By Caylee Brand and Ryan Manor
Stony Brook University and Florence University of the Arts - The American University of Florence (FUA-AUF) are pleased to announce the 12th Annual Conference entitled, Gardens of Culture: Italo Calvino’s Memos for the New Millennium. The academic conference will take place in Florence from Friday, December 1st, through Saturday, December 2nd, 2023. For the first time in two years, the conference will be held in person, allowing for the unique opportunity to engage in scholarly discussions and exchange of ideas regarding this year’s theme. As conveyed by the conference title, the theme is centered around the renowned Italian author Italo Calvino, and will feature keynote speakers, panel discussions, and presentations from scholars, students, and Florentine residents.
FUA-AUF faculty member Fabio Binarelli, who teaches Humanities and Music, and Nicoletta Salomon, who teaches in the Fine Arts Department, were named chief organizers of the 2023 conference. They decided to feature Calvino as 2023 marks his 100th birthday. They “hope to spark a new interest in his literature,” Binarelli explained. As Calvino is a household name throughout Italy and much of the world, they are eager to share his life’s work with a new generation of students to keep his legacy alive.
The conference aims to explore Calvino’s personal, artistic, and cultural heritage, through an interdisciplinary approach. Salomon stated, “Calvino has shaped not just literature, but also the way we think. So I think that…this conference will teach students how to blend critical thinking and literal thinking.” The conference will address topics and disciplines from a wide array of academic fields including architecture, art, environmental sustainability, geography, history, politics, and more. “For me Calvino is like a compass, someone that is able to guide you into different domains. He shows you the world from different perspectives, always with creativity and with a sense of a dense spirituality,” says Binarelli.
In addition to attending the conference, students have the opportunity to actively participate in a variety of ways. These include presenting their own research related to Calvino's work or themes explored in his writing, as well as participating in panel discussions and conversations with scholars and experts.
“The students are actively involved in this conference. Our students are actual presenters, so there are student panels. Coordinated by their professors, students will be invited to present their contribution at the conference. Students will be in charge to welcome guests of the conference and PR students will be in charge to take care of the overall organization. Students are not just a passive attendant of the conference, they are actively involved.”
So what are the main takeaways FUA-AUF organizers hope attendees will gain from the 2023 conference? Binarelli hopes the event will encourage people “to read more, to rediscover or discover for the first time the unforgettable characters of Calvino, or also to create their own.” As for Salomon, she is focused on spreading Calvino’s belief “that a life devoted to culture is a well-lived life.” Overall, the conference aims to shed light on the role of Calvino’s work in literary education for all ages.
Gardens of Culture: Italo Calvino’s Memos for the New Millenium will be located at Corso Dei Tintori, 21 in Florence on December 1st and 2nd 2023. Further information can be found here, with more updates to come as the conference approaches.