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A Sea of Literatures: Theories, Concepts, and Methods of Mediterranean Literary Studies


Hakim Abderrezak


In my talk, I will revisit the Mediterranean Sea through the particular angle of clandestinity. My goal is to propose a theoretical apparatus that examines the Mediterranean from this outlook, which should help us rethink our mapping of this body of water and concept, as well as remap our thinking of this complex notion in the global era. Through an interdisciplinary methodology my goal is to challenge mainstream thought and bring into the discussion of this notion as it unfolds in the Western world additional and alternative narratives that capacitate and complicate, as well as complete and compete with our understanding of the Mediterranean matrix. I wish to foster a questioning of an antiquated notion, which is historically and ideologically charged, but yet still in use today, namely that of the Mediterranean as a Mare Nostrum and a sea of free flows and peaceful passages. I will approach the sea in light of ongoing tragedies, which, contrary to common misconceptions, have not begun in 2013 with the so-called “migrant” or “refugee crisis.” Thus, I will scrutinize the idea of the Mediterranean as an expanding cemetery, or what I call the seametery.  

Following this theoretical section of my talk, I will specifically study the conceptualization of the seametery in literature, and tease out its implications for the global North and South. Since the 1990s, Mediterranean migrant literature has increasingly tackled a tragic topic, which has become a globally recognized concern, namely human clandestine migrations to Europe. In an article published in 2009, I called this literary sub-genre illiterature. One of the major characteristics of illiterature is to propose a different take on irregular trans- Mediterranean crossings. It challenges the often biased or simplistic information propagated by mass media, as well as the alarmist, populist, nationalist or racist discourses in conservative political agendas. I explain that illiterature, which comprises works in a variety of languages such French, Arabic, Spanish and Italian, has become a major player in African and European literary expressions. I argue that it is a paradigm through which authors have provided alternate viewpoints to the mainstream discourse. In addition, my contention is that by focusing on the sea crossing, illiterature places itself as a genre that provides a vision that is missing in works that focus on the experiences of migrants once on European soil. Illiterature’s concern with death as a possible major outcome allows this genre to provide a vantage point into the Mediterranean today in the context of failed migrancy and refugeeism. 

Stéphane Baquey

The Possibility of the Mediterranean and the Contribution of Poetical Cross-cultural Philologies During the 20th Century. The Case of ‘Andalusia’ in the Poetry of Federico García Lorca, Louis Aragon and Maḥmūd Darwiš

Poetry has been since the 19th century at the same time a privileged object for different philologies (rediscovering pre-islamic or troubadour poetry for example) and one of the literary genres where this knowledge has been reinvested in new poetical achievements crossing the cultural boundaries persistent in the philologies themselves (since Goethe, Hugo and others). Both practices, scholarship and creative writing, until the 20th century, were thus entwined, each time in the context of a set of cultural and political agendas where the question of the national and various forms of the transnational were to be taken into account. We can read within this framework the poetry of Federico García Lorca, Louis Aragon, here mainly considered as the author of Le Fou d’Elsa (1963), and Maḥmūd Darwiš, mostly between his departure from Beirut, in 1982, and his “return” to Palestine, in 1995. Their poetries share a reference to al-Andalus / Andalusia which, as a moving, multi-layered and contrapuntal local reference, is one of the more important locations to start with to build a Mediterranean transregional perspective in literary studies. Indeed, the territoriality of Andalusia as a “translation zone” (E. Apter), at the crossroads of Romance philology and the so-called Oriental philology, was and is still a place of projection for various cultural and political dilemmas which can be anchored in different places of the Mediterranean. Lorca was of course located himself in the place, but Aragon was at hands with French history, mainly with the French colonial history in Algeria, but also with the Communist internationalist policy, and Darwiš with the Palestinian national movement. But none of them was enclosed in these collective agendas. On the contrary, they performed in their poems a deterritorialization of philology, entwining what is considered as their “own” and as the “other’s” cultural history, thus integrating Romance and Oriental philologies in a poetic discourse which goes beyond philology in its imagination of the place. And beyond al-Andalus, Lorca himself, considered as an Andalusian heir of the past of the place, became for the two other poets a new principle for a wandering poetics which can no longer inhabit a territory of its own, but a space-time that the Sea could be.

