Aquilani in the world / Laura Benedetti, from Abruzzo to Washington’s Georgetown

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Laura Benedetti she is an aquilana doc, although life has taken her away from her beloved city. Born and raised in L’Aquila, graduated in literature from the “Sapienza” in Rome, she continued her studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. “I arrived in Canada from L’Aquila – Laura tells me – following the advice of Mietta D’Amico, my professor at the Scientific High School. At the University of Alberta I met the professor Enrico Musacchio, with which I have established a partnership that still lasts today. Our latest work is the edition of the chronicle of a trip from Venice to Cairo in the early sixteenth century. It was a beautiful adventure that also brought me, on the trail of our mysterious author, from the lagoon to the pyramids. » After the Masters in Canada, Laura moved to the USA for a doctorate (PhD) at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where, among other things, she returned this year as a visiting professor. Then the teaching assignments, first at Harvard and then, since 2002, at Georgetown University in Washington, where he is full professor and where he directed the Italian department for 6 years. The relationship between his university and the University of L’Aquila has allowed numerous initiatives, including the recent publication of the book “To be born, to be reborn, to start again. Images of the new beginning in Italian literature” (L’Una, 2017), edited from her and from Gianluigi Simonetti.

For her scientific activity, which ranges from the Middle Ages to the most recent literature, Laura has received support and recognition from numerous institutions such as the Renaissance Society of America, the Bogliasco Foundation and the Delmas Foundation. Awarded the Flaiano Prize for Italian Studies for the volume “The Tigress in the Snow. Motherhood and Literature in Twentieth-Century Italy”, she was guest of honor at the 2016 American Association for Italian Studies conference. Numerous honors also , such as the Wise Woman Award from the National Organization of Italian American Women (2014) and the Gold Medal from the Abruzzo Associations Federation (2015).

In 2018 the Abruzzo Regional Council appointed her Ambassador of Abruzzo to the world.

Laura Benedetti is also an author of novels. A paper country is the story of three generations of women between Italy and the United States, while Secondo piano, set in an American university, undermines the conventions of the yellow to ask pressing questions on the contradictions of globalization, on the role of universities and on the ability of writing to restore the balance of a world crossed by dizzying changes. Just writing and teaching were at the center of our recent conversation, at the end of a semester of teaching marked by the challenges launched by Covid-19.

“This large-scale experience – Laura tells me – clearly demonstrated that distance learning is a poor substitute for human encounters in classrooms.”

I asked her if she would save anything from this experience. “As for me, I tried to make the walls of my virtual classroom as permeable as possible, organizing a series of meetings with Enrico Botta which helped us to follow closely the evolution of the situation in Italy. In another course, in which we had noticed since January the extraordinary correspondences between the situation of the Decameron and ours, we decided to create a reduced and virtual version of Boccaccio’s masterpiece.

During the last quarter of an hour of each lesson, Zoom’s virtual background became an image of the Tuscan countryside and the king or queen of the day told a story on a theme he considered important. We have collected the stories in a document that I hope will always remind us how narratives constitute an antidote to fragmentation and cement the sense of community ».

aura hopes to return to L’Aquila soon, as it does every year.

Goffredo Palmerini

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