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Maria Anna Mariani

Italian Literature in the Nuclear Age

Tuesday, November 7, 2023, 5:00pm

Foster 107

Please join us to celebrate Maria Anna Mariani’s recent book, Italian Literature in the Nuclear Age: A Poetics of the Bystander (Oxford University Press, 2023). Mariani will be joined in conversation by 3CT fellow Joseph Masco, and 3CT fellow Demetra Kasimis will moderate.

Italian Literature in the Nuclear Age: A Poetics of the Bystander explores the overlooked position of the bystander in the Nuclear Age by focusing on the Italian situation as a paradigmatic case. Host to hundreds of American atomic weapons while lacking a nuclear arsenal of its own, Italy’s status was an ambiguous one: that of an unwilling–and in many ways passive–accomplice. Inspired by Seamus Heaney’s dictum that “there is no such thing as innocent by-standing,” the book frames Italy’s fraught mix of implication and powerlessness not only as a geopolitical question, but as a way to rethink the role of the sidelined intellectual in the face of mass extinction.

Italian Literature in the Nuclear Age includes discrete chapters on the major Italian intellectuals of the time: Italo Calvino, Alberto Moravia, Elsa Morante, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Leonardo Sciascia. Conscious of their own political marginalization, these authors address the atomic question through a wide range of experimental forms, approaching the nearly unthinkable theme in allusive and oblique ways. Often dismissed as disengaged, inconsistent, or merely playful, these works demand instead a political reading capable of recognizing their confrontation with the paradoxes of the nuclear age.

Maria Anna Mariani is Assistant Professor of Modern Italian Literature, Italian Undergraduate Adviser and Director of Undergraduate Studies. Mariani is a specialist of Modern Italian Literature (19th–21st Century) and also works on Memory Studies, Holocaust Studies, Jewish-Italian Literature, and Literary Theory. She is the author of Italian Literature in the Nuclear Age: A Poetics of the Bystander (Oxford University Press, 2023), Primo Levi e Anna Frank: Tra testimonianza e letteratura (Carocci, 2018), and Sull’autobiografia contemporanea. Nathalie Sarraute, Elias Canetti, Alice Munro, Primo Levi (Carocci, 2012).

Joseph Masco is Professor of Anthropology and of the Social Sciences in the College. Working at the intersection of science studies, environmental studies, media studies, and social theory, Joseph Masco’s scholarship examines the material, affective, and conceptual effects of technological revolution. He is author of The Future of Fallout, and Other Episodes in Radioactive World-Making (Duke University Press, 2021), The Theater of Operations: National Security Affect from the Cold War to the War on Terror (Duke University Press, 2014), and The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico (Princeton University Press, 2006).

This event is free and open to the public, and registration is recommended. Please email us at  if you require any accommodations to enable your full participation.