Cristina Benussi

The Adriatic Mediterranean See and its stories

The tales set in the Adriatic Sea show the different cultures that have crossed it and the different situations experienced by those people: pirates, trade, pilgrimages to the holy land, wars, relief, sporting events and more, in different historical periods have left significant traces along its coasts. They reflect the multiplicity of Mediterranean cultures.

Angela Fabris

Urban Spaces and Heterotopia in Modern Mediterranean Crime Fiction

This contribution aims at investigating some specificities of the Mediterranean crime fiction set in urban landscapes. The analysis starts from a series of geocritical considerations on urban spaces reflected in certain narrative contexts related to the resolution of a mystery and/or the reconstruction of a truth that seems to be elusive. In this sense, the urban space becomes an active force that disseminates traces and concrete clues within the texts, influencing the plot and reader expectations. It is therefore a semiotic construction, i.e. a space that, depending on its distribution and the way it is represented, contributes in essential terms to the development of certain specific narrative dynamics.

Alongside the geocritical dimension is the discourse around heterotopias (in the wake of the essay "Des spaces autres" by Micheal Foucault), understood as spaces that - although connected to other spaces - allow the suspension, neutralisation or inversion of all the relationships that characterize them. In this sense, the present intervention aims to shed light on some urban spaces that acquire a specific heterotopic meaning both with regard to the resolution of the enigma and to the multiethnic identity of the subjects involved. In this sense, the urban space can be said to have a fluid nature as it is able to reflect - in a non-pacified form - subjects, identities and suggestions from different latitudes.

Albert Göschl

A Mediterranean Utopia. The Renaissance Fiction of Plusiapolis as an Ideal of a Non-Existing Melting Pot

The concept of the Mediterranean necessarily implies a specific form of utopian thinking. This kind of utopianism refers to transregional, multiconfessional and multilingual chronotopoi that create new forms of contact zones. These new spaces also manifest themselves in the concrete genre of literary utopia. This is already proven by the existence of Italy's first early modern utopia, Filarete’s libro architettonico, written shortly after the conquest of Constantinople. Filarete’s book is usually understood by art history as a testimony of theoretical architecture, but from a literary point of view it represents a narrative concept of imagined society characterized by a rich range of global-Mediterranean elements. On behalf of his Milanese ruler, the author-narrator founds an ideal utopian city, in whose fictitious construction he encounters traces of an antique counter-town. This opposite world, Plusiapolis, is characterized by the description of urban buildings whose influences refer to the entire eastern Mediterranean area. The Mediterranean character of the text can be explained both by the biography of the author and the historical context.

This paper presents therefore the libro architettonico as the first literary Mediterranean utopia and shows the influences of Eastern Mediterranean as well as (im)possible influences of Filarete on the reconstruction of Constantinople.

Jonas Hock

The Resilience of the Island or: The Impossible Insularity of Sicily

Mediterranean Literary Studies strive to “displac[e] the nation as the default category of analysis” (Kinoshita 2014) but must attend not to simply replace this category with other entities like the region or the island. To supplant the national literature paradigm by an insular regional culture paradigm does not necessarily mean to exceed “the monolingual, diachronic, and frequently teleological frame” (ibid.). Of course, leaving this frame behind is even more difficult when it comes to the obviously insular entity that is an island. Even islands are not closed linguistic entities opposed to the natural speechlessness of the sea on the one hand and to a political and cultural suprastructure – an empire or a nation – on the other hand; or, as Mallette (2007) states, ‘insular’ is or rather was not always a synonym for ‘isolated’. An island is and has always been a contact zone – but, and that is my point, this zone does not have an essential core which could be penetrated, seized, traced. To cite a concrete example from Italian studies: although transcultural approaches to Sicilian literature do exist (e.g. Reichardt 2007), it is most often still analysed and interpreted as expression of a specific sicilianità. In my contribution I will argue that the sicilianità-discourse constitutes an attempt to re-centre the manifold writings from and about the island of Sicily in a problematic core “substance” (Sciascia), even if this cultural substance is already conceived as being hybrid. 

