in this fashion was very different from the one I had fashioned in my previous existence in that other world, where people and heroes had never been quite as silent, as indomitable, as self-reliant, or as forceful and potentially violent as the Lone Ranger. There, it seemed, communal values, social interaction, and familial and societal ties were more important than the individual's personal code. One's identity was determined to a larger extent by one's place and function in the group. One lived more by customs, communal expectations and dictates, folk wisdom, and the conventions of the elders, who were considered sages, not because they had read books, but because they had lived for many years and had been educated by life and their own elders.
These two identities, my Italian self and my American self, have probably remained tangled within me, neither one fully developed, neither one ever abandoned. I thus continued to straddle two worlds during my adolescence. At home, I lived by the standards, values, and customs of my Italian hometown. I always talked to my parents only in our native dialect, and continue to do so to this day. At school and with my American playmates, I spoke a different language and wore a different mask. These two worlds never fully merged, and I continued to shuttle back and forth between them in my daily life.
Eventually, I came to feel slightly out of place in both: a foreigner with a strange name among my school friends, one who brought strange foods in his lunch bag and who had a unique background, childhood experiences he didn't share with the American children; but a foreigner at home as well, an American child in an Italian household, who found it difficult to share his outside concerns, activities, and problems with his parents and their community because we did not share the same points of reference. I felt that they couldn't really understand what I was learning in my American school, what I was reading in American books, and what I discussed with my American friends.
This, of course, is the situation for all adolescents vis-à-vis their parents. However, for me, and I suppose other immigrant children, it was more pronounced, more obvious, and therefore perhaps more understandable and easier to resolve; or not to resolve, because to a certain extent, it has never been resolved, but to live with, to accept, without ever blaming my parents for anything or coming into true conflict with them.
The negative side of this life experienced in stereoscope, dangling between two cultures, was that I did not feel comfortable, really at home, in either situation, a condition which enhanced my natural proclivity to shyness and reticence. Though always friendly and considerate, I was not very outgoing. I preferred to remain an observer on the sidelines, rather than a participant at center stage. I blushed easily whenever put on the spot, which included being called on in class, and, since people noticed it and found it quaint or "cute," I would become even more self-conscious.
And yet, probably because I had grown up in a secure environment where I learned to trust people and rely on them, I had no problem making friends. I liked just about everyone I met, and have always felt that just about everyone liked me. My difficulty was in making intimate friends or belonging to a tight-knit group of "best friends." I was friendly with everybody, but good friends with nobody.
In a way, this negative side of my condition was also the positive side in that being an observer allowed me to remain more objective, more tolerant, and more understanding of various points of view. I seldom got caught up in crusades, causes, passions, or hatreds which seemed to appeal to so many of my peers. My adolescence was a strange mixture of awkwardness and anxiety, on the one hand, a feeling of being different, of not fitting in, and, on the other hand, a sense of serenity, of being removed from the fray, an outsider looking in at life through a window.
* * * * *
That adolescence was not spent in Quincy, Massachusetts, but in Cleveland, Ohio, where we had moved in January 1959, after spending only half a year in Quincy.
There was a large community of paesani, people from our hometown, in Cleveland, about thirty families or so. My father and Egidio had been in touch with some of them who convinced them that they could get better jobs and have a more pleasant life there. In fact, these paesani eventually did find jobs for them and both families moved to Cleveland together, sharing one moving van. My father and Egidio both worked at the Boiardi Tile Factory, owned by the son of Ettore Boiardi, better known as Chef Boyardee.
Aldo and his family, on the other hand, chose to stay in Quincy for another year or so. But eventually, they too moved to Cleveland, but with a larger family. Carmela had given birth to a girl, Diane, whom we referred to as "l'americana," the American, since she had been born in this country. We all found houses near each other, and close to many of our fellow townspeople from Petrella in the Collinwood area on Cleveland's east side, an ethnic enclave with many Italians from all parts of Italy, but mostly from southern Italy, like us, as well as Slovenians, Poles, Hungarians, and Germans.
In a way, it was like returning to Petrella for my parents. There were several people of their generation who had migrated to Cleveland, friends with whom they had grown up. They could keep talking in their own language, refer to places, people, and episodes of their youth, keep observing their same customs--in short, be themselves, not have to invent a new American self. As a result, they never really felt the need to learn English. They worked with Italian, shopped at Italian stores, went to church where the priest spoke Italian, and did just about all of their socializing among themselves.
And there was a lot of socializing! All holidays and special occasions--weddings, funerals, christenings, even children's birthdays--were an excuse for the community to get together. We were constantly exchanging visits with other paesani. Even if we went shopping we would often stop at someone's house to visit "since we were in the neighborhood." For my birthday or my sister's, it never occurred to us to invite our school friends or our playmates from the neighborhood. We always invited my parents' friends and their children, who brought many gifts. We were then obligated to reciprocate for their children's birthdays. The same thing happened for first communions, confirmations, baptisms, weddings, graduations, etc. As a result, my social life, as well as my home life, remained very "Italian," with the consequence that as I got older it was very uncomfortable for me to socialize with my American friends. I did not know what to say or do.
I now wonder whether the very fact that my parents were able to find this little Petrella away from Petrella in Cleveland made it possible for us not to return to Petrella, that is to postpone the return until it became too late. Ironically, those very conditions which made them a little more comfortable in this foreign land ended up preventing them from adjusting to their new home, as well as from returning to their old home.
Had we stayed in Quincy, where our four families were the only ones from our town, perhaps we would have returned to Italy after two years, as we had promised our relatives and friends. My father didn't particularly like his work or the environment in Quincy. My mother had found work shelling clams and mussels--not a life-enhancing activity. There was little time to socialize and few people with whom to do so.
In Cleveland, however, the hours were shorter, the wages better, and the social group larger and more supportive. Life was easier and more enjoyable for them. It was easier to put off returning for another year. And then another. And another. Until they discovered that my sister and I were speaking English to each other. Indeed, once she started school, my sister started to speak English even with them, reverting to our dialect only when they couldn't understand her, even though they always continued to speak to her in dialect. I myself soon forgot standard Italian, since our dialect was practically a different language. My sister had never learned standard Italian since she had not gone to school in Italy. Furthermore, we had become used to having those comforts we had never had in Petrella: refrigerator, TV, heat in the winter, ice cream, bananas, and watermelons. Could they now take us back to the Middle Ages?
They kept putting it off. And eventually, they were stuck in America for good, without ever really having committed themselves to stay here permanently, forever strangers in a strange land, a land that was destined to become stranger yet as the cohesive community of paesani in Collinwood eventually began to disintegrate as the children grew up, married "Americans," moved away, often drawing their parents away as well. Few, if any, are left in the Collinwood area. Some, mostly those of the older generation, have died. Most of the others have now moved to different suburbs, no longer in proximity to each other.
In the early years, they really didn't need to know English since they had a "little Petrella" readily available; and therefore they made little effort to learn it. Now that their children have moved away and the reconstituted simulacrum of their hometown has itself disintegrated they find themselves more isolated than ever before among "foreigners," struggling to cope with a language they never mastered.
Actually, it's not nearly as bleak as I make it sound. With phones and cars, the paesani of my parents' generation do manage to keep in touch with each other on a fairly regular basis. In fact, one of the sociologically interesting recent developments in their lifestyle has been the use of a shopping mall as the equivalent of the piazza, or square, in the Italian hometown. Now that my father and many of the other men are retired they meet in the mall to stroll or sit on the benches and talk, just as my grandfather and his friends did in the streets and squares of Petrella when I was a child. The community may be much more loose-knit than it was thirty years ago, but it's still there.
* * * * *
However, I fear that with these digressions I will never finish this autobiographical account, which I started several months ago. So, I'll have to try to be more concise in covering the rest of my life: my schooling, my military service, my professional activities, and my marriage and family life.
Despite my excessive shyness, I did quite well in school from the outset and was generally well liked by both my teachers and my peers. I had finished the fourth grade in Italy. In Quincy, I went into the fifth grade. The teacher assigned me a mentor, an Italian boy in the class who could translate for me when necessary. For reading and writing, I started with first-grade Dick and Jane books. In the other subjects, I worked along with the rest of the class as best I could. After two or three weeks I moved up to second-grade readers, and so on, so that by the end of the term I had caught up with the class. When we moved to Cleveland in January, I was able to work at grade level in all subjects. By the time I finished elementary school, I think I had lost my accent and spoke English more or less like a native.
My parents, neither of whom had gone beyond grade school in Italy, my father having gone to the fifth grade, my mother to the third, both valued education, had always encouraged me to do well in school and had always taken pride in my accomplishments. I had been a good student in Italy and I was expected to continue to be a good student in America. My parents kept close tabs on my schoolwork and made sure that I did my homework thoroughly, even though they couldn't actually help me with any of it directly.
They made a big deal of my achievements with friends and relatives, rewarding me by showing me that they were proud of me, making others proud of me, and thus making me proud of myself. The result was that my academic success came to be an essential part of my identity. I was perceived as "Sante the good student," rather than "Sante the good athlete" or "Sante the trouble-maker," and thus came to perceive myself the same way.
There was an element of "Us against Them" or "We'll show Them!" to all this. Probably like all immigrants, the people of Petrella felt insecure and threatened in this country, made to feel inferior because of their lack of education, the relatively menial jobs they held, and their linguistic and cultural deficiencies. Yet among themselves, they naturally liked to believe that they were actually superior to other groups, and I became a token of sorts by doing well in school.
It turned out that I was the oldest of the children in the Petrellese community who would pursue an education. There were children older than I, but they were adolescents who had come over expecting to work and only went to high school because the law required them to do so. If I could excel at school it would make a statement about the entire community. Thus, when I got straight A's on my report card the news quickly spread to the rest of the Petrellese community and became a topic of discussion at all the parties and a source of general pride. I became their Joe Louis, with school as my ring and "America," whoever or whatever it might be, as my "adversary": "So, Sante got straight A's again, eh? Atta boy! We'll show these Americans who we are and what we can do!" Such remarks were actually addressed to my parents even more than to me, as if the achievement was really theirs and of the Petrellese community at large, and as if my parents, as their delegates, should keep up the good work. And, to a considerable extent, it was their achievement.
In any case, I came to be regarded as a good student from the very beginning. Even before I had learned English well I could do well on tests, because I had developed good study skills in Italy, where we were in school for fewer hours but were assigned much more homework and were required to memorize facts, verses, tables, etc. Thus I probably studied more and remembered more facts than many of my classmates. I was particularly good at spelling bees, possibly because most of the words were new to me and I had never learned to spell them wrong, and partly because I would pronounce the word to myself not only in English but as if it were an Italian word, that is phonetically, so that when I repeated it in my head with the Italian pronunciation I automatically knew how to spell it. My teachers and classmates took such tricks and techniques for intelligence and I thus got a reputation that I subsequently had to live up to.
* * * * *
Collinwood was a large urban school of more than 3500 junior high and high school students. It included grades Seven through Twelve. The Cleveland school system at that time had a half-year system. The academic year started either in September or in January, depending on one's month of birth. I started the seventh grade at Collinwood in January of 1961 and graduated from High School in January 1967.
It was a rough school, a real ethnic stew, with considerable rivalry and tension among the various ethnic groups. The number of African-American students (or Negro or Colored students, as they were known then) increased steadily during my six years there leading to a lot of inter-racial strife during the mid and late sixties, the years of civil unrest and the civil rights movement. During my last two years, there were many fights and several out-and-out riots which were covered in the national news.
One had to steel oneself every morning for the inevitable confrontations to be encountered during the day. How would you react to provocation? Flight, fight, appeasement, irony, sincerity? What kind of attitude should you wear? Meek, menacing, indifferent, kindly, sensitive?
I must confess that I felt a great sense of relief when I finally left such a tense atmosphere, to attend Kenyon College in its pastoral, almost monastic rural setting in central Ohio, with its relatively homogeneous, middle-class, mostly white, all-male student body. I didn't have to worry about getting into fights or getting stabbed or putting on an attitude every morning. And yet, I felt a sense of loss as well, guilt even, that I had fled to an ivory tower removed from the pressing problems and issues of the day. At such a selective liberal arts college it may be true that I soon realized that, despite my many awards, I had not received a very good academic preparation at my inner-city school compared to my classmates from elite Eastern prep schools, but I also realized that I had received a much more thorough education in human and social relations than many of them. My sense of relief was tempered by a sense of exclusion, of removal, perhaps even of betrayal to the inner-city friends I had left behind.
* * * * *
When I started the seventh grade at Collinwood I was plunged back into the anonymity and insecurity of the "greeny," at the bottom of a very long, six-year ladder: new classmates, new teachers, no reputation to sustain me or make me visible or noteworthy. Being very timid and reserved, I was actually very comfortable with this relatively new invisibility. I didn't even have an accent anymore to make me stick out, just a funny name. But there were so many Italian Americans in the school, that even the name wasn't sufficient cause for much notice.
I thus hid in the crowd for the first year or so, content to remain in the background, seldom volunteering to give answers in class, doing very little to bring attention to myself. However, I continued to study hard and to get good scores on my tests and assignments, and eventually reemerged as a "good student" in the eyes of teachers and students. And once classified as such, the label to a certain extent became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Toward the end of my six-year academic career at Collinwood, it seemed that teachers were compelled to give me A's regardless of what I actually did or didn't do in class simply because by then they all "knew" that I was an "A student" and was bound to get an A, no matter what.
