Italy Reads 2023 Kicks Off 14th Year of Activities

October 10, 2023, marked the start of the Italy Reads 2023 program, which this year focuses on Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. For the occasion, John Cabot University welcomed Jason Stacy, Ph.D., professor of History and Social Science Pedagogy at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (USA) as Keynote Speaker. Stacy is the author of Spoon River America: Edgar Lee Masters and the Myth of the American Small Town (University of Illinois Press, 2021). His Keynote Address “Dead Reckoning: Navigating Spoon River Anthology” was attended by an audience of 100 Italian high school students, teachers, and members of the English-speaking community.

John Cabot University Guarini Campus
John Cabot University Guarini Campus

The son of a high school teacher, and a former high school teacher himself, Stacy was particularly attuned to his audience as he guided them through an understanding of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, which “was born at a point of friction between competing social, political, and economic forces that manifest themselves in the book’s characters.” He discussed the social and historical aspects, as well as considerations of Masters’ life that influenced his work. Stacy pointed out that Spoon River Anthology has never gone out of print since it was first published in 1915. While discussing the reasons for the continued success of this work over the years, he stated, “Literature lives within our brains and the Spoon River Anthology is encrusted with interpretations of those who have read it over the years.”

Participants who were present in-person had the rare opportunity to admire an original copy of Spoon River Anthology that Dr. Stacy brought with him.

Stacy gave an online Master Class for Teachers in which he discussed with Italian high school teachers some of the many ways to engage students in a dynamic approach to Masters’ work. He was interested in learning from the Italian high school teachers about the significant impact this work has had on Italian culture through the translation by Fernanda Pivano and the singer-songwriter Fabrizio De André.

Another stable element of the Italy Reads kick-off events is the opportunity for Italian high school students to interview the keynote speaker to gain in-depth knowledge of not only the work of literature and the author, but also of the work of an academic who studies this material. Students then develop a newsletter-type summary of what they learned. Many of the questions posed to Stacy reflected the students’ own cultural background, integrating this new author and information into their own course of academic study.

Finally, Italy Reads participants had the pleasure of attending a guest lecture called Capturing Your Ideas About ‘Spoon River Anthology’ in a 3-minute Video by JCU Professor Jenn Lindsay. A sociologist and award-winning filmmaker, Professor Lindsay offered very useful suggestions to students on how to communicate using visual media as they approach Spoon River Anthology.

John Cabot University looks forward to yet another exciting year with Italy Reads and the hundreds of high school students participating from across Italy.