Italy Reads 2022 Kicks Off 13th Edition with Annual Keynote Address

Italy Reads kicked off its 13th year as JCU’s community-based English language cultural exchange program with the annual Keynote Address on October 18, 2022. The work of American literature selected for this year is Margaret Fuller’s Summer on the Lakes in 1843.

On the occasion of JCU’s 50th anniversary, an online audience of 150 teachers, students, and scholars welcomed Keynote Speaker Katie Simon, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the English Department at Georgia College, who presented “Thinking through Fuller: Environment, Aesthetics, and Social Justice.”

Professor Simon was introduced by Professor Sonia Di Loreto, from the Università di Torino, Dipartimento di Lingue e letterature straniere e culture moderne, and President of the Margaret Fuller Society. Professor Di Loreto gave an overview of the author and contextualized her connection with Italy in the presentation “Margaret Fuller’s Rome.”

In her introduction, Di Loreto said that Summer on the Lakes in 1843 is an interesting and complex text by a fascinating and little-known author who is considered one of the pioneers of the first wave of feminism in America. Margaret Fuller was a highly educated woman, who dedicated much of her professional life to issues of social justice. She focused on matters of labor and women’s work. Di Loreto spoke of how Margaret Fuller spent time as the first American woman foreign correspondent in Italy for the New York Tribune during the period of the “Republican Experiment” in 1849. As a leading intellectual of her time, Fuller embraced the challenges of discovering this new and tumultuous period in Italian democracy. In April 1849, Fuller was nominated by Cristina Trivulzio di Belgiojoso to be the Organizer of the Hospital Fatebenefratelli for the care of wounded soldiers and citizens during the Republic. Fuller provided support to the formation the Italian Republic and to relations between Italy and the United States of America. Not content to be an outside observer, Fuller had become a cittadina of Rome. In her article Recollections of the Vatican, during the time of the siege of Rome, Fuller documents the tainted landscape of arms and weapons, departing from the romantic, idyllic image often conveyed by her contemporaries.

In “Thinking through Fuller: Environment, Aesthetics, and Social Justice,” Professor Simon supported how Fuller, the most radical feminist in 19th Century America, was central to the Transcendentalist Movement and to her period. After publishing Summer on the Lakes in 1843, Fuller became a star reporter for the New York Daily Tribune and wrote a great deal about issues of social justice. Summer on the Lakes in 1843 was important to that transition in her career.

Fuller’s text introduces recurring themes of failure, fragmentary knowledge, and partial understanding both in its content and in its structure. She speaks to contemporary questions of race relations, representation, gender identity, equity, and inclusion. In Summer on the Lakes in 1843, Fuller critiques what she observes and her own culturally inherited “lenses” through which she considers her surroundings. Her work called upon the reader to pay attention to issues of social justice. She presents a mode of writing about the landscape and racialized violence that forces the reader to examine their own ethical and political commitments.

During the Q&A session that followed, Professor Simon said that, as President of the Margaret Fuller Society, she was thrilled to see so many teachers and students learning about Margaret Fuller and Summer on the Lakes in 1843.