The re-emergence into the academic spotlight, which for me was a mixed blessing, began in the eighth grade. Mr. Molinaro, my English teacher, and an actor in local theater, had asked us to write an essay on one of our relatives. I wrote a remembrance of my Nonno Seppuccio, my maternal grandfather, whom I had left in Petrella with the promise to be back in two years. The following day, Mr. Molinaro made a big deal about one of the essays he had received, calling it one of the most moving and "exquisite" essays he had ever received (but I don't think that he'd been teaching all that long). The surprising thing, he said, was that this essay had been written by someone who had been in this country and had known English only a few years. The rest of the class should learn a lesson from this about the value of hard work, applying oneself, and so on.
He read the paper out loud. To my shock, partial delight, and deep dismay, it was my paper. I blushed and sank into my seat. Perhaps he wouldn't identify the author. No such luck! He walked to the back of the room, where I had managed to remain fairly well hidden up to that point, and handed me the paper: "Excellent, Sante. Keep up the good work." All eyes were on me, many probably for the first time that term, and I started to be known as "that smart kid with the funny name."
A little later that same year, my math teacher began to call on me frequently in a geometry class. I almost never raised my hand to answer questions. He had noticed, however, that I generally got 100% right on my tests and quizzes. So, he began to call on me in class, particularly for the harder problems that stumped others, perhaps because he suspected that I might somehow be cheating on the tests and wanted to see how I did on my own. When he found that I could usually figure out the answer, he asked me why I wasn't in the "Major Work Program." I didn't even know what it was.
It was a program for advanced students who could work at a faster pace and cover more material. In math at least he felt that I would be better off with such students, and he transferred me to a Major Work geometry class he was teaching that semester. In the meantime he had me investigate why I hadn't been placed in the program in the first place. Placement, as I recall, was based on something called LPR (Learning Proficiency Rate, or something like that), which was in turn based on a test given in elementary school.
My LPR from the test I took in elementary school was in the average range, not high enough to warrant an invitation to apply for admission into the Major Work Program. He suspected that it was because I had taken the test when my English language skills were not fully developed. He arranged for me to take the eighth-grade version of the test (for parochial-school students who entered Collinwood in the ninth grade) and I performed much better and was consequently placed with the Major Work group of my class.
Since I was in a mid-year class, which was smaller than the classes graduating in June, the Major Work students in my class were few, no more than twenty or so. They took most of their courses together and had been together as a group since the seventh grade. I was the only new student to join in mid-stream, as I recall. So, once again I was the outsider, an immigrant of sorts again trying to join an erstwhile foreign society. But it was a pattern with which I was now more comfortable (the pattern which has perhaps become the most comfortable, for better or for worse).
In any case, my new classmates were generally friendly and accommodating and supportive, even if initially a little suspicious of my right to be there, which, given my reticence and shyness, was understandable. The courses were much more challenging, the students much more motivated and better prepared, the teachers more personal and involved. In addition to getting good scores and good grades, I began to think, to learn about ideas and thoughts and problems rather than just facts and procedures. I came to value learning as an end in itself and education as more than a means to attain some other goal.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, for reasons I've never really understood since I didn't play sports, didn't belong to any of the social clubs, and wasn't particularly outgoing, I was becoming widely known, respected, and liked by other students.
I found myself elected to the student council and was invited to work on the school newspaper. In the ninth grade, I was elected president of the junior high student council and editor of the junior high section of the paper. I continued to be active in both activities during senior high, eventually becoming president of the Senior High Student Council, editor-in-chief of the school paper, and editor of the yearbook.
I was also elected to office in the Key Club for several semesters, which allowed me to have lunch with the Kiwanis Club occasionally and even to travel to Columbus for state-wide meetings of the organization.
One Thursday afternoon in the Spring of 1966, I was invited to a Kiwanis luncheon and was seated at a table next to that day's speaker, a young lawyer who had graduated from Collinwood a few years earlier and was beginning a career in public service, as Assistant Attorney General of the state of Ohio. We talked at some length. He asked me about myself, probably wondering about my name as many people do when they first meet me, which leads me to tell them I'm from Italy, and so on. He graciously complimented me on my progress. When he went up to the podium to speak, he embarrassed me by recounting my story to the audience to make a point about this being the land of equal opportunity in which effort, hard work, and talent are inevitably rewarded. Despite my embarrassment, I was flattered and he struck me as a very nice, decent, sincere man. It never occurred to me that he might become governor of the state someday. His name was George Voinovich.
* * * * *
I have always suspected that my appeal to people in high school lay partly in my name and possibly in the fact that I was a native Italian, not second-generation. When I looked at my yearbook recently, I was struck by just how many students had Italian names. At the time, I took it for granted. It wasn't striking that there were so many Italo-Americans there. At a distance, after having lived elsewhere, including almost a decade in Utah, where the Italian presence is of considerably more modest proportions, I'm astounded to notice just how many names ended in vowels: -aro, -ino, -etti, -one, -illi, -ico, etc. I may have had some kind of cachet with the second- and third-generation Italian Americans because in their eyes I was closer to their roots or because I was reliving their parents' or grandparents' experience. I was an integral part of "them" and they were for me just because of my name and where I came from.
On the other hand, through my work with the school paper particularly, I came in contact with the "others": Germans, Slovenians, Poles, Irish, Jews, Blacks, even WASPs. Those who worked on the newspaper tended to be the more active liberal members of the school community, while a majority of my Italian peers tended to be socially and politically conservative, prejudiced against other ethnic groups, especially against racial minorities, and dismissive and resentful toward the "collegiates," those who combed their hair forward or to the side, rather than back in a kind of pompadour, those who would eventually become the hippies and flower children.
Yet, for some reason, though I openly associated with the despised cohorts, was an active member of the Youth Council on Human Relations, and participated with my Black friends in marches and camps for civil rights (who, in fact, gave me a certificate declaring me an honorary "Soul Brother"), I was never reviled or attacked or dismissed by my own ethnic group, not even during the worst days of the race riots when as president of the student council I had to call publicly for calm and understanding and tolerance on both sides. Though toward the end of my high school career I was no longer as close in my daily life to the Italian Americans with whom I had grown up and who had been my "friends" during grade school and Junior High, I never stopped being friendly toward them, nor they toward me.
* * * * *
In short, my high school career turned out to be successful on many levels beyond any expectations I might have had; and it did so almost despite myself. It was almost as if I was a passive observer, standing on the sidelines, watching myself being elected to offices, awarded prizes, lauded, and rewarded for merits I didn't really believe I possessed and for achievements that I felt did not result from my own initiative.
Whatever the causes of this success, my high school commencement was the culmination of those seemingly charmed years, at least as far as academic recognition was concerned. It was one of the high points of my life as well as one of the prouder and most memorable moments in my parents' lives. One of my friends later asked me jokingly if I had enjoyed the "Sante Matteo Show," referring to the number of prizes I had received and the number of times my name had been mentioned. My parents still love to recount, in mock embarrassment and guilt, how someone sitting behind them at the ceremony became exasperated that this kid with the funny name was hogging all the prizes.
The climax for my parents came toward the end of the ceremonies when I gave the Valedictorian address, as the student with the highest grade-point average in the class. Even though my parents had supported and encouraged my school activities and were therefore aware of my accomplishments and offices (although by the end some of them had little meaning for them), they also knew how painfully shy I was and had never heard me speak publicly. They waited for my speech with more trepidation and anxiety than I did. They were astounded when I managed to talk in front of such an enormous crowd (I had had much practice as student council president addressing all the school assemblies), and as far as they were concerned with great eloquence. They were moved to tears to hear that auditorium echo with my voice speaking what was to them still a foreign language with apparent mastery and effect. They were thrilled and shaken by the warm applause which followed. How could this be the same little boy who had come from Petrella still wearing short pants only a short time before?
I'd like to think that that moment of pride and satisfaction paid them back for some of their sacrifices, that it made them feel that perhaps it had been worthwhile after all to give up so much: their extended families, their friends, their homes, for a new life in this strange new world. It would never be their world perhaps, but it could be their children's world.
As I made my way slowly and laboriously through the pandemonium that followed the ceremony backstage, saluting friends, accepting the congratulations and best wishes of teachers and administrators, and posing for pictures, I looked anxiously for my parents. After some time, I finally saw them in the lobby, off in a corner by themselves, embarrassed, ill at ease, self-conscious, not knowing how to stand, what to say, how to look, how to be, in this setting, and yet smiling irrepressibly, virtually beaming with pride and with joy so that there actually seemed to be an aura of happiness, a glow of satisfaction, around them. So meek and so proud at the same time! It was my turn to be moved to tears, as I rushed to embrace them.
* * * * *
And it was only then, after my high school graduation, that I returned to Italy, not two years after I left, but nine. My other grandfather had died in the meantime. His prediction had been correct: he would never see me again.
Since I graduated in January, I had several months at my disposal before starting college. I worked for two months at the Cleveland Press. I had been a carrier for the Press for three years or so and had won a Cleveland Press scholarship my senior year based on a city-wide competition.
Before returning to Italy, I accompanied my father to Argentina where he had some relatives: his two sisters and their families, and quite a few cousins. They lived in Berazategui, a suburb of Buenos Aires. My father's older sister, Tittina, had emigrated shortly after I was born, and I didn't remember her, her husband, or her two children, both older than me. She had grandchildren by now.
His younger sister, Angiolina, had emigrated several years later, and I had vague memories of her. Her first son, Domenico, was born at the same time I was, either a day or two before or after, so we had taken our first steps and uttered our first words together (actually he much earlier, in both categories, I was always told). Domenico came to visit us in the States seven years later, in 1974, and liked it so much that he arranged to return to work several years after that. He now lives near Cleveland with his children and my aunt Angiolina.
I had a wonderful time in Argentina. There were many families from Petrella and they all seemed to be a very gay, carefree lot. One of the paesani owned one of the colorful buses which make the rounds around Buenos Aires (the city buses were actually privately owned, and the city granted contracts for established routes). A group of about forty or fifty people came to meet me and my father at the airport on his bus, and the whole merry gang sang and joked and laughed all the way to my aunt's house.
My three weeks in Argentina were one big party: cookouts and big dinners, trips to Mar del Plata on the ocean and to the mountains in the interior, dances and parties with Domenico and his friends, excursions on the commuter train to the beautiful center of Buenos Aires, even the hint of a budding romance as my cousin Antonio's vivacious young wife, Juanita, tried to fix me up with a very pretty Argentine girl. I was much too timid to follow up, but we did smile at each other a lot.
* * * * *
After this marvelous exposure to a different world, I went back to Italy for the rest of the spring and summer. I spent most of my time in Rome, where my uncles, my mother's three brothers, had settled after brief migrations to Germany.
My maternal grandmother was still living. I spent several weeks with her in Petrella, along with my cousins. The town was so different! So many people had moved away! I could hardly recognize any of the young people. And yet, it was also so familiar! Most of my dreams had continued to be set in Petrella for many years, and after a few days back it fit me again, like an old sneaker. America now seemed like a dream.
I found a few of my school friends, and later others returned for the summer from the various places where they had moved to work or study. Rather, I should say they found me. Indeed, it seemed that everyone in the town knew me, no matter where I went, not because they recognized me, but because they recognized my parents in me. I'd pass by a group of men in the piazza and they would say, "Aren't you Lilino's boy, Sante? You look just like your father." A few steps later I'd meet up with a group of women at the public water fountain who would invariably say something like: "Look, that must be Sante, Giuseppina's son; the spitting image of his mother! Sante, how is your mother?"
My weeks in Petrella were also one long feast: evening strolls along the piazza with my old friends, games and chatter with a houseful of cousins, stories and reminiscences from my grandmother Filomena while eating her home-made bread with a chunk of cheese by the same fireplace where I used to be hypnotized by the dance of the flames and the flight of the sparks as a child. The bread had the same taste. My grandmother's voice had the same comfortable sound. The walls echoed with the same laughter. My native dialect had reclaimed possession of my tongue and my mind as their rightful owner. Why had I ever left this place? Why had I not grown up among these people, my people?
But how small the town now looked! Had it really only taken three or four minutes to walk from my house on the main street in the new part of town to the school near the piazza? Only five minutes to the church in the old part of town? Had the alleys always been so dark and narrow, the houses so stark and gray and dingy?
It had been a vast, inexhaustible world to my child's eyes. Now it seemed so tiny! Perhaps it really did not fit me like an old sneaker after all. Had my too-well-traveled feet grown too much?
* * * * *
I actually spent most of my time in Rome. I had hoped to reacquaint myself with Italian language, history, and culture, much of which I had forgotten or never learned in the first place. And I did, to a certain extent. However, since I spent most of my time with my uncles and their families, who spoke in the dialect of Petrella, I really didn't perfect my standard Italian as much as I had hoped to do. However, I re-established contact with my extended family and with my country, contacts which I've maintained ever since. I managed to travel to several of Italy's major cities and got a taste of her rich culture, so Italy now meant more than Petrella or Molise to me.
In a strange way, however, in discovering Italy, rediscovering the life of my hometown, and reestablishing my own sense of Italianness, I also found out just how American I had become. I became aware that I dressed like an American, walked like an American, and generally looked like an American. Whenever vendors saw me approaching Rome or other cities, to my surprise and annoyance they started to address me in English: "You buy? Very cheap!" Something about me definitely told them: "Here comes an American."
