Interview: 100 Years of Italica

This year is Italica’s hundredth anniversary volume year. Visit the Scholarly Publishing Collective to read Volume 100, Issue 1; listen to The UPside podcast episode with the journal’s editor; or read the interview below.

University of Illinois Press (UIP): I’m excited to present our interview recognizing the 100th volume year of the journal Italica. We’ll be discussing the journal’s extensive history, current and notable content, challenges faced by the journal, and it’s future aspirations.

I’m joined today by our special guest Dr. Giovanna Summerfield, the editor of Italica.

Giovanna Summerfield (GS):Ciao!” Salve a tutti, greetings to everyone.

UIP: Welcome, Giovanna! Let’s start by getting to know you a bit better. Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?

GS: Sure, I am Giovanna Summerfield, a Professor of Italian and French at Auburn University as well as book review editor for Modern Italy, by Cambridge University Press, founding editor for a new journal I.S. Interdisciplinary Studies on the Mediterranean by Mimesis International, and of couse, you already said it—I’m the editor of Italica.

I have a PhD from the University of Florida in Romance languages and literatures with a minor in European and Mediterranean History, after having attained an MA in French Literature and a BA in Political Science. I was born and raised in Sicily, Italy, and moved to the US in the early 1990s after residing for four years in the UK.

UIP: I’d love to hear more about how you got involved with Italica.

GS: Yes, I have been a long-standing member of AATI (the American Association of Teachers of Italian), which is connected with the journal. I went through a proper selection/interview process and I was honored to have been chosen to serve as editor. I would like to add that it is a 5-year term. I am the second woman editor of the journal, after Olga Ragusa, who by the way was also a Sicilian and born in Catania, just like me.

UIP: Thank you, we’re so glad to have you here with us today. As we’re recognizing the 100th volume year, there’s obviously a ton of history and background. I’ll start by giving a brief overview of the journal’s content: Italica covers Italian language, literature, culture, and language pedagogy including interdisciplinary and comparative studies. It includes reviews, announcements, and bibliographies. The journal serves members of the American Association of Teachers of Italian and other readers interested in Italian topics.

Alright, back to you, Giovanna—what can you tell us about the history of the journal and how it has evolved over the past century?

GS: Though some of my colleagues have been more skilled and articulated in giving this history in writing (we have published it in several places)—I would like to credit here some of the scholars like Irving Porter, Christopher Kleinhenz, Albert Mancini, Anthony Tamburri, and most recently, our current president of AATI, Ryan Calabretta-Sajder—but I can start by mentioning the founding fathers of Italica: Rudolph Altrocchi (1924-1928), Herbert Austin (1928-1933), John Van Horne (1933-1942) and Joseph Fucilla (1943-1968). 

At the beginning the journal had the name of Bulletin of the American Association of Teachers of Italian, then Italica: Bulletin of the AATI, with the goal of being a venue for the research of the teachers of Italian working in North America and to exchange research and resources about the teaching of the language. On this topic I would like to mention that there were some stats that were published about the student enrollment and a list of courses and study abroad programs during the editorship of Altrocchi; there was also an invaluable Status of Italian in the Colleges published during the editorship of Austin in 1933; and a new section in the journal dedicated to the dissertations, either completed and in progress, during the editorship of Fucilla.

The pedagogical side was always present during the leadership of Olga Ragusa, who was the editor of Italica from 1968 to 1983. She actually focused on certain issues dedicated exclusively to teaching and created a position as Assistant Editor for Pedagogy that was filled by Anthony Mollica.  It is also true that during her editorship the readers of Italica enjoyed special issues, issues dedicated also to special themes of literature and language to gain the interest of junior scholars.

The editors that followed, Robert Rodini (1984-1993) and Albert Mancini (1994-2003), who was also President of AATI three times, increased the distribution of the journal. With Mancini, Italica added 4 appointed Associate Editors, each dedicated to review, pedagogy, bibliography, and production. 

Andrea Ciccarelli, editor of Italica for 10 years starting in 2004 highlighted a section dedicated to translations. With him we start to see bigger, longer volumes: we go from 42 pages of the first volume to about 1,000 of Volume 98, which appeared in 2021. At the time it was Michael Lettieri as the editor, actually he served from 2014 to 2021. He created, with the publisher at the time, Soleil Publishing, a new cover for each issue that based on the theme/topic, and continued that great balance of themes and sections and also of the group of contributors, junior and senior scholars, and of the board’s members to represent a greaographical diversity. Both Ciccarelli and Lettieri, thanks to the support of their own institutions, had grad students working for them, which as you can imagine, was for a mutual benefit.

I started my term in January 2022.

UIP: How do you envision the future of the journal in the next century? Are there any specific goals you’re hoping to achieve?

GS: Like all other editors before me, I am very interested in a variety of approaches, themes, and I would like to give space to literature, media, art, linguistics, culture, and pedagogy, with a special focus for each issue.