Studying the oeuvres of three major Sicilian writers of the 20th century, Stefano D’Arrigo (1919-1992), Andrea Camilleri (*1925), Vincenzo Consolo (1933-1912) I will show that this re-centring is yet constantly undermined by literature itself. On a macro level (narrative structures and figures) several novels show the impossibility for a stranger as well as for a homecomer to seize and/or understand the (anthropological, linguistic) essence of the island, whereas on a micro level the chosen examples are marked by linguistic innovations that go beyond the opposition dialect/standard language (Sicilian/Italian). Finally, I would like to discuss whether a larger Mediterranean perspective could release island-literatures and island-identities from such (re-)centring concepts as sicilianità, sardità, corsité or others.

Works cited  

(2014) Sharon Kinoshita: “Mediterranean Literature”, in A Companion to Mediterranean History, ed. Peregrine Horden and Sharon Kinoshita, Chichester/Malden/Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 314-329.  

(2007) Karla Mallette: “Insularity. A Literary History of Muslim Lucera”, in A Faithful Sea. The Religious Cultures of the Mediterranean, 1200 - 1700, ed. Adnan A. Husain and Katherine E. Fleming, Oxford: Oneworld, 27-46.  

(2006) Dagmar Reichardt: L’Europa che comincia e finisce: la Sicilia. Approcci transculturali alla letteratura siciliana, Frankfurt a. M./Berlin/Bern: Peter Lang. 

Sara Izzo

Rewriting Carthage – Theoretical approaches to understanding the Mediterranean Sea as a lieu de mémoire in French and Italian Literature

The paper aims to examine the Mediterranean Sea as a zone of memory conflict in French and Italian Literature with regard to Pierre Nora’s concept of lieu de mémoire describing « the embodiment of memory in certain sites where a sense of historical continuity persists »1. In Noras study the notion of lieu de mémoire is limited to national historiography omitting for example the conflictual colonial past of French History which has been largely criticized. The application of the notion of lieu de mémoire in the context of Mediterranean Studies, as it has been recently operationalised by the laboratory for History under the direction of Maryline Crivello,2 adds a transnational dimension to the original concept. Our purpose will be to examine how we can use the idea of the Mediterranean Sea as a transnational lieu de mémoire in Literary Studies. For this purpose we will also take into consideration the theoretical model of nœud de mémoire, memory knot, developed by Michael Rothberg in order to describe « encounters between diverse pasts and conflictual present, […] but also between different agents or catalysts of memory »3 and by this to coin a rhizomatic vision of a palimpsest-like memory. These theoretical approaches will be discussed and exemplified with regard to the topic of the maritime power of Carthage and the Punic wars in French and Italian Literature of the 19th and 20th century. We will analyze the rewriting of the conflict for power in the Mediterranean between Carthage and Rome in the context of colonial expansion and French and Italian competition for influence in Tunisia. Therefore, we will focus in particular on Flaubert’s historical novel Salammbô (1862), the historical film Cabiria (1914) for which D’Annunzio wrote the intertitles as well as Audisios lyrical essay Sel de la mer (1936).

1 Nora, Pierre: „Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire“, Representations 26 (1989), pp. 7-24, 7.  

2 Cf. Crivello, Maryline (dir.): Les échelles de la mémoire en Méditerranée, Actes Sud 2010.  

3 Rothberg, Michael: „Between Memory and Memory: From Lieux de mémoire to Nœuds de mémoire“, Yale French Studies, 118/119 (2010), pp. 3-12, 9. 