What's more, I found that I missed America, my American friends, the Cleveland Indians' games, rock and roll, the smell of mowed grass in the rain! I was a tourist in my own country. And, in many ways, I had come to be more at home in a foreign country! Or, rather, I was beginning to realize that I was destined to be a tourist in life (aren't we all?) whether in Italy or in America, and that I didn't, and probably couldn't ever, feel completely at home in either place. In America, I would always miss and long for Italy; in Italy, I would yearn for America.
* * * * *
But I also yearn to get this narration over with, and at this rate, it doesn't look as if I will any time soon. In order to do so, I must try to limit myself to a more schematic presentation of facts and information. I think that I have probably indulged in enough introspection and self-analysis to provide an adequate idea of my background and my personality, of my strengths as well as my weaknesses, of who I was then and of who I am now.
I could obviously go on at great length to discuss my college experience (1967-1971); my army years (I was drafted in November 1971. My lottery number was 13. I served for two years); graduate school (1973-1976); the courtship (1976- ) and marriage (1978- ) to my beautiful wife; the long-hoped-for birth of my wonderful son (1983); and so on. But each of these topics, being nearer to me in time and interest, and thus more complex, would end up taking up even more space than anything I've dealt with so far. And I doubt that it's a book that you want.
One way to limit myself to a more factual sketch is to retrieve a computer file on my professional activities and simply append it as is at this point, filling in a few of the more personal blanks afterward. Here it is:
"Summary of Education and Professional Experience
"Born in 1948 in Petrella Tifernina, a small Italian town in the Molise region of southern Italy, I emigrated to the United States with my family when I was almost ten years old. In 1967 I was graduated from Collinwood High School, Cleveland, Ohio, as Valedictorian and first in my class.
"I received two scholarships to attend Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio, which awarded me a Bachelor of Arts degree in French in 1971. After two years in the U.S. Army, in the fall of 1973, I accepted a fellowship to pursue graduate studies in Italian with Charles Singleton and Eduardo Saccone at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. I temporarily interrupted my Italian studies in 1974-75 to accept a teaching assistantship at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, where I taught Italian courses while enrolled in the French Master of Arts program. In 1975-76 I returned to Johns Hopkins to finish the graduate course work for the PhD in Italian. Miami University awarded me an MA in French in 1976. The Johns Hopkins University awarded me an MA (1977) and a PhD (1983) in Italian.
"Meanwhile, in 1976, I returned to Miami University to accept my first faculty appointment as an Instructor of Italian, a position I held until 1979. I also taught Italian grammar, reading, and composition at the Miami University Summer Language Institute in Urbino, Italy. From 1980 to 1989 I taught at Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, at the rank of Instructor from 1980 to 1982, Assistant Professor from 1982 to 1987, and Associate Professor, with tenure, from 1987 to 1990 (on leave 1989-90).
"In 1989, I returned once more to Miami University, first as a Visiting Assistant Professor (1989-90) and subsequently, starting in the fall of 1990, as a tenure-track Assistant Professor, thereby giving up my rank and tenure at BYU, feeling that the academic, intellectual, and social environment at Miami University, especially within the department of French and Italian, would be more in consonance with my personal and professional background and expectations and that the small-college-town atmosphere of Oxford would be more conducive to the social and intellectual needs of my family.
"I have taught courses and prepared scholarly papers and articles on all periods. My primary research interests, however, are in post-Renaissance Italian literature, contemporary literary theory, and Italian cinema. On five occasions I participated in the summer seminars, lectures, and workshops sponsored by the International Semiotics and Linguistics Center in Urbino, Italy, which have included such internationally renowned scholars as Umberto Eco, Paolo Valesio, Tzvetan Todorov, Louis Marin, and Philippe Hamon, among many others. During the summer of 1983, I participated in an NEH Summer Seminar with Edward Wasiolek of the University of Chicago on "Russian Formalism and Contemporary French and American Criticism."
"My publications include three books: Textual Exile: The Reader in Sterne and Foscolo (Peter Lang, 1986), The Reasonable Romantic: Essays on Alessandro Manzoni (Peter Lang, 1986), and Italian Echoes in the Rocky Mountains (AAIS and D. M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, 1990), as well as numerous reviews, notes, and articles on divers periods and figures of French and Italian literature and cinema, from Le Roman de la rose and Marco Polo, to Vico, Foscolo, and Manzoni, to Jacques Derrida and Bernardo Bertolucci.
"I have been very active in the academic profession on a national and international level, holding several professional offices and editorships. I am serving a second term as Executive Secretary of the American Association for Italian Studies and Editor of its semiannual newsletter, Il gonfaloniere, and also served as Associate Editor of its journal, Italian Culture. I am on the advisory board of Machiavelli Studies, and am currently serving as Chair of the Modern Language Association executive committee on Italian Literature from the Seventeenth Century to the Present. I have delivered more than fifty papers at regional, national, and international conferences and symposia and have organized and chaired over twenty-five sessions, panels, and symposia, including the annual conference of the American Association for Italian Studies, held in Provo, Utah, in April 1988. More than 225 speakers from all over the world, including Italy, Belgium, West Germany, and Australia, participated. I was successful in obtaining substantial grants from many sources, including Italian governments agencies, Italian Cultural Institutes, and RAI Corporation, and in inviting many prominent scholars and writers, including the novelist and poet Giose Rimanelli, the Italian-German philosopher Ernesto Grassi, and one of Italy's most important contemporary figures as a plenary speaker, the novelist, poet, and Italian senator Paolo Volponi.
"As much as I cultivate, enjoy and profit from my scholarly and professional pursuits, I value my daily interaction with students, both inside and outside the classroom, even more. I consider my profession, whether I am in the classroom, in the library, or at a professional symposium, to be primarily that of teacher or educator, by which I mean not so much a dispenser of knowledge and expertise as a contributing member of a community of scholars, or learners, which includes students as well as professors, engaged in a continuing process of questioning, exploring, experimenting, testing, researching, and questioning some more: in short, learning."
* * * * *
On the home front, briefly: In 1978 I married Susan Bennett of Glen Burnie, Maryland. We had met while I was a graduate student at Johns Hopkins and she was an undergraduate at Goucher College near Baltimore. She was stunning. She had long, thick blonde hair that cascaded down past her hips and beautiful blue eyes the color of the sky on a bright summer day. She was a brilliant student of languages (including Italian) and struck me as one of the most intelligent, attractive, and fascinating women I had ever met.
When we decided to marry, I asked her if she wanted to be married on an Italian Alp or in an isolated cove on the Italian Riviera. We opted for Vernazza, a small picturesque fishing village on the Mediterranean Sea south of Genoa, one of the so-called Cinque Terre, five lands or towns. I had been to the general region and had found it enchanting, but had never been to this town before. The Cinque Terre are built into cliffs that rise straight out of the sea. They are linked to each other by a footpath that meanders along the sides of the cliffs, overlooking the clear turquoise waters of the Ligurian Sea. The path is called "Strada dell'amore," the road of love. Shortly after we arrived in Vernazza we asked two strangers to be our witnesses and, having done the necessary paperwork beforehand, were married in the town's city hall by a bemused vice-mayor who had never done anything like this before: Crazy Americans!
We rented a Vespa motor scooter for the summer and traveled through Italy under the sun and rain. After a couple of weeks of traveling--to Rome, Naples, the Amalfi coast--we settled in Urbino for two months, where I taught in Miami University's Summer Language Institute. We took many weekend trips on the Vespa. In fact, it became our preferred mode of transportation in Europe for several years. The following summer we went to France for a few weeks before heading for Italy. While in Paris I bought a used Vespa. We traveled through much of France with it before going to Urbino for the summer again. I left it in my hometown at the end of the summer for use the next time. I eventually gave it to one of my cousins.
When we were married, Susan was a graduate student in Russian at Ohio State University. However, she interrupted her Russian studies to come live in Oxford, Ohio, where I was an Italian instructor, for the 1978-79 academic year. While here she enrolled in the graduate program in French and completed a Master of Arts degree. She also taught Italian as a Teaching Assistant. The following year we moved to Columbus where she resumed her graduate courses in Russian and I worked on my dissertation in Italian literature for the PhD at Johns Hopkins.
The year after that, 1980, I was offered the position at Brigham Young University, where Susan also got a part-time appointment teaching Russian. In the winter of 1981, she returned to Ohio State for a quarter to finish her coursework for the PhD. She eventually taught Russian full-time at BYU for one year, then full-time at the University of Utah for three years, commuting between Provo and Salt Lake City.
* * * * *
Our first child was due to be born in mid-January, 1984. Because Susan was pregnant, we had not made any plans to travel that Christmas.
On Christmas eve, we were spending a quiet evening at home, listening to Christmas music and playing Scrabble. It had been snowing very hard all day and evening, leaving about fifteen inches of snow on the ground. And it kept on snowing.
At around 10:30 PM, as I was about to put down my letters to make a word, Susan said, "I think that my water just broke." I figured she just wanted to end the game since I was winning for once (although she claims otherwise and is probably right).
"It can't be! You're just imagining it."
"No, I'm not kidding," she said with more urgency.
I followed her to the bathroom: "But we're not ready! We haven't set up the nursery. We haven't even finished the birthing classes. Plus, it's Christmas eve! And there's a blizzard outside! It must be something else!"
But she was sure; her labor was starting!
I wasn't sure whether we could make it to a main road from our house. The streets in our neighborhood had not been plowed. The paved roads which we usually took were uphill. We wouldn't make it to the top. I decided to use the unpaved road to the south which was downhill. Our little car had to barrel through the drifts. We got stuck over and over. I had to back up in my tracks and get up enough speed to plunge through a few more feet. Again and again! Meanwhile, Susan's pains were coming more frequently. I envisioned having to help deliver the baby in the car. And then what?
However, we finally managed to make it to a main street that had been plowed at some point, and we got to the hospital shortly before midnight. Susan's obstetrician was in Hawaii for the holidays. The substitute doctor had to get to the hospital from out of town, battling snowdrifts himself. At one point, he said, he didn't think he would make it. He got there a little before one o'clock.
The baby was born only a few minutes later, at 1:20 AM, Christmas morning. What a Christmas present!
After the nurses had cleaned him up, they brought him to us in a bright red Christmas stocking. He was a beautiful baby with a full head of dense black hair (which later turned blond and then a light brown).
Everything had gone smoothly after all, except for when I called my parents and Susan's to give them the joyful tidings. I dialed both numbers wrong and ended up waking up strangers in the middle of the night, one in New York and the other I know not where: "Merry Christmas! It's a boy!" I exclaimed. "Congratulations! Who the hell is this? Do you know what time it is?" a stranger's groggy voice asked. Twice!
We had planned to call the baby Nicholas if it was a boy. It was a name that Susan had always liked, and I knew that it would please my father, whose name is Nicola, Italian for Nicholas, to have his name carried on in the tradition of our region. When the doctor said "Well, you'll probably want to give him a nice Christmasy name, like Nicholas," Susan and I smiled at each other. It was clinched: Nicholas it was. Susan started to call him with the Russian diminutive, Kolya. I often preferred the Italian diminutive, Cocco or Coccolino. Kolya has stuck, and is the name he goes by.
Kolya was a wonderful baby from the beginning: good-natured, happy, loving. He was wonderful as a toddler and has remained wonderful as a boy. It would surely take several books to express how happy he makes me and how proud I am to have him as a son.
* * * * *
Though my position at Brigham Young University was a very good one, and professionally it seemed to be ideal in terms of security, advancement, and professional rewards, Susan and I decided that it would be best for us as a family, and for Kolya in particular, to leave Utah.
We were among a handful of faculty members at the university who weren't Mormons. We were the only non-Mormon family in our immediate neighborhood. Kolya probably would have been the only non-Mormon child in his class. Even though our neighbors and colleagues were warm, supportive, friendly, and non-intrusive, we felt that it would not have been pleasant or healthy for Kolya to be the odd man out socially. So, we decided that we had to relocate before he started school.
Oxford, Ohio, which hadn't been particularly exciting when we were a young, newly married couple, now seemed the ideal setting to bring up a family. When a position in Italian suddenly became available, we decided to seize the opportunity, although it meant that I would give up tenure and my rank. In effect, I've had to start over at an entry-level position.
Before this happened, however, the previous year, Susan had accepted a tenure-track position at the University of California at San Diego. She moved there for the 1988-89 academic year. I stayed behind at Brigham Young for another year to give my department a chance to replace me and to give me a chance to find a position near San Diego (the position at Miami University materialized at the end of that year, only days before I was going to move to San Diego to finalize plans for a position at San Diego State University and to look for a house). Kolya stayed with me during that year. We drove to San Diego (14-15 hours) once a month. Susan flew home several times.
San Diego had seemed very appealing to us at first, a beautiful city in a spectacular location with ideal weather. But, as she lived there, Susan began to realize that it wasn't the ideal place to bring up a child either: too large and chaotic, too much traffic, violence, drugs, too far from our respective families.
Oxford, Ohio, kept popping up in our conversations as the ideal place. Wouldn't a small college town in the midwest, relatively close to both sets of grandparents, be great?
