American Association for Italian Studies


Message from the President and Executive Committee:

Dear colleagues,

We write as members of the executive of the American Association of Italian Studies to express our deep concern about the decision by our newly elected president to place restrictions and holds on the entry into the United States of many immigrants and visitors who have dutifully obtained permission to come live in or visit the country.

Without getting into the validity of these decisions or the political issues that relate to them, we believe it is important to consider how these restrictions affect many of our colleagues, and graduate and undergraduate students, but also neighbors and others who come from countries affected by the executive orders. Many come from war torn areas, and have suffered tremendous personal losses, as well as already significant and extended scrutiny in obtaining the permissions that are now being questioned and put on hold. Others have already been victimized because, even though they practice a particular religion, it is not the specific current of that religion that others in their countries profess. Some decided to subject themselves to this uprooting spurred by the hope to be reunited with members of their families already in this country, or by the promise of leading a life that does not involve going to bed at night wondering if you will wake up in the morning still in one piece.

Why should this matter to us as members of the AAIS? It should for many reasons, none more important than as a reminder of how members of the culture and history we make our own once were equally victimized by executive orders and popular sentiment that we now see replicated toward others. We hope many of you have seen and read the article that our colleague and fellow member, Professor Anthony Tamburri, has written about his family’s personal experience with the Alien Enemies Act in 1942.

We would like to go back even further in time to remind ourselves that Italians were once vilified and excluded as dangerous to the health of the nation in similar ways to those we are witnessing today. For example, the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 (alternately known as the Immigration Act of 1924) was clearly meant to exclude Italian immigrants (who had come in droves in the period 1890-1920), since it restricted annual immigration from any country to 2% of the numbers from that country who had been living in the United States as of the 1890 census. Given how many more Italian (and Eastern European/Jewish) immigrants had come to the United States in the 1890-1920 years, the act obviously targeted and excluded them in primis. That was preceded in 1919 and 1920 by the infamous Palmer Raids, which targeted anarchists and political activists (many of whom were Italian) who were imprisoned and deported because their ideas were at odds with those of the government. Finally, to complete the analogy, threats to the wellbeing of Italian immigrants were often carried out in lynchings, none more egregious than the New Orleans lynching of 11 Italians in 1891 (the largest mass-lynching in American history), or the subsequent one of 5 Italian citizens in Tallulah, MS in 1899.

We write, therefore, asking our membership to think about how it wishes to act moving forward. Regardless of our political convictions, stripes, colors, or religious affiliation, it behooves us to empathize with those who are subject to these new dispositions because, once in a past that is not that distant, many of our own relatives, families, and friends might have experienced similar disruptions and fearful holds on their movement into this country (for many with similar long delays or return trips to Italy). We also need, where possible, to join in questioning the appropriateness of these actions, not because our government does not have the power (if not necessarily the right) to enforce acts that it deems appropriate for its security; but because the targeted nature of these measures seems haphazard and capricious (as Professor Tamburri points out in his article, no citizens from the countries targeted by the executive orders have been responsible for terrorist acts on American soil). As we know, capriciousness and ideological exclusions have often led to behaviors and restrictions on human rights that have had and continue to have tremendous negative impacts on our fragile, commonly shared humanity.

Recent Updates
  • Additions to Member Publications [01 Feb 2017]
  • Please note that submissions for the 2016 Book Prize should go to Dana Renga, AAIS Vice President: See details on the Book Prize page [9 September 2016]
  • A letter from Carol Lazzaro-Weis, President Emerita (see below) [5 July 2016]
  • The announcement of the winners of the 2015 Book Prize [5 July 2016]
  • A link to the 2017 joint AAIS / CSIS Conference [5 July 2016]
  • Important instructions regarding the AAIS List-Serve [21 Jun 2016]
A letter from Carol Lazzaro-Weis, President Emerita

Dear Colleagues:

As I write my last « State of the AAIS » address as President for the list serve and the website, I have some mixed feelings. However, these feelings are overwhelmingly positive. The AAIS is in stable financial condition and we are now the largest association of Italian university professors worldwide. I am proud to announce again our competent and dedicated new group of officers: President, Valerio Ferme, University of Colorado; Vice President, Dana Renga, The Ohio State University; Executive Secretary, Monica Seger, College of William and Mary; Treasurer, Elena Past, Wayne State University. I know our colleagues will bring their expertise and experience in organizing conferences to continue the traditions of the association and to suggest more innovations and initiatives as we move on. I would like to thank outgoing Vice-President, Norma Bouchard, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at San Diego State University, for her help in selecting Travel Awardees, revamping the AAIS Book Prize categories and for chairing the Book Prize committee and taking a leading role in expanding the prize categories.

First let me speak of our last very successful conference held in Baton Rouge hosted by Louisiana State University on April 21-23. Paolo Chirumbolo, Associate Professor and Head of Italian Studies at LSU, organized the conference held at the beautiful downtown Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center. I have heard from many of you about the excellent quality of the sessions. Our plenary speaker, Serenella Iovino, Università di Torino delivered a talk entitled From Slow Violence to Slow Food: Piedmont’s Stories of Landscapes, Resistance, and Liberation. Thursday evening participants were treated to a multimedia recitation by Mario Moroni of his poetry, Recitare le ceneri, assisted by Richard Hugunine on piano and Christina Santa Maria as soprano. On Friday Dennis Looney, now Director of Programs and ADFL at the Modern Language Association, gave another seminar on the state of Italian Studies in North American universities. Last year in Colorado he spoke about the present state of Italian enrollment in the United States. This year he addressed graduate students on the topic: “Connected Academics: Preparing Doctoral Students for a Variety of Careers.” Alberto Zambenedetti (Oberlin College) organized a private screening of David Morea’s documentary Before Neorealism: Italy’s Forgotten Cinema, and Laura Benedetti (Georgetown University) discussed her recent novel, Paese di Carta after my introduction at the Women’s Studies Caucus luncheon.