I was interested in an elegant and consistent cover for the journal that could be recognized easily, and I thank actually the University of Illinois Press staff who made this happen. I’m very pleased with that.

I have a keen interest in digital and visual, and I have started some recordings to introduce special issues led by the guest editors (we actually have our first video already posted on the UIP website, and I thank Michelle for that help) and the presence of a special corner for interviews with scholars but also filmmakers, artists, and writers.

I am also very interested in new research and/or research that has been thus far neglected. I have added a media review editor to the position of book review editor, since I would like to include, as I mentioned, digital projects and perhaps digital art exhbits.

Of course I am still working very closely with a wonderful team of associate editors, board members, and referees. Our list of board members includes now more geographical locations and institutions.

As I mentioned there are already special issues scheduled to appear once a year. And this is, to me, a way to connect more with our readers and colleagues who are proposing their own themes and teams of contributors. 

My long term vision is to connect more with the junior scholars, to offer digital opportunities, and, of course, to continue to produce excellent issues for this long-standing and prestigious journal.

UIP: Thank you for sharing your insights on the journal’s goals and long-term vision. It’s evident that the success of any scholarly journal relies on the collaborative efforts of the academic community. With that in mind, I’m curious to learn more about the individuals who contribute to the mission and decision-making processes for the journal. Could you please tell us about the journal’s editorial board and associate editors? 

GS: I would love to share, as these are some of the most dedicated, patient, and generous scholars.  They really represent a diversity of scholarly interest, approach, and geography. If you don’t mind, I’d like to mention, and thank, particularly my Book Review Editor, Jason Laine, from Penn State University; my Media Review Editor, Silvia Valisa, from Florida State University; and my Associate Editors—Theodore Cachey, University of Notre Dame; Luca Caminati, Concordia University, in Canada; Roberto Dainotto, Duke University; Clorinda Donato, California State University, Long Beach; Mark Pietralunga, Florida State University; Colleen Ryan, from Indiana University, Bloomington; and Deanna Shemek, University of California, Irvine.

Of course my editorial board—I’m not going to mention every name, but it is also comprised of esteemed scholars and colleagues—there are about 22-23 of them that represent countries like the US, Canada, Ireland, France, and Italy. I’m very pleased with them and I hope they are too, and that they continue to serve.

UIP: That’s great. Now that we have a better understanding of how their expertise and guidance help maintain the journal’s high academic standards, I’m eager to dive into the content of the latest issue. Volume 100, Issue 1, is available now in print and online via the Scholarly Publishing Collective. What can you tell us about it, or about upcoming installments in Volume 100? 

GS:  Volume 100.1, as usual, has a variety of articles, spanning from Renaissance to modern literature and regional poetry, so you’ll see articles talking about Machiavelli’s restyling of afterlife, Cesare Pavese e i libri del fondo Molina. You’ll also have a special focus—as I mentioned before, each issue has a special focus—and in particular Volume 100, Issue 1, has the Shoah as a special focus with contributions not only regarding literature, but also the pedagogical side of it. And last but not least, about 10-12 reviews.

Volume 100.2, which is going to be ready very soon, follows the same patterns, so includes again articles that are diverse and span from Ariosto and Boccaccio to the new Netflix series The White Lotus, Season 2, which was in Sicily; again has the special focus, this time on language with two articles on Italian associations in Brasil; an online community post-Covid; as the second one with the number and outcomes within the job market of students holding degrees in Italian in Canada.

The last one, 100.3, is a special issue—as I mentioned there is one per year—and this special issue is titled “Real Women and Imagined Feminity: Images of Womanhood in Modern Italy,” an issue that aims to combine gender and visual studies to provide a thorough analysis of how the (self)representation of womanhood evolved from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries through and across different media.

UIP: Thanks, Giovanna, it sounds like a packed issue—it sounds great. Okay, now for a tougher question. Can you tell us about challenges that the journal has faced, or that you have encountered as editor?

GS: The challenges were the typical transition pains, it was kind of the very beginning of course when you are passing the material the expertise, evertying, from one editor to another from one publisher to another, etc. It’s common. Nothing insurmountable, but that entailed patience and discipline.  And actually at this poing, I would like to thank Michael Lettieri, my predecessor; the associate editors; the board; and the publishers for their patience and collaboration.

Along the way, sometimes, some frustration at times is due to the limitation of time and people. I spend my afternoons, after teaching, connecting with authors and referees and reading and rereading—but all is forgotten when the issue comes out and I know that it offers precious insight and delight to our readers.

UIP: All understandable challenges. But of course, we want to make sure we get the positive side, too: What has been the most rewarding part of being editor?

GS: Well, I already gave some positive conclusions there but I would like to add that though I have been in academia for more than 20 years and know many colleagues, the journal gives me more opportunity to interact and know other scholars; it gives me also the honor of reading more and different scholarship than I am used to read for my own interests; it keeps me updated and on my toes and I do hope these are also the thoughts of our readers.

UIP: Considering the vast scope of Italian language, literature, and culture, how does Italica ensure a balanced representation of various subfields within Italian studies?