* * * * *
It has indeed worked out that way. Kolya started kindergarten shortly after we moved back here in August of 1989. And he has flourished even beyond our hopes. He has turned out to be an excellent student so far: methodical and thorough, conscientious, genuinely interested in learning, and a voracious reader. This year, he became a member of the RAH--Reading at Home--500 Club, for having read the equivalent of 500 books (he actually ended up reading over 850!).
All four of his grandparents, as well as his great-grandfather, Susan's paternal grandfather, are close enough that he can see them several times a year. Therefore they are no longer familiar strangers whom he would see only rarely, but people he sees fairly regularly and knows well, people who belong to him and to whom he belongs, no questions asked. This sense of belonging, of being connected to someone in addition to his parents, of having people and places, or roots, to anchor him in life, I feel is very important for a child.
In Utah and in California, Kolya would have been in a wilderness of sorts, cut off from his ethnic, cultural, and family background. He would have grown up in a kind of cultural vacuum as far as his own family background was concerned. In Ohio, this background is a little more accessible to him.
Oxford, furthermore, is made to the measure of a child. In a relatively short time he has come to know it. When his grandparents or other guests come to visit, he can take them around and show it off to them: "These are the formal gardens. There's a man from Scotland buried near here. This is Peffer Park, where I go sledding. This is a trail that goes to the Bluffs, where Dad and I go hiking. That's my school. That's where my friend, Shreyas, lives. . . ." It's his. When we go shopping or riding around he runs into friends and acquaintances. It's familiar, comfortable. It's home.
Il secondo capitolo del libro Radici sporadiche, qui riportato, racconta la mia infanzia a Petrella Tifernina (CB), la nostra emigrazione alla fine degli anni '50, i miei studi e la mia carriera in America.
MOLISE – OHIO, VIA UTAH
Questo saggio autobiografico lo scrissi nel 1991, quando io e mia moglie Susan cercavamo di adottare un bambino. Nostro figlio aveva sette anni e volevamo dargli un fratellino e nel frattempo dare casa e famiglia ad uno dei tanti bambini americani che non avevano né l’una né l’altra. La procedura burocratica, fra innumerevoli altri moduli, richiedeva anche una breve autobiografia. La mia, come si vede, tanto breve non fu. Era la prima volta che mi mettevo a ricordare e raccontare la mia emigrazione in chiave autobiografica, ed il gusto del ricordo a quanto pare ebbe il sopravvento. Lo scopo era di ‘spiegarmi’ a lettori americani, cioè ai burocrati che avrebbero deciso il nostro caso, per cui alcune descrizioni sembreranno o superflue o esagerate o troppo romantiche a quei lettori italiani, o meglio molisani, che avranno vissuto simili esperienze e condizioni. Un altro scopo era di ‘vendermi’, cioè di presentarmi come padre idoneo, per cui l’autopresentazione spesso sfiora ed in qualche punto addirittura sfoggia l’ostentazione, per cui chiedo venia. La procedura non arrivò mai a porto (forse per la stessa prolissità, chissà!), ma del naufragio rimase questo testo, come un messaggio rinchiuso in una bottiglia, per dirvi chi ero una quindicina di anni fa, dove mi trovavo, che è anche dove mi trovo fino a quest’oggi, e come sono arrivato qui.
Sono nato ed ho vissuto i primi dieci anni della mia vita nel Medio Evo. Voglio dire che sono nato in un ambiente ed in condizioni che probabilmente dal Medio Evo non erano tanto cambiate, e cioè in una comunità contadina negli Appennini dell’Italia meridionale che era rimasta relativamente tagliata fuori dalla rivoluzione industriale e dal progresso moderno, in una parola dalla storia. La maggior parte della vita vi si trascorreva in un contesto ciclico o mitico, piuttosto che in un contesto lineare e storico; le stagioni determinavano le varie attività, e l’annosa saggezza dei più anziani e degli avi dettava usanze e comportamento. Le cose venivano fatte nel modo in cui “erano sempre state fatte” e in cui avrebbero continuato ad essere fatte.
Ai miei genitori è capitato di far parte di quella generazione spartiacque che avrebbe cambiato ogni cosa o per cui le cose sarebbero state cambiate da forze incontrollabili. La storia invase il loro paese – Petrella Tifernina, in provincia di Campobasso, un paese di case di pietra nuda appollaiato su una collina intorno all’antica chiesa romanica di San Giorgio e abitato da circa duemila persone – e mille altri paesi simili dell’Italia del centro e del sud: invase le loro vite e a forza, irrevocabilmente, spinse loro ed i loro figli nel vortice del ventesimo secolo con le sue comodità, le sue meraviglie tecnologiche, le sue ambiguità ed i suoi problemi sociali e morali.
Io nacqui l’otto di luglio, 1948, nel letto dei miei genitori, nella casa dove mio padre era nato e cresciuto. Non c’erano ospedali vicino, né dottori. Come maschio primogenito era inevitabile che venissi chiamato Sante, come il nonno paterno nella cui casa abitavamo.
Mio nonno era un uomo robusto, calvo, dalla voce bassa e dai modi gentili; aveva gli occhi azzurri ed un sorriso timido ma sempre pronto. Dopo la mia nascita cominciò a lavorare meno e diventò la mia balia principale, ed il mio compagno. Sua moglie, Franceschina, era morta prima che i miei genitori si sposassero. Portando il nome del nonno ed essendo l’unico figlio del suo unico figlio naturalmente ero per lui una fonte di grande soddisfazione. I miei primi ricordi mi rimandano a giorni inondati di sole passati in compagnia del nonno Santuccio, seduti sulla panchina di pietra davanti a casa dove insieme agli altri vecchi chiacchierava e ricordava i tempi andati, oppure a passeggiare sulla strada all’ombra degli alberi tenendo la sua mano callosa mentre la gente lo salutava con calore e rispetto e faceva un sacco di complimenti su quel trottolino al suo fianco, mi pizzicava le guance paffutelle, mi solleticava il pancino o mi sollevava da terra per schioccarmi due
baci sonori sul viso. Probabilmente avevo l’impressione che tutti quelli che popolavano quel mondo fossero là solo per fare moine a me. Tutta la via, tutto il paese, tutto il mio mondo sembrava essere una grande famiglia; io ero parte di tutti e tutti erano parte di me.
In effetti, a mia madre piace ancora raccontare come io venissi passato di mano in mano da amici e vicini: era facile che una delle sue amiche passasse da casa la mattina presto e si offrisse di portarmi a fare una passeggiata. Molto più tardi, quando era ora che io mangiassi, mia madre doveva venire a cercarmi per riportarmi a casa: “Dov’è il bambino?” “Oh, l’ho dato alla tale”. E da quella si sentiva dire: “Oh, la tal’altra è passata e lo voleva per un po’, così le ho detto di prenderlo con sé”, e da quella a sua volta si sentiva spiegare: “Lo ha visto la tale e lo ha portato alla fontana”. E così via, finché non riusciva finalmente a rintracciarmi e a riportarmi a casa, stanco e affamato, ma soddisfatto e divertito: insomma, un bambino sereno e molto contento.
In un paese così piccolo che fino a quel momento aveva avuto scarsi collegamenti e scambi con il mondo esterno, molti degli abitanti erano in qualche modo imparentati, sia di fatto che per ragioni rituali: padrini e madrine, compari, commari… In un mondo come questo i bambini crescono con un forte senso di appartenenza e con l’impressione di essere profondamente radicati in un ambiente dove la gente tiene al loro benessere. Giocando per strada il pensiero di perdermi o di inoltrarmi in una zona che non conoscevo non mi sfiorava mai. Tutti sapevano chi ero e tutti avevano il diritto e la responsabilità di occuparsi di me, di aiutarmi se mi facevo male, di ammonirmi e di sgridarmi se mi comportavo male, insomma di agire in loco parentis. Il risultato è che fondamentalmente ho imparato a fidarmi della gente e ad aspettarmi che la gente mi apprezzi e si fidi di me, e siccome mi è stato inculcato da bambino, questo è l’atteggiamento con cui tuttora mi relaziono con gli altri.
Da allora ho vissuto in contesti urbani più ampi e non posso fare a meno di chiedermi se i bambini che nascono e crescono circondati da estranei nelle città possano coltivare lo stesso tipo di fiducia nei confronti del loro prossimo. Sembra piuttosto che l’indifferenza dilagante, se non addirittura un’aperta ostilità, unita alla percezione di potenziali abusi e pericoli, ci costringa ad essere molto più circospetti nelle relazioni interpersonali, specialmente se comprendono i nostri figli, e che apprensione e diffidenza siano diventate la norma nell’interagire con gli altri.
* * * *
Mio nonno Sante morì poco dopo la nascita di mia sorella Franca, quando io avevo quasi quattro anni. Mi ricordo un freddo pomeriggio d’aprile; il pranzo era quasi pronto. Mio nonno non era ancora tornato, così mia madre mi chiese di andarlo a chiamare per dirgli di venire a mangiare. Se non fosse stato per strada avrei dovuto andarlo a cercare nel gabinetto dietro alla casa.
Non c’erano impianti idraulici né acqua corrente nelle case di Petrella; l’acqua si andava a prendere ad una delle fontane sparse per il paese. Alcune famiglie avevano un “cesso” nell’orto dietro la casa, i meno fortunati invece dovevano arrangiarsi ad andare nei campi. Le case erano fatte di pietra, attaccate una all’altra, raggruppate
o in fila. Le più recenti, costruite al limitare del paese, come la nostra, sul retro avevano il cortile con l’orto, qualche albero da frutto, il pollaio, il porcile e così via. La maggior parte delle case all’interno delle mura medievali del paese un cortile non ce l’aveva proprio: di solito il piano terra veniva usato come granaio e anche come stalla da chi aveva cavalli, asini, capre, maiali o galline. Nonostante quasi tutti fossero contadini, gli abitanti di Petrella non vivevano sulla terra che coltivavano: di preferenza acquistavano o affittavano piccoli appezzamenti di terreno nei dintorni del paese, in diverse direzioni, andavano a lavorarli durante il giorno, ma a sera tornavano sempre in paese.
Mio nonno non era seduto sulla panchina di fronte a casa, e neanche su qualche altra panchina che io potessi vedere. Attraversai il piano terra della casa, oltre la cantina dove si tenevano vino e salumi, passando per il magazzino polveroso dove mio padre e mio nonno tenevano i blocchi di marmo e di granito, gli scalpelli, i martelli, le livelle e tutti gli altri attrezzi del mestiere, superando il granaio e la legnaia, fino ad uscire sul retro, nel giardino; oltrepassai il pollaio e il grande fico per arrivare al gabinetto. La porta era chiusa. Bussai e chiamai: “Nonno! Nonno!”, ma senza ottenere risposta. Provai a spingere la porta, che si socchiuse un po’, e vidi la gamba nuda del nonno: sembrava riverso a terra, ma non riuscivo ad aprire la porta abbastanza per vederlo bene. Gli dissi che il pranzo era pronto, ma lui continuava a non muoversi e a non rispondere. Tornai di sopra e dissi ai miei genitori che il nonno si era addormentato nel gabinetto e non si svegliava.
È così che ho imparato cosa fosse la morte e cosa significasse perdere qualcuno a cui si vuol bene e che ti vuol bene con tutto se stesso e senza domande, senza riserve, senza condizioni, semplicemente perché tu esisti e perché gli appartieni, e lui a te, senza tante questioni. Mio nonno ha continuato ad essere il mio compagno invisibile e la mia guida morale, una specie di coscienza. Ogni volta che mi sono comportato male o che sono stato tentato di fare qualcosa di sbagliato era sempre il pensiero di quello che il nonno avrebbe pensato o di quello che mi avrebbe detto ad imbarazzarmi di più. Io ero il suo omonimo e sentivo, come continuo a sentire, l’obbligo di perpetuare il suo nome e la sua memoria con la dignità e con l’affetto che ho sempre associato alla sua persona.
La sua immagine, insieme a quelle dei miei nonni materni, Giuseppe e Filomena Ruscitto, che lasciai ancora vivi quando partimmo da Petrella, è diventata una bussola morale ed esistenziale con cui orientare il mio percorso attraverso una vita che mi ha portato verso lidi lontani. Dopo la morte di nonno Sante, passavo molto più tempo a casa di nonna Filomena, Memmell’, e di nonno Seppuccio, che insieme alle famiglie dei loro tre figli maschi, i miei zii materni, abitavano in un piccolo gruppo di case un po’ fuori del paese, sopra il Calvario. Le mie giornate si passavano, tranquille e felici, a giocare coi miei cugini intorno al Calvario e al cosiddetto campo sportivo di allora, cugini a cui sono tuttora legato da un affetto più fraterno che di cuginanza. I miei più dolci ricordi sono le scorrazzate fatte insieme per i prati, i pisolini nella penombra della casa dei nonni, con il perenne ronzio delle mosche, i rimproveri bonari della nonna, le sere intorno al focolare con nonno Seppuccio che ci recitava qualche avventura in versi – ora credo qualche episodio dell’Orlando Furioso che aveva imparato a memoria – i pranzi di domenica o di festa con tutti riuniti intorno alla stessa tavola, quando spesso si leggeva anche la più recente lettera ricevuta da mio padre in America.
