Saturday, December 5, 2015

An Italian professor of eco-criticism explains about the currrent status of ''Cli-fi'' in Italy now

Recently, this blog received a letter from an Italian professor of eco literature and eco criticism in Italy. Here are excerpts from the email we received after we inquired about the current status of the cli-fi term in Italian media and literary circles (and academia):
Dear Dan,
You asked me about Cli-Fi in Italy. Well, nobody knows what we are talking about; actually, very few people know what "ecocriticism" is here in Italy and this is our first big challenge. Fortunately, over the years, things have been changing and now more and more people are stumbling into this "word"  - ecocriticism. Most of the time the general public cannot really grasp its scope and since even academics are still puzzled by its theoretical frame and methods (the most common question is: ''can a non-anthropocentric humanism be considered humanism at all?''), you may imagine how difficult it is to be taken seriously.
However, last May of this year 2015, when I presented an ecocritical project on food in literature for a national grant and I won it. From that moment I have been invited to talk about this discipline and a great help has come from a wonderful film festival on environment and climate change (google for ''Cinemambiente'') that takes place every year in Turin ITALY and is gradually strengthening its leading role in Europe.
Right now I am organizing a festival on migrant women and food.

My friend and colleague Professor Serenella Iovino is the first scholar who introduced ecocriticism in Italy and now we are often working together (even though in two different departments), trying to teach environmental humanities and organize activities with our students. I teach American Literature in the department of Studi Umanistici and I started offering courses on ecocriticism only 5 years ago. We took a chance because the whole academic community expressed a good dose of skepticism.
Well, it turned out that the first year I had 130 students enrolled, this year I have 300! Which means that there is a strong need to investigate the interrelationships of the human, nonhuman, and more than human through texts. With this aim in mind, we also organized an International group. Here is the link; I am sure you know some of our partners:
I am not an expert on Cli-Fi, but I started reading books and criticism and I got hooked up. So last year I decided to go forth with my second idea and organized a course on Cli-Fi here at my university.
I knew this was a more difficult challenge for many reasons:
1) Most of the books are not translated into Italian yet and this course is taught in Italian. As a consequence, I could choose only among the few novels that are available and I decided for Atwood, Kingsolver, and Eggers. Yes, I know, this last one is not Cli-Fi at all, but I really wanted my students to know more about Hurricane Katrina (completely forgotten by the Italian media), especially since this year that marks its 10th anniversary.
2) To tell the truth, the Italian people do not read much anymore...
3) How to be convincing enough and pass the message that speculative narrative and Cli-Fi fiction is not mere entertainment and that we all need to be more conscious and responsible not only as readers, but as living creatures on this planet?
Well, in the end, my students were incredible. We are halfway finished with the course now and after every lesson I receive dozens of email messages from them, sending me links to this or that site, or telling me about a new book they now want to read...

When last Thursday I told them about your email to me, Dan -- I talked about you in the very first class for our course -- they were thrilled! So here comes an invitation: would you be willing to meet us via Skype next week. I could write an article and ask the media/press to be present in class. I do believe this could contribute to our common cause.
If I am not mistaken, the time change is of 8 hours. My class starts at 3 pm, which means that in Taiwan it will be 11 pm. Would that do for you? 

Thank you very much for your interest.

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