LAURA BENEDETTI, THE EAGLE AT THE GEORGETOWN OF WASHINGTON
Annotations and experiences abroad of a valuable Aquila
by Goffredo Palmerini
L’AQUILA – Laura Benedetti is an Aquila doc, even if life has taken her away from her beloved city. Born and raised in L’Aquila, graduated with honors from Rome’s “Sapienza”, 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 Professor Enrico Musacchio, with whom I 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 her Masters in Canada, Laura moved to the USA for a doctorate (PhD) at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where she also returned as visiting professor this year. 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, conferences and seminars, as confirmed by the recent publication of the volume Nascere, rebirth, start again. Images of the new beginning in Italian literature (L’Una, 2017), curated by her and Gianluigi Simonetti, with the proceedings of the important conference of the same name held in 2015 in the main hall of the University of L’Aquila, an extraordinary contribution in a project vision of cultural renaissance, after the earthquake of April 6, 2009.
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 a guest of honor in 2016 at the conference of the American Association for Italian Studies (AAIS). There were also numerous honors, such as the Wise Woman Award from the National Organization of Italian American Women (2014) and the Gold Medal from the Federation of Abruzzese Associations in the United States (2015). In 2018 the Regional Council of Abruzzo appointed her Ambassador of Abruzzo to the world. Her activity often takes her around seminars and conferences in American universities and abroad, in Italy and Europe, recently in Egypt and Japan.
Laura Benedetti is also an author of novels. A paper country (Pacini Editore, 2015) is the story of three generations of women between Italy and the United States, while Secondo piano (Pacini Editore, 2017), set in an American university, undermines the yellow conventions for 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 far as I’m concerned, I tried to make the walls of my virtual classroom as permeable as possible, organizing a series of meetings with Enrico Botta who helped us to follow closely the evolution of the situation in Italy. In another course, in which since January we had noticed 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. »
Laura, who lives in Bethesda, Maryland not far from Washington, hopes that the trend of the pandemic will evolve better and soon we can return with some serenity to travel. He has a desire to return to L’Aquila, as he does every year. Numerous times he brought students from Georgetown University for Summer School in Italy, planning many days in Abruzzo and in L’Aquila. Always amazed and intrigued, his students, to find in Abruzzo a land so rich in naturalistic and environmental beauties, treasures of art and architecture, of culture and singular traditions, in a wonderful and iridescent landscape quilted with enchanting villages and towns .
Laura Benedetti brought some of her students to L’Aquila even after the 2009 earthquake, in a solidarity project that saw them engaged on the one hand in the study, on the other in a highly intense voluntary activity on an ethical level, lived in authentic spirit Franciscan. In fact, they collaborated by providing their service together with the operators of the Mensa di Celestino, a structure that welcomes and offers meals to the poor and needy every day. They returned to the United States, those young university students, with hearts full of emotions, enriched in their heritage of humanity.