Sharon Kinoshita

Pirates, Merchants, and Market Inspectors: Mediterranean Literature in Dialogue with Mediterranean History

In my 2009 article “Medieval Mediterranean Literature,” I observed that literary scholars lagged behind historians in exploring the potential provided by the then-emerging field of Mediterranean Studies. Ten years later, an increasing amount of research in Literature is being conducted under the rubric “Mediterranean” (particularly, it seems to me, in the area of modern, postcolonial, and Francophone studies); nevertheless, the discrepancy still remains. In this talk, I examine the interface between studies in medieval Mediterranean literature and medieval Mediterranean history: Taking Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron (c. 1350) as my case study, I will, time permitting, address three different cases: Novella 2.7 (briefly, drawing on my co-authored 2007 essay “Ports of Call”), based on the annotation of toponyms; Novella 2.9, in which the cross-dressed wife of a Genoese merchant ends up as the market inspector of the sultan of Egypt (via Buckley); and Novella 5:7, in which a slave captured in a pirate raid on the Anatolian coast and transported to Trapani, in Sicily, becomes the lover of his master's daughter (via Carr). Through this methodological eclecticism, I argue for the central importance of history to the field of Mediterranean literature and for the ways in which literary texts do more than “illustrate” or “reflect” historical events or phenomena.


Boccaccio, Giovanni. 1992. Decameron, 2 vols. Ed. Vittore Branca. Turin: Einaudi.

Boccaccio, Giovanni. 2013. Decameron. Trans. Wayne A. Rebhorn. New York: W. W. Nortion.

Buckley, R. P., trans. 1999. The Book of the Islamic Market Inspector. Nihāyat al-Rutba fī Talab al-Hisba (The Utmost Authority in the Pursuit of Hisba) by ‘Abd al- Rahmān b. Nasr al-Shayzarī. Journal of Semitic Studies Supplement 9. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Carr, Mike. 2015. Merchant Crusaders in the Aegean, 1291-1352. Warfare in History. Woodbridge: Boydell.

Kinoshita, Sharon. 2009. “Medieval Mediterranean Literature.” PMLA 124:2 (March): 600-08.

Kinoshita, Sharon and Jason Jacobs. 2007. “Ports of Call: Boccaccio’s Alatiel in the Medieval Mediterranean.” In “Mapping the Mediterranean.” Ed. Valeria Finucci. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 37.1: 163-95.

Karla Mallette

Territory / frontiers / routes: Space, place and language in the Mediterranean

How do we conceptualize the place of language in the Mediterranean? In a region crisscrossed by transit networks and flows of human travel, how do we locate language? In this talk, I draw upon a short list of key words used in the fields of geography, history, political science and network theory – space and place; territory, boundary and frontier – to map the movement of human and non-human actors, and to think about languages that are not instantiated in territory. My aim is to push back against national language ideology, which grants territorial sovereignty to language, seeing the national language as part of a portfolio of national behaviors and as a key component of state bureaucracy. Rather, I focus on specific linguistic behaviors of the pre-modern Mediterranean, which I propose are typical also of the late 20th and 21st century Mediterranean. Languages, like people, move. They are carried on the networks of human migration. Rather than challenge human mobility, as the national languages of modernity did, they facilitate movement: language transforms the writer into a nomad. Ultimately, language itself becomes an actor. Trans-regional and trans-historical languages propel the movement of nomad-writers along the networks of travel, trade and cultural exchange. Contact languages like the Mediterranean lingua franca promote the mobility (and, in some cases, the enslavement) of those excluded from literacy by socio-economic circumstances, fate or personal choice. And languages promote their own self-interest and participate in knowledge production in translation movements, which import ideas, words and rhetorical practices from adjacent languages. By studying the character and behaviors of language across the frontiers of state sovereignty and on the routes of Mediterranean transit, I argue that we can better understand how people conceptualized language in the pre-modern Mediterranean, as well as emergent linguistic behaviors in the 21st century Mediterranean.  

Roberta Morosini

Locating and reading the "mare historiarum," from Dante to the Renaissance island books

In this paper I share questions related to geographic poetics of the Mediterranean: how do we read the sea as a narrative space? Is it possible to articulate a poetics of the Mediterranean? Starting from the role that the sea and navigation has in Dante’s Commedia, my paper raises questions about the predominant role played by the Mediterranean in the Italian Trecento, following the first nautical maps and the increased coast to coast activities of merchants. I will focus in particular on Boccaccio’s Genealogy of the pagan gods for its unique combination of poetry and geography that leads to consider its impact on the Insulari or Renaissance islands books. The study of the Insulari, and in particular Buondelmonti’s Archipelago, offers an insightful look into the Genealogy that features the poet’s journey through the Mediterranean Sea, and in particular the Archipelago, the Eagean Sea, to defend the truth of poetry by  sailing to places that can be found on a map and where gods and their progeny brought about inventions useful to civilization. In fact, differently from Diodorus Siculus who refers to places of the Archipelago only as a pretext to evoke ancient myths, the Insulari share with Boccaccio’s Genealogy, but also with Dante and Petarch’s Itinerary to the Holy Land, the definition of the geographical space through myths. Finally, following the itineraries and crossings of the sea, a cartography of poetry is displayed  by Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio  and Fazio Degli Uberti, while the Mediterranean emerges a Mare historiarum, a sea freed from sirens and marine divinites, a geographical space that ultimately narrates the history of humanity.

Friederike Pannewick

Crossings and Borders in Literature – perspectives from the Arabic Side of the Mediterranean

This paper deals with the history of Mediterranean ideas from an Arabic literary perspective in the course of time. The paper will start with some rather enthusiastic early 20th century calls to make Egyptians feel equal to Europeans and “to remove from their hearts the hideous and criminal illusion that they are created from some other clay than Europeans, formed in some other way, and endowed with an intelligence other than theirs” (Taha Hussein, The Future of Culture in Egypt, 1938). In a next step, the paper will show how in the 1960s the crossing of the sea from the south to the north might be experienced as a sharp borderline within early postcolonial imaginative battlefields (Season of Migration to the North, 1969, by Sudanese author at-Tayyib Saleh).  In contrast to this postcolonial setting, other Arab travelers, crossing the Mediterranean after their expulsion from Jerusalem in 1948, reflect on their being Palestinian not as refugees and asylum seekers, but as “knowledge peddlers” and being “proud as hell” (Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, The Ship, 1970, “The Palestinian Exile as Writer”, 1979). These early and mid-twentieth century literary experiences of crossings and borders around the Mediterranean will then be contrasted with rather recent reflections on displacement and flight from Syria to Germany. The paper will trace transformations in/of the Syrian field of literary production since 2011 against the background of mass displacement and the formation of a new Syrian-German literary field in several German cities. New networks of literary and artistic production, new genres and art forms, new subjects and audiences are about to emerge in this new context.  To which extend and in which way did this huge transfer of ideas and art works change the perception of the Mediterranean and how is this articulated in Arabic literary texts?

Marta Puxan-Oliva

A Vulnerable Sea: Migration and refugee novels and Mediterraean crime

This paper proposes to analyze the Mediterranean as an exceptional space that is marked by a contradictory imagination that includes the imagination of the wilderness as well as its legal anomaly. This approach will promote a recuperation of the debate on the wilderness, recently abandoned in ecocritical studies, and a revision of the debates around the legal status and legislation of the ocean. Within this framework, I will use the Moroccan Youssouf Amine Elalami’s Les clandestins (2000), the Spanish Andrés Sorel’s Las voces del estrecho (2000) and the Catalan David Cirici’s El setè àngel (The Seventh Angel, 2017) as test case novels to show how human traffic crime at sea related to migrants and refugees benefits from this contradictory imagination. Involving polyphony and placing the Mediterranean migrant and refugee crossing at the center, these novels showcase not only the tragic story of individuals wishing to cross the sea towards Europe but the Mediterranean as a space where crime is bound to happen and might be erased. In a way, the novels enhance the idea that the sea is a vulnerable space because it favors the difficult prosecution of criminals, the invisibility of crime exerted against migrants and refugees and their criminalization, and the state obliviousness in its neglect of rescue responsibilities. 

Rita Rieger

The Mediterranean In and By Literature: Towards a Conceptualization of Mediterranean Literature through (trans)cultural writing practices

In her theoretical reflections on Mediterranean Literature, Karla Mallette introduces boustrophedon as one key term of a theory of Mediterranean Literature that refers to “a number of physical, historical, intellectual, and linguistic turns, returns and, reversals”.1 With reference to these dynamics of the Mediterranean, the aim of the following paper is a theoretical contribution to the understanding of the concept Mediterranean Literature that allows inclusion of its inherent dynamics and will be exemplified by Louis de Cahusac’s La danse ancienne et moderne ou Traité historique de la danse (1754). Although, Cahusac presents ‘the dance’ as a ‘universal gestural language’ in his historical and aesthetic treatise, it will be shown that this ‘universal language’ is limited to discourses and practices in the Mediterranean region. Methodologically, therefore, the Mediterranean and Literature are regarded in relation to literary writing practices as modes of transcription from the perspective of transculturality and practice theory. Thus, the paper proposes a broad conceptualization of Mediterranean Literature as a second order observation of (trans)cultural practices unfolding in and building the Mediterranean at the same time. This proposal will be developed in three steps:

Firstly, the concept of transcription enables the writing and readability of a text and refers with its intermedial mode of transcription to transformations from the represented world into text, that is, from dance into writing. Adopting a cultural theorist’s perspective, the Mediterranean results of (trans)cultural discourses and practices.

Secondly, the Mediterranean is represented in literature, by ancient sacred dances of Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Turkey as significant elements of modern French dance. Thus, the core question in the study of Mediterranean Literature is not whether the literary representations correspond to the represented world or not, but focuses on the modes of representation.

Thirdly, in Louis de Cahusac’s treatise the Mediterranean is represented by an intramedial mode of transcription meaning the transformation from one text on dance into another. As a result, the dance theorist not only re-writes the conceptualization of dance but also of the Mediterranean as (trans)cultural space.

1 Cf. Karla Mallette: “Boustrophedon: Towards a Literary Theory of the Mediterranean”. In: Suzanne Conklin Akbari/Karla Mallette (eds.): A Sea of Languages. Rethinking the Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History. Toronto/Buffalo/London: University of Toronto Press 2013, pp. 254-266, here p. 255.



Steffen Schneider

Leonardo Sciascia’s Sicily between Isolation and Mediterraneanism

This talk focuses on the functioning of collective memory for literature. Using the example of Sicilian authors, it shows how narrative texts evaluate the history of the island and what conclusions they draw for the identity of the Sicilians. I understand remembering and forgetting not as individual, but as social processes through which Sicilian authors thematize or even conceal cultural relations with their Mediterranean neighbours. The paper traces how an awareness of the Mediterranean Sicilian identity is slowly asserting itself in literature. The focus is on the work of Leonardo Sciascia, which occupies a key position in the discovery of the inner plurality of Sicily. Since, in my opinion, Mediterraneanity is only conceivable as the relationship of one object to other objects of the Mediterranean region (such objects as other texts, discourses, languages), the study of collective memory occupies a key position in Mediterranean literary studies. My paper is therefore not only a contribution to the history of Sicilian literature, but also to the methodology of our discipline.

Elisabeth Stadlinger

Maria Corti and the Reconstruction of Mediterranean Identity

The Italian writer and philologist Maria Corti dedicated a significant part of her scientific work to Dante’s reception of Ulysses elaborated in the “Divina commedia” (“The Divine Comedy”). Corti’s own concept of the Mediterranean is focussed in her novel “L’ora di tutti” (“Otranto”), first published in 1962, dealing with South Italian history at the end of 15th century when the Ottomans assaulted the port city of Otranto. Her second text to be considered in context of Mediterranean Literature is called “Il canto delle sirene” (“The Sirens’ Song”), a complex hybrid form inbetween scientific literary research and fiction, published first time in 1989.  Although they differ very much in the author’s methodical writing approach, both novels’ outstanding topic results clearly the reconstruction of individual and cultural identity in the Mediterranean. Corti reflects individual fates among crossings of cultures and analyzes the symbolic and pragmatic challenge that myths figure to mankind, interpreting in a philologist’s manner questions of existence and identity. In addition to the Italian text, short citations of Latin and Spanish literature are evoking a philological concept of Mediterranean identity.  In questions of Mediterranean Literary Studies this contribute points out why Maria Corti’s novels “L’ora di tutti” and “Il canto delle sirene” result a good example which texts could be important to create a Mediterranean literary anthology and therefore to consolidate the development of Mediterranean Literature Studies as independent field of research. 

