Skip to main content

Simona Di Martino

2023 Jeffs Fellow (Working with Brotherton Special Collections)
Areas of expertise
modern and contemporary literature; children’s literature; YA’s literature; Italian; English; girlhood; youth studies; trans-nationality; readership; material culture.
Clothworkers South Building, University of Leeds Campus
Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute

I hold a PhD in Italian Studies from the University of Warwick. After being a Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies at the same university, I joined the Centre for Contemporary Women’s Writing (CCWW) at the Institute of Languages, Cultures and Societies (ILCS), School of Advanced Studies, University of London. My academic interests span late 18th- and early 19th-century Italian poetry and the Gothic, representations of women, mothers and wet-nurses in 20th-century and contemporary literature, family novels, popular culture and comics, children’s and young adults’ literature, girlhood, transnationalism, and intermediality. I love interdisciplinary research and cross-faculty collaborations.


I am now in the process of turning my PhD thesis into a monograph, being it the first study about the outset of the Italian Gothic between 1789 and 1816. Challenging the current critical paradigm about the non-existence of the Italian Gothic, my study demonstrates that Italian writers did produce Gothic literary works through the incorporation and reconfiguration of Dante’s imagery. Drawing on Kristeva’s theory of ‘abjection’, Gothic Studies, Aesthetics, Reception Theories, and Medical Humanities, my research shows that Italian authors encapsulate suffering, death, and supernatural visions in poetical texts that, unlike prose, allowed them to employ traditional models (Dante) and negotiate Catholic motifs and deathly aesthetics. Specifically, my research analyses the ways in which the Dantean model influenced canonical authors (Giacomo Leopardi’s Appressamento della morte, 1816) through the mediation of marginalised ones (Alfonso Varano’s Visioni sacre e morali (1789) and Salomone Fiorentino’s Elegie in morte di Laura sua moglie, 1790). The overall aim of my study is then to trace the history of the Italian Gothic, shed light on neglected poets and poems, and originally interpret Dante’s legacy in the 18th century.

Visit my personal website to view my projects and works and my Academia profile to view an extended list of all of my publications.

My research at Leeds aims at complementing with a transnational perspective the work I have started at the CCWW in London on Italian literature for young girls, the making of Italian girlhood, and the impact of witches as role models on girls’ readership. There, my project, entitled Charming Witches: Role Models for Girls in Children’s Literature and Teen Comics in Contemporary Italy, investigates the ways in which magic girls, and particularly witches, represented generations of young girls in Italian literature, being the main characters of children’s books as well as comic heroines. Case studies for the analysis are Bianca Pitzorno’s multi-translated Streghetta mia [The littlest witch] (1988), together with the globally successful and widely reprinted comics series W.I.T.C.H. (2001-12) created by Elisabetta Gnone. My aim is to investigate how magic and witchcraft, despite their apparent relegation by society to folkloric and non-existent entities, shed light on aspects of life that young girls face in everyday life, such as being considered different, weird, and therefore marginalised. My goal is to examine successful literary models fashioned by Italian female writers and to analyse they ways in which they act as examples of powerful, successful girls.


My new project Exploring Transnational Girlhood in Mary Cowden Clark’s Children and Young Adults Literary Production is focused on primary sources included in the Novello Cowden Clark (NCC) Collection at the Brotherton Library. The Novello Cowden Clarkes were a well-known family of musicians, writers, artists, singers, actors, and were popular within literary and artistic circles. My research focuses on Mary Victoria (1809-98) who achieved fame as a writer and is particularly remembered for her devotion to Shakespeare. In 1828 she married Keats’s friend Charles Cowden Clarke (1787-1877), himself a writer and a great populariser of literature. Scholarly attention has been reserved to The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines (1850), Mary Cowden Clarke’s important novellas that shift marginalised female characters to the foreground imagining the girlhood of some female protagonists of Shakespeare’s plays. Nevertheless, the author’s literary production for young readers has remained unexplored.

My aim is, therefore, to examine the literary production of Mary Cowden Clark addressed to children and young adults. I assess the ways in which Cowden Clark constructs exemplar characters that act as role models for children and young girls, drawing from her transnational upbringing, being her of Italian origin but having grown up in England.


  • “Introduzione” inQuaderni d’Italianistica: Quel che resta del giorno. La notte nella letteratura italiana dal Settecento ai giorni nostri, edited by Simona Di Martino, vol.43, no1, 2022, pp. 5-11.
  • “Le visioni letterarie di Alfonso Varano e Giacomo Leopardi: tra teologia e ghost story?” inQuaderni d’Italianistica: Quel che resta del giorno. La notte nella letteratura italiana dal Settecento ai giorni nostri, edited by Simona Di Martino, vol. 43, no1, 2022, pp. 57–80.
  • “Gothic Poetry” inItalian Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion, ed. by Marco Malvestio and Stefano Serafini, Edinburgh University Press (forthcoming March 2023), pp. 107-22.
  • “Wet Nurses’ Tales: Female Rivalry, Motherhood Performativity, and Bestiality in Pirandello’sLa baliaand Il libretto rosso” in Pirandello Studies, vol. 42, 2022, pp. 55-68.
  • “Una scampagnata. La metamorfosi della marcia su Roma raccontata in Canale Mussolini – Antonio Pennacchi, Canale Mussolini” inNuovi Argomenti, 9, Mondadori, January-April 2022.
  • “The Figure of the Wet Nurse from Vittorelli to Pirandello” inNotes in Italian Studies, 1, 2021, ed. by Bianca Rita Cataldi, Claudia Dellacasa, Lachlan Hughes.
  • “‘Orecchie rose e labbra mozze’ and other Bodily Suffering in Alfonso Varano. Dantean Reminiscences in Eighteenth-Century Sepulchral Poetry” inBibliotheca Dantesca. Journal of Dante Studies, 4, art. 6, 2021.
  • “Questo è il libro per cui sono venuto al mondo. L’epopea storico-familiare in Canale Mussolini di Antonio Pennacchi” inNon poteva staccarsene senza lacerarsi. Per una genealogia del romanzo familiare italiano, ed. by Filippo Gobbo, Ilaria Muoio, Gloria Scarfone, Pisa University Press, 2020, pp. 195-217.


PhD in Italian Studies, University of Warwick

MA in Italian Modern Literature and Culture, Università di Roma La Sapienza

BA in Humanities: Literatures, Arts, and Philosophy, Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo