Teresa Fiore, a member of CSULB’s Department of Romance, German, Russian Languages and Literatures since 2003, was recognized recently with a one-year teaching and research fellowship at Harvard University beginning in September.
The Lauro De Bosis Visiting Fellowship in the History of Italian Civilization, which carries a $45,000 stipend, offers junior faculty a chance to use Harvard's resources to pursue a project with a substantial Italian component. Fiore will research 19th and 20th century Italian civilization through the lens of migration, as well as teach a course called “The Culture of Italian Emigration.”
“I am incredibly pleased to receive this fellowship, as you can imagine,” said Fiore, “since it will give me the opportunity to carve out some time to devote exclusively to my research.”
The Italian immigration experience is like no other, said Fiore. “This is the only European country that has given so many of its people to the world in what some historians have called a diaspora, only to see, with little interruption, foreign immigrants begin moving into that country,” she explained. “Until 1970, Italy exported labor. In the late 1970s, Italy started receiving it. There is nothing comparable, not in France and not in Spain. Plus, Italy has never had a large colonial empire, so those who come to Italy today are not post-colonial subjects.”
The pattern of immigration has left its stamp. “Immigration began right after Italy was unified (1861),” she said. “Imagine creating a country only to see a very large portion of the population go abroad. Between 1870 and 1970, 27 million people left the country.”
Her research explores how the history of emigration and immigration has affected and continues to influence Italian culture, and in particular the definition of its national identity. “Even though in my work I rely on sociological and historical studies, I am particularly interested in exploring the representation of these experiences in cultural texts by canonical and less well known authors active in Italy, along with those by Italian American artists,” she said. “Films, novels, autobiographies and songs can effectively reveal the connections between the microcosm of individual aspirations and opportunities and the macrocosm of class relations, gender figurations, and international politics and policies.”
The De Bosis Fellowship is named for the gifted Italian-American poet Lauro De Bosis who became a fierce antagonist to fascism in the 1920s. Upon his death in a plane crash when he was 30, American actress Ruth Draper endowed the fellowship in his memory at Harvard, where he had taught.
Fiore earned her B.A. in Foreign Languages from Italy’s University of Trieste, her M.A. from San Diego State and her doctorate in 2002 from UC San Diego. Her doctoral dissertation was titled “Pre-Occupied Spaces: Re-Configuring the Italian Nation Through its Migrations.” She has regularly presented her research at national and international conferences, and has published essays and articles both in the U.S. and in Italy. Since last summer, Fiore has been working on the most recent issue of Quaderni del ‘900, a yearly bilingual literary journal of Italian Studies, published by CSULB. Titled “The Road to Italy and the U.S.,” the issue is devoted to the life and works of novelist and screenwriter John Fante, and is due out this month.
“I am incredibly pleased to receive this fellowship, as you can imagine, since it will give me the opportunity to carve out some time to devote exclusively to my research.”
Fiore sees immigration as offering a unique window on society at large.
“When you talk about immigration, you talk about economics, social security systems, religion, education, urban issues as well as international affairs,” she said. “It has to do with everything in a society at a particular moment and, inevitably, with its culture, once new cultures come along and changes result.”
The Sicilian-born Fiore previously received a Fulbright Scholarship which brought her to the U.S. and a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to pursue research in northern Italy’s Bellagio.
Her personal experience informs her research. “I consider myself a privileged immigrant but even privileged immigrants must deal with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and I have 12 years of experience dealing with them,” she said. “I hope my research helps people to feel differently about immigrants.”Fiore is pleased and excited to be heading to Harvard. “It is a great opportunity to be in a new environment where I can focus on my project and see which directions it can go,” she said. “I really welcome this opportunity.”