Serena Todesco

A female Mediterranean? Postcoloniality, the Mezzogiorno and the role of women’s literature: notes in progress

In this contribution I explore the notion of a gendered reinterpretation of a postcolonial Mediterranean (Chambers 2008) and its “semantic potential” (Proglio 2017), in relation to the symbolic specificity of the Italian South (Mezzogiorno), historically characterized by a widely negative stigma of backwardness and deviancy, as well as by a series of oppositional categories, e.g. Self and Other(s), but also “masculine” and “feminine”. By partly drawing on the area of Subaltern Studies (Gramsci, Spivak), as well as on scholarly perspectives that read the Italian South as a postcolonial space (J. Schneider, Moe, Petrusewicz, Ponzanesi, Giuliani, among others), I intend to suggest, on one hand, the numerous intersections of both Mediterranean’s spatial and symbolic discourses within the framework of a feminine subversion of binary issues of race, culture and gender (Coburn, Re); on the other hand, I seek to identify which creative approaches are adopted by some Italian women writers whose perspectives on language and cultural identity often provide unique forms of resistance to oppressive and heteronormative dichotomies that still today stifle certain common views on the Mediterranean. I further suggest that a rethinking of Mediterranean by women writers may correspond to a lively set of storytelling strategies that tend to challenge those same topoi – e.g. blurring of geo-cultural identities, evolutions and dissonances of gender and family roles, mechanisms of identification and/or dis-identification with a given social group, or issues concerning individuals vis-à-vis power/knowledge structures – that are being problematized by an increasingly richer wave of Mediterranean critical studies.

In briefly referring to the works of contemporary Italian women writers, such as novelists Fabrizia Ramondino and Anna Maria Ortese, I ultimately wish to exemplify how the interconnections of the Italian South and the Mediterranean constitute an ambivalent and creative ground of meditation on the emergence of textual practices that strongly question Southern Europe’s most persistent and pervasive patterns.

Anita Traninger

Mediterranean Serendipities: Connectivity and the Question of Time

Fernand Braudel, taking up an observation by Lucien Febvre, defined the Mediterranean as the sum of its routes, claiming that „the whole Mediterranean consists of movements in space“. In line with Horden and Purcell’s notion of connectivity, we are accustomed to think of the Mediterranean as a great unifier of literatures and cultures conventionally conceived as distinct. Taking the long trajectory of stories that eventually came to inform the modern notion of serendipity as an example, I will show, however, that connectivity does not equal connection, and that the Mediterranean Sea is more than anything a disrupting factor. Connectivity suggests immediacy, but the Mediterranean connects texts and ideas, above all, in time; and in doing so, what it transports does not necessarily arrive on the other shore unchanged.

Daniel Winkler

Mediterranean Migrant Cinema between Everyday Life and State of Emergency

Lampedusa in Winter (A/CH/I 2015) and Fire at Sea (I/F 2016) from the Austrian respectively Italian filmmakers Gianfranco Rosi and Jakob Brossmann trace more or less contemporaneously the same project: They place the small Sicilian island of Lampedusa, which has become a focus of mass media interest in connection to current migration processes and the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean, into the centre of longitudinal cinematic observations. Both rely on visual traditions of (neo-) realistic cinema in order to avoid didactic forms of documentaries. Instead of employing techniques such as voice-over narration and interviews (expository mode), Brossmann and Rosi apply e.g. indirect address and contrastive montage, thereby enabling the audience to experience pretended ›authentic‹ impressions of everyday life on the island (observational mode). At the same time, however, the films themselves are inevitably part of the hype around Lampedusa, the very symbol of the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. This contribution analyses in which ways the two films situate Lampedusa between everyday life and state of emergency, cinematic traditions and their anthropological transgression. In doing so, this talk will examine to what extent contemporary transnational cinema tries to re-situate the peripheral political status of the Mediterranean and Southern Italy in connection with current migration processes and EU migration policy.


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