Ogni volta che faccio ritorno a Petrella una delle prime cose che faccio è andare a visitare le tombe dei nonni al cimitero. Vedere il mio stesso nome sulla pietra tombale di mio nonno, fisso per sempre in quella piccola porzione della mia terra natia, in qualche modo mi àncora, mi dà l’impressione che la mia esistenza e la mia identità siano dopotutto salde a terra e radicate malgrado i miei percorsi migratori. L’immagine ed i ricordi di loro che porto dentro di me costituiscono il collegamento principale tra il mio presente, il mio hic et nunc, e le mie origini – o l’illusione che ne ho – di modo che la persona che ero e il luogo da dove sono venuto non siano completamente avulsi dalla persona che sono e dal luogo da dove vengo ora. Sono ancora, e credo continuerò ad essere, il nipote di quella donna paziente e tollerante che mi preparava la merenda – un pezzo di pane o sparso di olio o con un pezzetto di formaggio o di salsiccia – e di quell’omone forte ed imponente, suo marito, che zappava dallo spuntar al tramontar del sole, che ci ha inculcato in tutti, figli e nipoti, il senso della serietà e della laboriosità, e di quell’uomo garbato che per una vita ha scavato e tagliato le pietre con cui ha costruito case destinate a durare nei secoli; la voce ammonitrice, la
stretta confortante della loro mano callosa continuerà ad essere ferma e rassicurante per la mia mano insicura e seguiterà a guidarmi, a proteggermi e a controllarmi.
* * * *
Non molto tempo dopo la morte di mio nonno, mio padre venne negli Stati Uniti. Nel 1954 a lui e ad altri due muratori del nostro paese venne offerto un contratto di lavoro ed il visto per andare a tagliare marmo a Quincy, in Massachussets; così si lasciarono alle spalle le famiglie ed andarono in America a fare pietre tombali di marmo. Il loro intento era quello di accumulare e risparmiare il più possibile in un anno o due per poi fare ritorno in Italia con un bel gruzzoletto. Effettivamente mio padre tornò a Petrella dopo due anni; vivere in America non gli era piaciuto particolarmente ed era contento di essere di nuovo a casa con la sua famiglia e con i suoi amici, in un posto di cui conosceva la lingua e le usanze, dove non si sentiva un estraneo. Tuttavia era riuscito a guadagnare molto bene rispetto a quanto si guadagnava a Petrella, ed inoltre aveva scoperto che in America le donne potevano lavorare in fabbrica proprio come gli uomini. Mia madre, che si preoccupava di poter garantire a me e a mia sorella un promettente futuro, convinse mio padre a tornare negli Stati Uniti, e così richiesero un visto di residenza permanente per mio padre e il ricongiungimento famigliare per noi. Vigeva un sistema a contingente e così sarebbe stato necessario aspettare qualche anno prima che la richiesta venisse evasa.
Alla fine i documenti che ci autorizzavano ad emigrare arrivarono. Era il 1958 e dovevamo partire a primavera inoltrata. Io avevo sentimenti contrastanti: volevo tornare a vivere con mio padre. Mia madre e i miei parenti non avevano fatto altro che ripetermi quanto gli assomigliassi: avevo gli stessi occhi, la stessa carnagione chiara, mi piacevano le stesse cose che piacevano a lui e le mangiavo nello stesso modo; camminavo come lui, parlavo come lui, e perciò ero sempre incoraggiato da tutti, da mia madre e persino da lui, nelle sue lettere, ad identificarmi con lui, anche se era stato assente per quasi metà della mia vita.
Ero anche ansioso di vedere questo posto favoloso chiamato America dove tanti dei miei compaesani erano andati a “far fortuna”. A volte mio padre mandava dei pacchi “dall’America”. Erano quasi messaggi da un altro mondo: dolciumi e vestiti strani che non avevo mai visto ed il cui odore mi era sconosciuto, giocattoli che nel mio mondo non esistevano. Una volta mi spedì una pistola giocattolo e diversi rotoli di fulminanti che fecero di me un personaggio invidiato da tutti i miei amici: nessuno aveva mai visto o sentito niente di simile fino ad allora; avevamo sempre usato dei rametti come pistole e fucili e, a dire la verità, usavamo rami e sassi – oltre alla nostra fantasia – per quasi tutti i nostri giochi di bambini. Se avevamo fortuna, qualche volta riuscivamo a farci dare dei pezzi di legno di scarto di varie misure dal falegname.
Ma la cosa più affascinante che arrivava nei pacchi dall’America erano i libri da colorare ed i libri per bambini che a volte mio padre includeva. Quei libri sembravano descrivere uno strano mondo immaginario, un mondo in cui non solo la gente parlava una lingua indecifrabile con parole zeppe di consonanti mai viste, ma tutto era diverso da quello che conoscevo: le case, i vestiti, i giocattoli dei bambini, i cani, persino il modo in cui la gente si guardava e sorrideva.
I bambini avevano sempre un carrettino rosso, o una macchinina a pedali oppure una buffa bicicletta gigantesca che sembrava quasi una moto. I nostri giocattoli erano generalmente fatti in casa: vecchi cerchi da barile che facevamo rotolare per la strada o sui marciapiedi di pietra guidandoli con uno dei nostri onnipresenti bastoncini; fionde fatte con l’elastico di qualche vecchio paio di mutande, ma anche di un nuovo paio, nel qual caso non solo dovevamo sopportare il disagio delle mutande che non stavano su, ma dovevamo anche convivere con la paura della punizione che
ci sarebbe stata inflitta di sicuro il giorno del prossimo bucato, quando la mamma si sarebbe accorta del nostro misfatto.
Diversamente dalle nostre case che erano fatte di pietra nuda e grigia e attaccate le une alle altre, con la parte di fronte a casa pure pavimentata con delle pietre, le case nelle figure dei libri americani erano di tutti i colori e di tutte le forme e sembravano essere fatte di materiali diversi: mattoni, legno, persino qualche tipo di metallo. Ma la cosa più intrigante era il fatto che fossero circondate da prati verdi d’erba con cespugli, fiori ed alberi, ed alcune avevano recinti di legno. A volte sembrava che ci fossero delle stradine private asfaltate che portavano ad un’altra costruzione vicino alla casa – vialetti carrozzabili e garage, come avrei poi imparato. E a volte su queste stradine o sulle strade che passavano di fronte alle case c’erano delle automobili – cose enormi e sfavillanti che sembravano assolutamente troppo grandi e stravaganti per essere vere.
Anche i vestiti dei bambini sembravano più colorati, e sempre nuovi e puliti. Forse non c’era sporcizia in “America” e i vestiti non si strappavano né si sporcavano mai, e le mutande stavano su anche senza l’elastico che la mamma doveva comprare a caro prezzo dal venditore ambulante che veniva solo quel tal giorno di quel tal mese! Forse i bambini non venivano mai sgridati né puniti e non facevano mai arrabbiare nessuno in “America”.
Ero ansioso di vedere questo strano mondo nuovo. Facevo sogni ricorrenti in cui gli aeroplani ci passavano sopra la testa e lasciavano cadere quelle macchine americane gigantesche con cui io ed i miei amici poi andavamo in giro per la campagna. A volte sognavo di guidare una macchina nelle figure di quei libri, alla ricerca di mio padre, sorridendo a tutti quei bambini americani così puliti e ben vestiti che si trascinavano dietro il loro carrettino rosso, e facevo finta di appartenere anche a quel mondo.
Eppure paventavo il pensiero di lasciare il mio mondo, i miei parenti, i miei amici, i miei “posti”. Dicevo a tutti – e a me stesso – che sarebbe stata una sorta di lunga vacanza, una specie di avventura esplorativa. Saremmo sicuramente tornati nel giro di un anno, o al massimo di due anni, ed allora avrei potuto raccontare tutto di quelle macchine e di quelle case buffe circondate da prati verdi e del significato di quelle strane parole piene di consonanti.
Non riuscivo nemmeno a concepire il pensiero che avrei potuto non tornare, abbandonare la mia casa, loro, la mia famiglia, i miei compagni di gioco, il mio mondo, per sempre. Voglio dire che semplicemente non riuscivo a formulare un pensiero del genere, o almeno non lo lasciavo emergere. Ma forse a quel punto il seme del dubbio era stato piantato e, mentre salivamo sulla macchina che ci avrebbe portato via dal paese, mi invasero una sorta di agitazione e di curiosità ansiosa miste ad un profondo senso di paura e di panico, l’impressione opprimente di una perdita irreparabile e atroce.
Non vedevo l’ora di partire. Perché la macchina andava così piano? Perché ci voleva tanto? Allo stesso tempo non sopportavo l’idea di lasciare tutto quello che mi apparteneva e al quale io appartenevo. Perché la macchina si allontanava così velocemente?
Perché non c’era più tempo per i saluti, per guardare ancora una volta a tutto e a tutti? Erano scomparsi dalla vista così presto!
Un’altra curva dopo quegli alberi e il mio paese, Petrella, davvero non sarebbe stato più visibile. Dov’era che stavo andando?
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Era Boston il posto dove stavamo andando. Quattro anni prima mio padre aveva viaggiato per nave, ma noi avevamo preso l’aeroplano. Mentre l’aereo si avvicinava all’aeroporto io guardavo fuori dal finestrino per dare una prima occhiata a questo nuovo mondo. Aveva davvero l’aspetto
descritto dalle figure nei libri: case singole di diverse fogge e colori circondate da cortili verdi e da alberi. “Pare un presepio!”, avevo detto a mia madre, e lei aveva annuito, ma non voleva guardare fuori, specialmente mentre l’aereo virava e le case sembravano scivolare via sotto di noi.
Mio padre, al quale è sempre piaciuto fare cose con le mani, aveva sempre costruito dei bellissimi presepi per Natale, trasformando barattoli e scatole in case, chiese, palazzi e capanne che poi decorava a piacere. È una tradizione che è continuata in America. E così ci era sembrato non solo curioso ma appropriato, persino rassicurante, che la terra dove lo avremmo ritrovato e avremmo vissuto con lui assomigliasse ad una delle sue creazioni.
Se le case avevano un aspetto insolito dall’esterno (e dall’alto), quando entrammo ci sembrarono addirittura uscite da una favola: legno e moquette al posto di piastrelle di pietra e marmo sul pavimento; un forno ed una stufa al posto del camino per cucinare; un frigorifero invece di una semplice dispensa; poltrone e divani imbottiti al posto delle sedie di legno o impagliate e, meraviglia delle meraviglie, un televisore!
Restai ipnotizzato quando mio padre lo accese per la prima volta e presto diventai teledipendente, soprattutto di sabato: Rin Tin Tin; Broken Arrow (che io chiamavo Cochise); Furia; Mighty Mouse; il Cavaliere Solitario: anche solo ad elencarne i nomi mi ritornano in mente l’entusiasmo e la meraviglia che mi lasciavano a bocca aperta davanti a quel portento futuristico. Nel giro di poche settimane sapevo a memoria gli orari dei programmi, i nomi dei personaggi e degli attori ed ero in grado di riconoscere alcune canzoni: Wanted, Dead or Alive, con Steve McQueen; Have Gun, Will Travel, con Richard Boone; Frontier Doctor, con John Payne; 77 Sunset Strip, con Efrem Zimbalist Jr., e Roger Smith; Wagon Train, con Ward Bond; Zorro; Leave It to Beaver, Gunsmoke, e così via.
Guardavo tutta la televisione che mi lasciavano guardare, spesso preferendo questo passatempo alla possibilità di andare fuori a giocare. Anche se a volte mi mandavano a letto perché era tardi o mi costringevano ad uscire per prendere un po’ d’aria e fare un po’ di moto, i miei genitori non si opponevano troppo alla mia nuova dipendenza: serviva a tenermi lontano dalla strada in quello strano nuovo mondo dove chissà cosa mi sarebbe potuto succedere. C’era un traffico spaventoso a Quincy, specialmente se paragonato a quello di Petrella, dove invece i bambini erano praticamente padroni delle strade, loro terreno di gioco, ad eccezione di quei due o tre momenti durante il giorno quando passavano le corriere da e per Campobasso. Inoltre la televisione sembrava insegnare velocemente a me e a mia sorella la lingua apparentemente incomprensibile di quel paese.
Così la televisione è stata la mia insegnante. Siccome eravamo arrivati in giugno e non dovevo cominciare la scuola fino all’autunno seguente, avevo tutta l’estate a disposizione per imparare a conoscere il mondo circostante. Alcune cose me le insegnarono i bambini del vicinato: qualche parola, i soldi, dove comprare cosa, un particolare sport americano chiamato baseball che per me aveva poco senso e sembrava piuttosto insulso. Tuttavia da loro non potevo imparare molto perché, per la maggior parte, anche quei bambini erano da poco immigrati dall’Italia, e così parlavamo prevalentemente in italiano o nei nostri rispettivi dialetti o anche mescolando i dialetti con un po’ di italiano e con qualche espressione in inglese qua e là.