GS: As I mentioned earlier, we do want a balanced representation—and this is something that happens each time thanks to the contributions that are submitted, thanks to the referee process, thanks to the assistance of our editorial staff, and thanks to the addition of special focus or special issues.

UIP: Are there any specific subfields or emerging areas of research that you would like to see explored more in Italica?

GS: Italian studies just like any other scholarly field conserves the same, traditional, if you will, interesting topics while at the same time is impacted by innovative fields or approaches, the same ones that are impacting the teaching, the learning field, the same ones that are culturally impacting our society at large. Thus, I am interested to explore, and hopefully have submissions from fields like STEAM, Civic engagement, environmental studies, or issues like femicide and Mediterranean involvement as well as AI and new trends in the classroom.

UIP: I know in the beginning in your background you mentioned you’re also a professor of both Italian and French, and involved in your own research, in addition to being the editor of Italica. Can you tell us a little bit about one of your recent publications?

GS: Thanks for asking…. In my spare time, yes the little that I have, I write scholarly books and essays, novels and poems.

For the sake of brevity, I would focus on two publications that are very dear to me and they’re actually about to be published: one is a co-edited book titled Unframing and Reframing Mediterranean Spaces and Identities, which will be published by Brill, and a special issue of the Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies, titled “Navigating the Mediterranean,” which hopefully will be published by December.  I am currently trying to complete an anthology titled Donne di Sicilia.  Scrittrici siciliane dal 1200 al 1900 (Women of Sicily. Sicilian Women Writers from 1200 to 1900).

UIP: You weren’t kidding about being busy! I’m curious to know how your personal experiences and research influence the direction of Italica’s content, or vice versa—if your work as editor of Italica inspires your own research.

GS:  As you can probably gather from my brief bio I have a very interdisciplinary education: that, paired with my innate curiosity and desire to have always new projects and research, gives me a sense of direction, but mostly a sense of wonder and expectations. The submissions  are often inspiring and it does not take much for me to start drafting a plan for an issue or a year volume.

UIP: As we wrap up, what advice would you give to aspiring scholars in the field of Italian Studies?

GS: This is the most difficult question of the day, I think! If you have already decided to be a scholar in Italian Studies, you do not need any advice from me. Just follow your passion.

But if I am still required to answer the question and to give an advice, I would say: keep up with the studies, the conferences, the scholars around you and their works. Connect, team-up, reach out. It is very important to brainstorm, to have a mentor, actually a team of mentors, a wide range of venues and possibilities to express your interests and your research. But still follow your heart, don’t forget that.

When I decided to work on the long eighteenth century, and went to grad school for that, that trend so to speak had already gone away, shut down, buried perhaps, and my professors were looking at me like, “What? You want to study this?” but I could not work on any other period, nothing interested me as much. But there was a niche, there was something right, that somebody has not researched or explored, something overlooked, authors to uncover, things to connect and dig up. A true love story! And the love story continues, it never ends.

UIP: Are there any resources or opportunities you would recommend for those looking to contribute to the field and potentially publish in Italica?

GS: For junior scholars, I would definitely say read andreread your work and have the work read by colleagues, your mentor(s) as I mentioned before, but sometimes even someone out of your field or academia altogether.

Read up on new works. Before submitting your work to us, and this is for all, junior and less junior scholars, familiarize yourselves with the publication, with the work already published, the format. I believe both Italica, the website of the publisher, and AATI has all norms to submit. And this applies for submission to any publication. Of course they might have a different style—rather than following the MLA format they might follow Chicago or another style, but it’s very important to look at other issues to see the nature of other articles and then to follow those norms.

Our journal is peer reviewed, of course. I am very responsive, so if you send something I will at least acknowledge that I have received the work and it will be going through the peer review process. Give us time, because the peer review process is very time consuming for everybody, and its based really on the generosity of the referees, of our colleagues who are reading the submissions. I’ll keep you posted along the way, and I’ll forward also the feedback of the referees, because we want this to be a very constructive and positive experience. 

UIP: Thanks so much, Giovanna. I’m sure that advice will be very helpful for up-and-coming scholars. I wanted to say it has been an absolute pleasure talking with you today. Now, I don’t speak Italian, but I wanted to give it a shot to say, “grazie mille” (I hope I didn’t butcher that too bad).

GS: Grazie a voi! Thank you! It has been a pleasure indeed.  I’m honored to be part of this celebration and to be the editor of such a prestigious journal.  And, I guess, to share this special celebration with you, the readers.

UIP: Yes, thank you for sharing your insights and experiences—and helping us celebrate this incredible milestone for the journal. And a big thanks also to you, our readers, for joining us today in celebration of the 100th volume year of Italica. To learn more about the journal visit us online at

For further reading, the University of Illinois Press is also the publisher of three other journals in the field of Italian studies: Diasporic Italy, Italian Americana, and Italian American Review. You can view all of these and more at

About Kristina Stonehill