This quality of the sessions was no doubt complemented by spectacular views of the Mississippi from the ballroom receptions and banquet, good food and live music all around. Even the weather cooperated despite some thunderstorms initially.

Next year’s AAIS will be held at The Ohio State University, April 20-22, 2017. Our organizer is our AAIS Vice President and Associate Professor of Italian at The Ohio State University, Dana Renga. This conference will be co-sponsored by the Canadian Association for Italian Studies and by officers Sandra Parmegiani and Cristina Perissinotto. We hope you will put these dates on your calendar.

BUSINESS: By-Laws Revision

Five years ago, outgoing Vice-President, Norma Bouchard, organized a committee to revise and update the by-laws. Below are the updated by-laws that reflect our organization’s current practices. The only change that will need general approval is a clarification of the functioning of the caucuses.

The first caucus, the Women’s Caucus, was initiated in 1993. Although there is nothing in the by-laws that defines a caucus and what it should do, the Caucus raises funds and its budget is managed by the Treasurer of the AAIS. We now have three caucuses. The committee made several suggestions reviewed by the executive at the general business meeting in Baton Rouge. The Executive Committee will place these options to a vote by electronic ballet in 2016-2017. Any suggestions should be sent to President Valerio Ferme at

Graduate Student Travel Awards
We are now in our third year of granting six travel awards of $500.00 apiece to doctoral students who present their dissertation research at the AAIS annual conference. These awards have enabled graduate students to travel to our conferences from abroad and universities stateside. I was very pleased this year to see so many of our former awardees returning to participate again as they move on in their academic careers. This year, the ad-hoc committee was composed of outgoing Vice-President Norma Bouchard and myself.

The awardees are:

  • Lucia Gemmani, Indiana University, Bloomington., “Violenza per esorcizzare la guerra: I giochi nell’Adone di Marino”
  • Anna Wainwright, New York University, “From Garden to Court: The Widowhoods of Ippolita Scaravelli”
  • Juliano Saccomani, University of Georgia., “Brás, Bexiga e Barra Funda: A Representation of the Integration of Italian Immigrants Into the Population of São Paulo in the Early Twentieth Century”
  • Merry Low, Florida State University, “Sacrificial Violence in Vittoria Colonna’s Rime spirituali
  • Daniela d’Eugenio, CUNY, Graduate Center, ”The Depiction of Naples in Pompeo Sarnelli’s Posilecheata through Images and Language”
  • Sasha Goldman, Boston University, “Building Italy: The Italian Pavilion at the 1937 Paris Exposition Universelle”

The program will continue next year. Graduate students in doctoral programs worldwide are urged to apply.

AAIS Book Prize
Until 2008, the AAIS awarded one book prize a year. Starting in 2009 members could compete in four different categories (see web site). In 2015, outgoing Vice-President Norma Bouchard asked the Executive to approve the proposal from the Book Prize Committee to adjust the categories again according to submissions in the different areas of Italian studies. Category 2 is intended to offset the few submissions coming from the 17th and 18th centuries. The general category is now Film and Media Studies.

This year the categories were:

  • Medieval
  • Renaissance, 18th and 19th century
  • 20th and 21st century Literature
  • Film and other Media Studies

The awardees are:

  • Medieval: Dennis Romano. Markets and Marketplaces in Medieval Italy. Yale UP

  • Renaissance, 18th and 19th centuries: Adrian Randolph. Touching Objects. Intimate Experiences. Yale UP
  • 20th and 21st Century Literature: Giacomo Parinello. Fault Lines. Berghahn

  • Film and Other Media Studies: Jacqueline Reich. The Maciste Films of Italian Silent Cinema. Indiana UP

Jurors: Graziella Parati (Dartmouth); Gaetana Marrone (Princeton); Jon Snyder (UC-SB); Alessandro Vettori (Rutgers)


Last year the executive committee unanimously approved according to the Constitution the nomination of Professor Dino Cervigni to be Honorary President of the AAIS. This year, Professor Cervigni, as always, organized several sessions and was present at one session we held in his honor on Medieval and Renaissance Literature at the AAIS. For those of us who have participated over the last twenty years in AAIS and its conferences, Professor Cervigni needs no introduction. Yet his contributions have been crucial to this organization as well as to Italian Studies in North America.

When duty called, Professor Cervigni answered the call. He served as President of the AAIS from 1988-1992. He presided over the first major by-laws revision while President. Most importantly, he did what we ask all of our members to consider. He hosted two major and extremely successful conferences at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1993 an then again in 2005. I remember these dates since they always coincided with major tragic events in my life but they were always beautiful and successful conferences.

Let’s go back to what Professor Cervigni does and has done. Professor Cervigni’s impressive CV can be found on-line. Among so many impressive accomplishments, I refer to his successful journal, Annali d’italianistica, which chooses a different theme every year. These themes show how much the field is changing and Professor Cervigni’s choices show that he has always encouraged emerging and established scholars here and abroad to publish their research in special issues that become points of reference for discussions of important topics in the field.

We have all benefited from Dino’s research, service and dedication. On behalf of the AAIS, I express our heartfelt gratitude.


I apologize for this long letter but we have much to celebrate as we move on. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your President. I will now serve as President Emerita for one year with the task of writing the History of the AAIS, a project started in the 1990s but that needs to be placed on the website.

Please consider sharing with me your concerns and memories of the Association. You can always contact me at my e-mail

I wish all of you a peaceful and prosperous summer.

Carol Lazzaro-Weis
President Emerita AAIS