A dire il vero l’esperienza di quella prima estate fu interessante ed informativa tanto nell’insegnarmi la lingua e la cultura americane, quanto nel rivelarmi cose che ignoravo sull’Italia e sugli italiani, sui loro dialetti e sulle loro usanze. Probabilmente è stato proprio a Quincy, in Massachussets, che per la prima volta mi sono reso conto di che mosaico ricco e complesso di culture e lingue sia l’Italia, e di come ci siano in effetti tante Italie diverse. Era strano che io dovessi incontrare tutte queste Italie a Quincy, in Massachussets, anzi che le potessi incontrare solo in un posto come quello. A Petrella non avevo mai conosciuto italiani provenienti da altre regioni, e
probabilmente non mi sarebbe mai capitato; invece, in quella piccola strada di Quincy, Water Street, c’erano famiglie che venivano dalla Sicilia, dalla Toscana, dall’Emilia Romagna, dal Piemonte: insomma, un vero microcosmo italiano. Perciò, quando mi avventuravo fuori dalla nostra metà della casa bifamiliare che avevamo in affitto, era come affacciarsi ad una finestra con vista sull’Italia invece che sull’America.
La mia vera finestra sull’America era la televisione. Attraverso quello schermo io osservavo affascinato le immagini in bianco e nero che mi svelavano come gli americani si vestivano, si muovevano, parlavano, ridevano (ma anche come si prendevano a pugni, come si picchiavano e si accoltellavano e si sparavano non poco!) in tutti quei programmi assolutamente americani come American Bandstand, I Love Lucy, il Meraviglioso Mondo di Disney e l’Ed Sullivan Show. Non assorbivo solo la lingua, ma anche buona parte delle caratteristiche proprie della cultura – i valori, le idee, e le convinzioni che definivano i personaggi e determinavano i loro conflitti – anche se sicuramente non ne ero consapevole al momento, ma adesso mi rendo conto che quelle caratteristiche culturali erano radicalmente diverse da quelle che avevano regolato la vita e le relazioni sociali nel mio mondo precedente.
Flint McCullough, l’esploratore di Wagon Train, era uno dei miei personaggi preferiti in uno dei miei programmi preferiti del mio genere preferito, il western. Gli eroi dei programmi western che dominavano l’etere televisivo dell’epoca sembravano incarnare le caratteristiche della cultura americana, e cioè la fiducia in se stessi, una certa riservatezza, se non una vera e propria reticenza, un bisogno di privacy, un’aderenza testarda e determinata ad un personale codice di giustizia e di lealtà unito ad una volontà di battersi anche fino alla morte per quello stesso codice (ma anche ad una riluttanza a parlarne), lo spirito pionieristico che conquistò il west, la sua terra selvaggia, il buon vecchio individualismo americano.
Volevo essere come Flint, l’esploratore: risoluto, coraggioso, serio, affidabile, forte, veloce e preciso con la pistola, leale ma pericoloso, con uno sguardo d’acciaio eppure timido e onesto. Cercavo di camminare come lui e di parlare come lui e di pensare come lui. Guardavo a me stesso e alla mia vita dall’esterno come se stessi guardando un programma televisivo e costruivo il mio comportamento, i miei gesti, il mio atteggiamento e i miei stessi pensieri su quelli di Flint McCullough e di Matt Dillon e del Cavaliere Solitario. Mi sono americanizzato giocando a recitare questi ruoli.
L’identità che stavo così modellando era molto diversa da quella che avevo costruito durante la mia esistenza passata nel vecchio mondo, in cui la gente e gli eroi non erano mai stati tanto silenziosi, indomiti e fiduciosi nelle loro capacità o forti e potenzialmente violenti come il Lone Ranger (Cavaliere Solitario). Sembrava che là i valori comuni, l’interazione sociale, i legami famigliari e sociali fossero più importanti che il codice d’onore di ciascun individuo; l’identità di ciascuno veniva determinata in misura molto maggiore dal posto e dalla funzione all’interno del gruppo di ogni individuo. Si viveva secondo gli usi e i costumi del paese, cercando di soddisfare i dettami e le aspettative comuni, seguendo la saggezza popolare, le consuetudini tramandate dai vecchi che venivano considerati saggi non tanto perché avessero letto dei libri, quanto perché avevano vissuto a lungo ed avevano imparato dalla loro esperienza e dall’esperienza di chi li aveva preceduti.
Queste due identità, il mio io italiano ed il mio io americano, probabilmente sono rimaste aggrovigliate dentro di me senza mai arrivare a svilupparsi pienamente ma senza essere mai del tutto abbandonate in favore una dell’altra, e così ho continuato a stare con il piede in due staffe durante la mia adolescenza: a casa vivevo secondo i precetti, i valori e le usanze del mio paese d’origine; parlavo con i miei genitori in dialetto, cosa che continuo a fare tuttora. A scuola e con i
miei compagni di gioco americani parlavo una lingua diversa ed indossavo una maschera diversa. Questi due mondi non si sono mai del tutto fusi ed io ho continuato a transitare dall’uno all’altro quotidianamente.
Col tempo però ho finito per sentirmi un po’ fuori posto in entrambi: tra i compagni di scuola ero uno straniero con un nome curioso, uno che nella cartella aveva sempre una merenda strana e che aveva un passato singolare ed esperienze d’infanzia che non condivideva con nessuno dei bambini americani; ma ero anche uno straniero in casa mia, un bambino americano in un ambiente italiano, che trovava difficile far partecipi i suoi genitori e la comunità alla quale appartenevano delle sue preoccupazioni, delle sue attività e dei suoi problemi fuori di casa, perché i loro punti di riferimento non coincidevano. Mi sembrava di non riuscire veramente a capire quello che imparavo nella scuola americana, quello che leggevo nei libri americani, quello di cui discutevo con i miei amici americani.
Naturalmente questa è la situazione in cui si trovano tutti gli adolescenti in relazione ai loro genitori. Tuttavia, per me – e suppongo anche per tutti i bambini emigrati – essa era più pronunciata, più ovvia, e perciò anche più comprensibile e più facile da risolvere, o magari da non risolvere, perché, in una certa misura, non è mai stata risolta: era solo più semplice conviverci ed accettarla senza mai biasimare i miei genitori per qualcosa e senza mai entrare in aperto conflitto con loro.
Il lato negativo di questa vita stereoscopica vissuta ciondolando tra due culture era che non mi sentivo a mio agio, veramente a posto, in nessuna delle due situazioni, e questa sensazione non ha fatto che acuire la mia naturale predisposizione alla timidezza e alla riservatezza. Anche se amichevole e premuroso, non sono mai stato molto estroverso; preferivo rimanere un osservatore ai margini piuttosto che fare il protagonista. Se chiamato in causa arrossivo facilmente, incluse le volte in cui venivo interrogato a scuola, e, siccome la gente lo notava e trovava questa cosa curiosa e “carina”, io mi imbarazzavo ancor più.
Eppure, probabilmente perché ero cresciuto in un ambiente sicuro in cui avevo imparato a fidarmi di tutti e a contare su tutti, non avevo problemi a fare amicizia. Ogni nuova persona che conoscevo mi era simpatica e ho sempre avuto l’impressione di riuscire simpatico a tutti. La mia vera difficoltà stava nel farmi degli amici intimi o nell’entrare a far parte di un gruppo di amici “per la pelle”: ero in buoni rapporti con tutti, ma non avevo amici speciali.
In un certo senso questo lato negativo della mia situazione era anche un punto a mio favore in quanto, come osservatore, riuscivo in molte occasioni ad essere più obiettivo, tollerante e comprensivo. Raramente mi sono trovato invischiato in cause, crociate, passioni e avversioni che invece sembravano esercitare un fascino estremo su molti dei miei coetanei. Da una parte, la mia adolescenza è stata uno strano miscuglio di imbarazzo e ansietà, una sensazione di non appartenenza e di diversità, mentre dall’altra mi ha regalato un senso di serenità dovuto alla mia estraneità alla mischia, alla mia posizione di osservatore esterno che guarda alla vita dalla finestra.
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Quel periodo non l’ho trascorso a Quincy, in Massachussets, ma a Cleveland, in Ohio, dove ci eravamo trasferiti nel gennaio del 1959, solo sei mesi dopo il nostro arrivo. A Cleveland c’era una vasta comunità di compaesani, circa trenta famiglie del nostro paese. Mio padre e gli altri petrellesi si erano tenuti in contatto con alcuni di loro, i quali li avevano convinti che avrebbero potuto trovare un lavoro migliore e sarebbero riusciti a vivere meglio se si fossero trasferiti a Cleveland. E così fu: grazie ai loro conoscenti, trovarono lavoro là e le nostre due famiglie traslocarono insieme su un camioncino preso a noleggio in società. Sarebbero andati a
lavorare alla fabbrica di piastrelle Boiardi, di proprietà del figlio di Ettore Boiardi, meglio conosciuto come Chef Boyardee (una popolarissima marca di pasta in scatole). Eravamo riusciti a trovare casa vicini gli uni agli altri, nella zona di Collinwood, a est, dove abitavano anche altre famiglie di petrellesi e di italiani di tutte le parti d’Italia, provenienti soprattutto dal sud, ma anche sloveni, polacchi, ungheresi e tedeschi: una sorta di enclave etnica, insomma.
In un certo senso per i miei genitori era stato come ritornare a Petrella. C’erano molte persone della loro generazione che erano emigrate a Cleveland, amici con i quali erano cresciuti; potevano continuare a parlare nella loro lingua facendo riferimento a luoghi, persone ed episodi della loro gioventù e seguendo le loro tradizioni: insomma, potevano essere se stessi senza doversi inventare un nuovo io americano. Così non sentivano il bisogno di imparare l’inglese: lavoravano con gli italiani, facevano spese nei negozi italiani, andavano a messa in una chiesa dove il prete parlava italiano e le loro attività sociali comprendevano quasi esclusivamente gli italiani.
E di attività sociali ce n’erano un sacco! Tutte le feste e le occasioni speciali – matrimoni, funerali, battesimi, persino i compleanni dei bambini – erano una scusa per ritrovarsi insieme. Tra compaesani ci si scambiavano visite in continuazione. Anche se andavamo a far spesa spesso ci fermavamo a casa di qualcuno per fargli un saluto solo perché “eravamo nei paraggi”. Ai compleanni miei e di mia sorella non ci veniva mai in mente di invitare i compagni di scuola o i compagni di gioco del vicinato, ma invitavamo sempre gli amici dei nostri genitori ed i loro figli, che arrivavano con tanti regali. Naturalmente poi eravamo obbligati a fare altrettanto in occasione dei compleanni dei loro figli e la stessa cosa succedeva con le prime comunioni, le cresime, i battesimi, i matrimoni, le lauree, e così via. In questo modo la mia vita sociale, così come la mia esistenza casalinga, continuava ad essere molto italiana e, di conseguenza, quando sono diventato più grande mi sono sempre sentito impacciato nel socializzare con i miei amici americani: non sapevo né cosa dire, né cosa fare.
Adesso mi chiedo se il fatto stesso di aver trovato questa Petrella lontano da Petrella, a Cleveland, non sia stata la ragione per cui i miei genitori non tornarono più in Molise, rimandando il loro rientro finché non fu troppo tardi. Ironicamente, le stesse condizioni che avevano permesso loro di sentirsi un po’ più a loro agio in terra straniera impedirono anche che si abituassero alla loro nuova casa e li trattennero dal far ritorno alla loro vecchia casa.
Se fossimo rimasti a Quincy, dove le nostre famiglie erano le uniche provenienti dal nostro paese, probabilmente saremmo tornati a casa dopo due anni, come avevamo promesso a parenti e amici. A mio padre non piaceva molto il suo lavoro a Quincy, né l’ambiente che c’era. Mia madre aveva trovato lavoro e sgusciava mitili e vongole, un’attività non troppo entusiasmante. Avevano poco tempo per socializzare e non c’era molta gente con cui poterlo fare.
Invece a Cleveland gli orari di lavoro erano più brevi, i salari migliori, il contesto sociale era più vasto e più incoraggiante, così la vita risultava più facile e più godibile: per i miei genitori non era stato troppo difficile rimandare il rientro di un anno, e poi di un altro, e di un altro ancora, finché non si erano accorti che io e mia sorella parlavamo inglese tra noi. A dire la verità, quando cominciò ad andare a scuola, mia sorella prese a parlare in inglese anche con loro, ricorrendo al dialetto solo quando non la capivano, anche se loro continuavano a rivolgersi a lei in dialetto. Io stesso presto dimenticai l’italiano, essendo il nostro dialetto praticamente un’altra lingua; mia sorella invece l’italiano standard non l’aveva mai parlato, perché non era andata a scuola in Italia. Inoltre, ci eravamo abituati a quelle comodità che non avevamo mai avuto a Petrella: frigorifero, televisore, riscaldamento, gelato, banane e angurie. Era mai possibile riportarci nel Medio Evo?
Rimanda e rimanda erano rimasti bloccati in America per davvero, senza aver mai avuto l’intenzione di restarci per sempre. Stranieri in terra straniera, per sempre e sempre più man mano che la coesa comunità di compaesani di Collinwood si sfaldava, i figli crescevano, sposavano degli “americani”, se ne andavano, spesso portando con sé i loro genitori. Pochi sono rimasti là, forse nessuno. Qualcuno della vecchia generazione è morto, altri si sono trasferiti in altre zone della città, non abitano più vicini gli uni agli altri.
Grazie al telefono e alle automobili, però, i compaesani della generazione dei miei genitori riescono effettivamente a restare in contatto tra loro. Infatti, da un punto di vista sociologico, uno degli sviluppi recenti più interessanti nel loro modo di vivere è l’aver trasformato il centro commerciale in una sorta di piazza, di luogo di incontro all’italiana. Adesso che sono in pensione, mio padre e molti dei suoi amici si incontrano al centro commerciale per passeggiare o per passare un po’ di tempo seduti sulle panchine a chiacchierare, così come facevano mio nonno ed i suoi amici nelle strade e nelle piazze di Petrella quando io ero bambino. Le maglie di questa comunità possono anche essere meno strette di quanto non fossero trent’anni fa, ma continuano ad esistere.
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Ho paura che a furia di digressioni non riuscirò mai a venire a capo di questa nota autobiografica che ho cominciato molto tempo fa. Così mi proverò ad essere più conciso nel raccontare il resto della mia vita, i miei anni a scuola, il servizio militare, le mie attività professionali, il mio matrimonio e la mia esistenza quotidiana.
Malgrado la mia eccessiva timidezza sono sempre andato bene a scuola, anche all’inizio, e sono sempre piaciuto sia agli insegnanti che ai compagni. In Italia avevo finito la quarta elementare e a Quincy cominciai la quinta. L’insegnante mi aveva affiancato un compagno, un ragazzino italiano, che mi avrebbe aiutato traducendo per me quando necessario. Per imparare a leggere e scrivere cominciai con i libri di prima elementare (gli stessi libri che mio padre mi aveva mandato nei suoi pacchi dall’America, o ad essi molto simili), mentre per le altre materie seguivo il resto della classe come meglio potevo. Nel giro di due o tre settimane ero riuscito a passare ai libri di seconda elementare e di questo passo alla fine del semestre ero riuscito a mettermi in pari con il resto della classe. Una volta a Cleveland, in gennaio, ero in grado di cavarmela in tutte le materie allo stesso livello dei miei compagni di classe. Alla fine della scuola elementare avevo perso l’accento italiano e parlavo inglese più o meno come se fossi nato in America, sebbene con un lessico alquanto limitato.
I miei genitori, che non erano riusciti a studiare oltre la scuola elementare, ritenevano importante l’istruzione e mi avevano sempre incoraggiato ad impegnarmi a scuola, sia in Italia che dopo in America, mostrandosi orgogliosi dei miei successi. In Italia ero sempre andato bene a scuola e ci si aspettava che facessi altrettanto in America. I miei genitori controllavano costantemente i miei progressi e, anche se non potevano aiutarmi, si assicuravano sempre che facessi tutti i compiti assegnati.
Si vantavano dei miei progressi con amici e parenti, premiandomi nel mostrare quanto fossero orgogliosi di me, rendendo gli altri orgogliosi di me e quindi facendomi sentire fiero di me stesso. Di conseguenza i miei successi accademici diventarono una parte essenziale della mia identità: per tutti ero “Sante, il bravo studente” piuttosto che “Sante, l’atleta” o “Sante, la peste”, e così anch’io cominciai a pensare la stessa cosa di me stesso.
In tutto questo c’era una qualche volontà di affermazione e di rivalsa nei confronti degli americani. Probabilmente, come tutti gli emigrati, la gente di Petrella si sentiva insicura e
minacciata in quel nuovo paese, inferiore a causa della mancanza di istruzione, a causa del lavoro relativamente umile che svolgeva e delle deficienze linguistiche e culturali. Eppure tra loro era naturale che quelle stesse persone fossero convinte di essere alla pari di altri gruppi ed io diventai una sorta di simbolo.
Ero diventato il rappresentante della comunità, la scuola era la mia, anzi la nostra, arma e l’America, qualsiasi cosa fosse, era la mia ossia la nostra rivale. “Bravo! Gliela faremo vedere noi, a questi americani, chi siamo e cosa sappiamo fare!”.
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Collinwood era un grande istituto con più di tremilacinquecento studenti tra scuola media e superiore (Junior High School e High School). Il sistema scolastico di Cleveland era suddiviso in semestri e l’anno accademico cominciava in settembre o in gennaio a seconda della data di nascita di ciascuno studente. Io iniziai la seconda media a Collinwood nel gennaio del 1961 e presi il diploma di scuola superiore nel gennaio del 1967.
Era una scuola dura, un vero crogiuolo etnico con notevoli rivalità e tensioni tra i vari gruppi etnici. La quantità di studenti afro-americani (allora li chiamavano negri o di colore) aumentò costantemente durante i miei sei anni di permanenza in quella scuola, dando vita a molti conflitti interrazziali verso la metà e alla fine degli anni sessanta, gli anni delle agitazioni e dei movimenti per i diritti civili. Nel corso dei miei due ultimi anni a Collinwood ci furono molte lotte e diverse rivolte estremiste che finirono nei notiziari televisivi nazionali.
Ogni mattina era necessario prepararsi mentalmente agli invitabili scontri che si sarebbero dovuti affrontare nel corso della giornata. Come era opportuno far fronte alle provocazioni: con la fuga, con i pugni, con il compromesso, con ironia o con sincerità? Che atteggiamento era meglio sfoggiare: mite, minaccioso, indifferente, gentile o sensibile?
Confesso di aver provato un gran sollievo quando finalmente mi sono lasciato alle spalle quell’atmosfera tesa per andare a frequentare i corsi universitari a Kenyon College nel suo ambiente rurale, pastorale, quasi monastico, dell’Ohio centrale, con il suo corpo studentesco relativamente omogeneo, borghese, prevalentemente bianco e composto di soli maschi. Non dovevo aver paura di finire coinvolto in risse o di essere accoltellato, né dovevo risolvermi ad atteggiarmi a duro ogni mattina, eppure sentivo anche un senso di perdita, quasi di colpa, per essermi nascosto in una torre d’avorio lontana dai problemi e dalle questioni pressanti di quei momenti. In quel college di scienze umanistiche così selettivo mi ero ben presto reso conto che, malgrado il mio bel curriculum scolastico, non avevo ricevuto una gran preparazione accademica, specialmente in confronto a quella dei miei compagni provenienti dalle scuole elitarie della costa orientale; sicuramente però l’esperienza che avevo fatto a livello di relazioni umane e sociali era molto più completa della loro. Il mio sollievo era mitigato dalla sensazione di aver escluso e allontanato, se non addirittura tradito, gli amici di città che mi ero lasciato alle spalle.
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Nel frattempo, per ragioni che non ho mai capito visto che non praticavo nessuno sport, non appartenevo a nessuno dei club sociali e non ero particolarmente estroverso, cominciai ad essere conosciuto tra gli studenti, oltre che rispettato e apprezzato.
Mi ritrovai eletto come membro del consiglio studentesco e fui invitato a collaborare al giornale della scuola. In terza media mi elessero presidente del consiglio studentesco della scuola
media e diventai redattore della sezione del giornale riservata alla scuola media. Continuai a svolgere entrambe queste attività durante la scuola superiore, e finii col diventare presidente del consiglio studentesco della scuola superiore, redattore capo del giornale della scuola e redattore dell’annuario.
Fui anche eletto in carica al Key Club per diversi semestri, il che mi permetteva di pranzare con il Club Kiwanis e persino di andare a Columbus per prendere parte alle riunioni dell’organizzazione a livello regionale.
Un giovedì pomeriggio della primavera del 1966 fui invitato ad un pranzo del Club Kiwanis e mi venne assegnato un posto di fianco all’oratore di quel giorno, un giovane avvocato diplomatosi a Collinwood qualche anno prima e che aveva appena cominciato la sua carriera forense come procuratore o avvocato d’ufficio, o qualcosa del genere. Parlammo abbastanza a lungo; mi chiese di me, probabilmente incuriosito dal mio nome, come capita a molti quando mi conoscono, il che mi porta invariabilmente a spiegare che sono italiano, e così via. Si congratulò vivamente per i miei progressi e quando andò a parlare dal podio mi mise in imbarazzo raccontando la mia storia al pubblico come esempio di come l’America sia una terra di possibilità in cui la dedizione, il duro lavoro ed il talento vengono sempre premiati. Malgrado il mio imbarazzo, il riferimento mi lusingò e l’oratore mi rimase impresso per la sua simpatia e per la sua sincerità. Mai avrei pensato che un giorno sarebbe potuto diventare governatore dello stato e poi Senatore: il suo nome era George Voinovich.
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Ho sempre avuto il sospetto che il successo che avevo con la gente alla scuola superiore fosse dovuto in parte al mio nome e forse anche al fatto che ero proprio italiano, e non semplicemente di origine italiana. Di recente, dando un’occhiata all’annuario, mi sono stupito per la quantità di nomi italiani che vi compaiono. All’epoca lo davo per scontato, non mi sembrava per niente strano che ci fossero così tanti italo-americani. Ripensandoci, dopo aver vissuto altrove, specialmente dopo dieci anni trascorsi in Utah, dove la presenza italiana ha proporzioni notevolmente più modeste, è sorprendente notare quanti siano i cognomi che finiscono per vocale: -aro, -ino, -etti, -one, -illi, -ico, ecc. Forse agli occhi degli italo-americani di seconda e terza generazione avevo una specie di sigillo di autenticità perché ero più prossimo alle loro origini, o perché stavo vivendo l’esperienza fatta dai loro nonni o dai loro genitori. Ero parte integrante di “loro” e loro di me semplicemente a causa del mio nome e della mia provenienza.
D’altro canto, specialmente grazie al mio lavoro al giornale della scuola, ebbi modo di entrare in contatto con gli “altri”: ebrei, afro-americani, persino qualche WASP1, molti dei quali tendevano ad essere i membri liberali più attivi della comunità scolastica, mentre la maggior parte dei miei compagni italiani era più conservatrice sia dal punto di vista sociale che politico, irritata da quelli che chiamavamo collegiates, quelli che si pettinavano i capelli in avanti o da una parte, invece che all’indietro in una sorta di banana, quelli che poi sarebbero diventati hippy o “figli dei fiori”. Molti nella comunità italo-americana avevano pregiudizi inflessibili contro i “negri”, i “giudei” e gli “zoticoni”.
Eppure, per qualche ragione, nonostante frequentassi apertamente tutti questi gruppi e fossi un membro attivo del Consiglio Giovanile per le Relazioni Umane, e partecipassi con i miei amici neri alle marce e alle campagne per i diritti civili (in effetti mi dichiararono “soul brother”, “fratello dell’anima”, con tanto di certificato), non venni mai insultato, né attaccato e nemmeno evitato dal
1 WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant): protestanti anglosassoni bianchi (NdT).
mio gruppo etnico, neanche durante i periodi peggiori delle rivolte razziali, quando, in veste di presidente del consiglio studentesco, ero tenuto ad esortare pubblicamente entrambe le parti alla calma, alla tolleranza e alla ragionevolezza. Anche se alla fine della scuola superiore non ero più così intimo degli italo-americani con cui ero cresciuto e che erano stati i miei “amici” alle elementari e alle medie, non cessai mai di essere in buoni rapporti con loro, né loro con me.
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In breve, la mia carriera scolastica alle superiori si rivelò un successo che di gran lunga superava le mie aspettative, e quasi mio malgrado; sembrava quasi che io fossi uno spettatore passivo che se ne stava in disparte ad osservare se stesso mentre veniva eletto in carica, insignito di premi, lodato e premiato per meriti che io non credevo veramente di avere e per risultati che non mi sembravano dovuti alle mie iniziative.
Qualunque fosse la ragione del mio successo, la cerimonia per la consegna dei diplomi fu il culmine di quegli anni, fatati almeno per quanto riguarda i riconoscimenti accademici. È stato uno dei momenti più alti della mia vita ed uno degli eventi più memorabili e di cui andare fieri nella vita dei miei genitori. Alla fine, uno dei miei amici, scherzando, mi chiese se mi ero goduto il “Sante Matteo Show”, riferendosi alla quantità di premi che avevo ricevuto e al numero di volte in cui era stato fatto il mio nome. I miei genitori, fingendo imbarazzo e senso di colpa, ancora raccontano dell’esasperazione di qualcuno seduto dietro di loro alla cerimonia causata da quel ragazzo dal nome curioso che stava arraffando tutti i premi.
Per i miei genitori l’apice dell’evento venne verso la fine delle cerimonie, quando lessi il discorso di commiato, discorso che spettava a me fare in qualità di studente con la media migliore della sua classe. Nonostante i miei genitori avessero appoggiato ed incoraggiato le mie attività scolastiche e fossero pertanto al corrente dei miei risultati e dei miei incarichi (anche se verso la fine alcuni di questi per loro erano un po’ astrusi), essi sapevano bene quanto fossi timido e non mi avevano mai sentito parlare in pubblico e così aspettavano il mio discorso con più trepidazione e più ansia di quanta ne avessi io. Furono sbalorditi dalla facilità con cui parlai di fronte a quella folla enorme (avevo fatto molta pratica in qualità di presidente del consiglio studentesco durante le assemblee scolastiche) con quella che per loro era grande eloquenza. Sentire l’aula magna riecheggiare della mia voce che parlava una lingua per loro ancora straniera con evidente padronanza ed enfasi li commosse fino alle lacrime e l’applauso caloroso con cui il mio discorso venne accolto li lasciò elettrizzati e scossi. Quello era davvero il bambino che avevano portato via da Petrella e che fino a non molto tempo prima portava ancora i pantaloni corti?
Mi piace pensare che quel momento d’orgoglio e di soddisfazione li abbia ripagati di tanti sacrifici e che abbiano sentito che in fondo era valsa la pena di lasciarsi alle spalle così tanto, le loro famiglie, gli amici, la casa, per iniziare una nuova vita in uno strano mondo. Forse non sarebbe mai diventato il loro mondo, ma avrebbe potuto essere quello dei loro figli.
Nel farmi lentamente e laboriosamente strada tra le quinte nel pandemonio che fece seguito alla cerimonia, salutando gli amici, fermandomi a ricevere i complimenti e gli auguri degli insegnanti e degli amministratori, mettendomi in posa per le foto, cercavo ansiosamente i miei genitori. Dopo un po’ finalmente li trovai nell’ingresso, fermi in un angolo, imbarazzati, poco a loro agio, impacciati, che non sapevano come muoversi, cosa dire, cosa fare, cosa sembrare in quell’ambiente, ma che al contempo sorridevano senza posa, raggianti di orgoglio e di gioia tanto da sembrare circondati da un’aura di felicità risplendente di soddisfazione. Così umili e così fieri ad un tempo! Ora ero io a commuovermi fino alle lacrime e così mi affrettai ad andarli ad abbracciare.
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E fu solo allora, dopo il diploma, che tornai in Italia, non due, ma nove anni dopo la mia partenza. Anche l’altro nonno era morto nel frattempo. La sua previsione si era rivelata corretta: non mi avrebbe più rivisto.
Siccome mi diplomai in gennaio avevo diversi mesi a disposizione prima di cominciare l’università. Lavorai per due mesi al Cleveland Press; per tre anni, più o meno, avevo distribuito quel giornale e durante l’ultimo anno alle superiori avevo vinto una borsa di studio cittadina messa a disposizione proprio dal Cleveland Press.
Prima di tornare in Italia accompagnai mio padre in Argentina a trovare alcuni parenti: le sue due sorelle e le loro famiglie, ed una gran quantità di cugini. Vivevano a Berazategui, un quartiere di Buenos Aires.
Mi divertii molto in Argentina. C’erano molte famiglie di Petrella e sembravano tutte gaie e senza pensieri. Uno dei paesani era il proprietario di uno degli autobus colorati che facevano il giro intorno a Buenos Aires (gli autobus cittadini erano infatti di proprietà privata, e la città appaltava contratti per itinerari prestabiliti): sul suo autobus una cinquantina di persone venne a dare il benvenuto a me e a mio padre e l’allegra brigata cantò e scherzò e rise per tutto il tempo mentre andavamo a casa di mia zia.
Le mie tre settimane di permanenza furono una festa interminabile: mangiate all’aperto e banchetti, gite al Mar del Plata o nell’interno, verso le montagne, balli e feste con i miei cugini ed i loro amici, escursioni in treno fino al magnifico centro di Buenos Aires, persino gli albori di una storia romantica con una graziosa ragazza argentina, complice la briosa moglie di un mio cugino. Ero troppo timido perché potesse nascerne qualcosa, ma in effetti ci scambiammo un sacco di sorrisi impacciati.
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Dopo essere stato esposto a questo mondo meraviglioso, andai in Italia per il resto della primavera e dell’estate. Passai la maggior parte del tempo a Roma, dove i miei zii, i tre fratelli di mia madre, si erano stabiliti dopo alcune brevi parentesi migratorie in Germania.
La mia nonna materna, Filomena, era ancora viva e così a Petrella trascorsi diverse settimane con lei ed i miei cugini, amici d’infanzia. Era così diverso, dopo che così tanta gente se ne era andata: a malapena riuscivo a riconoscere i giovani. Eppure tutto mi era anche così famigliare. Per molti anni la maggior parte dei miei sogni aveva continuato ad avere Petrella come ambientazione e dopo alcuni giorni il paese si riappropriò di me e io mi ci ritrovai a mio agio, come in un vecchio paio di pantofole. A quel punto l’America sembrava solo un sogno.
Ritrovai alcuni dei miei vecchi compagni di scuola e durante l’estate altri ritornarono per le vacanze dai posti dove si erano trasferiti per ragioni di lavoro o di studio. Piuttosto, però, dovrei dire che furono loro a trovare me: sembrava davvero che tutti in paese sapessero chi ero, dovunque andassi, non tanto perché mi riconoscessero, quanto perché riconoscevano in me i miei genitori. Se passavo vicino ad un capannello di uomini in piazza mi sentivo dire: “Non sei il figlio di Lilino, Sante? Sembri proprio tuo padre!”, e se poco più in là incontravo un gruppo di donne alla fontana, invariabilmente le sentivo commentare: “Guarda, quello deve essere Sante, il figlio di Giuseppina, la copia sputata di sua madre! Sante, come sta tua madre?”.
Anche le settimane a Petrella trascorsero come una grande festa senza fine, costellata di passeggiate in piazza con i miei vecchi amici, di giochi e chiacchiere con i cugini di cui era sempre piena la casa, delle storie e dei ricordi di Memmel’, mia nonna Filomena, seduti a mangiare il pane fatto in casa con un pezzo di formaggio vicino al camino dove da bambino mi lasciavo ipnotizzare dal bagliore delle fiamme e dalla danza delle scintille. Il pane aveva sempre lo stesso sapore, così come la voce di mia nonna aveva sempre lo stesso tono confortante; le stanze riecheggiavano delle stesse risate; il dialetto aveva reclamato il possesso della mia lingua e della mia mente come legittimo proprietario: perché mai me ne ero andato? Perché non ero cresciuto tra quella gente, la mia gente?
Eppure, quanto sembrava piccolo adesso il paese! Mi ci erano davvero voluti solo tre o quattro minuti per andare da casa mia sulla strada principale dalla parte nuova del paese alla scuola vicino alla piazza? Solo cinque minuti per arrivare alla chiesa nella vecchia parte del paese? Le strade erano sempre state così buie e strette, e le case avevano sempre avuto quell’aspetto desolato, nel loro triste grigiore?
Da bambino mi era sembrato un mondo vasto ed inesauribile, mentre adesso mi pareva minuscolo. Forse, dopo tutto, non mi calzava proprio come un vecchio paio di pantofole: che i miei piedi di viaggiatore fossero cresciuti troppo?
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Trascorsi la maggior parte del tempo a Roma. Speravo di riavvicinarmi alla lingua, alla cultura e alla storia italiane, che in buona parte avevo dimenticato o nemmeno mai imparato, e così fu, fino ad un certo punto. Tuttavia, siccome passavo gran parte del tempo in compagnia degli zii e delle loro famiglie che tra loro usavano il dialetto di Petrella, non perfezionai il mio italiano tanto quanto avrei desiderato. In ogni caso, però, riallacciai i contatti con i miei parenti e con la mia patria, contatti che non ho più perso. Riuscii a visitare alcune delle città più importanti e a farmi un’idea del ricco patrimonio culturale del mio paese, così che a quel punto l’Italia per me era molto di più che Petrella o il Molise.
Stranamente, nello scoprire l’Italia e nel riscoprire il mio paese, ristabilendo il mio senso di italianità, per così dire, scoprii anche quanto fossi diventato americano. Mi resi conto che mi vestivo come un americano, camminavo come un americano e in genere avevo l’aspetto di un americano. Ogni volta che a Roma o in altre città mi avvicinavo a qualche venditore, con mia sorpresa e disappunto mi sentivo dire, in inglese: “You buy? Very cheap!”. Qualcosa di me decisamente suggeriva: “Ecco che arriva un americano”.
Ma il bello è che mi resi conto che mi mancavano l’America, gli amici americani, le partite dei Cleveland Indians (squadra di baseball), il rock’n’roll, persino l’odore dell’erba tagliata quando piove! Ero un turista nella mia patria e, in molti sensi, mi era diventato più facile sentirmi a casa in un paese straniero, o forse sarebbe più corretto dire che cominciavo a capire di essere destinato ad essere un turista nella vita (ma non lo siamo tutti?) sia in Italia che in America, e che non mi sentivo, e probabilmente non mi sarei mai potuto sentire, completamente a casa da nessuna parte. In America mi sarebbe sempre mancata l’Italia, in Italia avrei sempre sentito nostalgia dell’America.
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Ma vorrei anche finire di raccontare questa storia, e, di questo passo, sembra che la cosa sia di là da venire. Per riuscirci sarebbe forse opportuno che mi limitassi ad una presentazione più
schematica dei fatti. Penso di essermi soffermato abbastanza a fare introspezione in una sorta di autoanalisi per poter dare un’idea del mio passato e della mia personalità, dei miei punti di forza e delle mie debolezze, per definire chi ero e chi sono adesso.
Ovviamente potrei dilungarmi a parlare della mia esperienza universitaria (1967-71), degli anni passati facendo il servizio militare (fui arruolato nel novembre del 1971; il mio numero di matricola era 13; rimasi in servizio per due anni), del dottorato (1973-76), del corteggiamento (1976- ) e del matrimonio (1978- ) con la mia bellissima moglie; della nascita tanto attesa del mio meraviglioso figlio (1983) e così via, ma ciascuno di questi argomenti, essendo a me più vicino nel tempo e più pressante, e perciò più complesso, finirebbe per allungare a dismisura queste pagine su di me, e dubito che sia un libro quello che volete.
Per limitarmi ad una sintesi dei fatti potrei inserire a questo punto un curriculum delle mie attività accademiche, il documento che uso per presentarmi professionalmente: PERCORSO ACCADEMICO E PROFESSIONALE: Nato nel 1948 a Petrella Tifernina, un piccolo paese del Molise, in Italia, Sante Matteo emigrò negli Stati Uniti con la sua famiglia all’età di circa dieci anni. Nel 1967 si diplomò alla Collinwood High School di Cleveland, Ohio, con la media più alta della sua classe, in virtù della quale pronunciò il discorso di commiato.
Gli vennero assegnate due borse di studio per frequentare Kenyon College a Gambier, in Ohio, dove conseguì il Bachelor of Arts (laurea) in francese nel 1971. Dopo due anni trascorsi nell’esercito degli Stati Uniti, nell’autunno del 1973 accettò una borsa di studio per un dottorato in italiano con Charles Singleton e Eduardo Saccone alla Johns Hopkins University di Baltimora, in Maryland. Sospese gli studi di italianistica nel 1974-75 e accettò l’offerta della Miami University di Oxford, in Ohio, dove insegnava i corsi di italiano e nel frattempo studiava per conseguire il Master in francese. Nel 1975-76 ritornò alla Johns Hopkins per terminare i corsi e finire il dottorato in italianistica. Conseguì il Master in francese della Miami University nel 1976, il Master ed il Ph.D. (dottorato) in italianistica dalla Johns Hopkins rispettivamente nel 1977 e nel 1983.
Nel frattempo, nel 1976 tornò alla Miami University dove aveva accettato la sua prima docenza come insegnante di italiano, impiego che conservò fino al 1979. Inoltre insegnò grammatica, lettura e composizione italiane all’Istituto di Lingue Estivo della Miami University ad Urbino. Dal 1980 al 1989 insegnò alla Brigham Young University, a Provo, in Utah, come lettore dal 1980 al 1982, come assistente dal 1982 al 1987, e come professore associato di ruolo dal 1987 al 1990 (in aspettativa durante l’A.A. 1989-90).
Nel 1989 tornò ancora una volta alla Miami University, prima come assistente alla cattedra in visita (1989-90) e successivamente, a cominciare dal 1990, come assistente professore con prospettive di ruolo, rinunciando alla posizione e alla cattedra alla Brigham Young University, poiché riteneva che l’ambiente accademico, intellettuale e sociale della Miami University, specialmente all’interno del Dipartimento di Francese ed Italiano, sarebbe stato più consono al suo background e alle sue aspettative personali e professionali, e che l’atmosfera di cittadina sede d’università di Oxford avrebbe giovato ai bisogni sociali ed intellettuali della sua famiglia.
Durante tutti questi periodi ha sempre insegnato corsi e scritto articoli accademici. I suoi principali interessi di ricerca vertono sulla letteratura italiana post-rinascimentale, sulla teoria della letteratura contemporanea e sul cinema italiano. Per cinque volte ha partecipato ai seminari estivi, alle conferenze e ai laboratori del Centro Internazionale di Semiotica e Linguistica di Urbino, a cui hanno partecipato studiosi di fama internazionale quali Umberto Eco, Paolo Valesio, Tzvetan Todorov, Louis Marin e Philippe Hamon, tra gli altri. Nell’estate del 1983 ha preso parte ad un seminario estivo NEH con Edward Wasiolek della University of Chicago sul Formalismo russo e sulla critica contemporanea francese ed americana.
Le sue pubblicazioni comprendono tre libri: Textual Exile: The Reader in Sterne and Foscolo (Esilio testuale: il lettore in Sterne e Foscolo, Peter Lang, 1986), The Reasonable Romantic: Essays on Alessandro Manzoni (Il romantico ragionevole: saggi su Alessandro Manzoni, Peter Lang, 1986), and Italian Echoes in the Rocky Mountains (Echi italiani nelle Montagne Rocciose, AAIS and D. M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, 1990), così come numerose recensioni, note ed articoli su diversi periodi e figure della letteratura e del cinema francesi ed italiani, da Le Roman de la rose e Marco Polo, a Vico, Foscolo e Manzoni, a Jacques Derrida e Bernardo Bertolucci.
È stato ed è molto attivo in ambito accademico sia a livello nazionale che a live