The Taste of Italy: Lecture series of RMU Italy Forum starting April 24

At the end of last year, the strategic alliance of the Rhine-Main-Universities (RMU) launched the newly established RMU Italy Forum. To consolidate the universities’ joint activities in research and teaching, a series of lectures will be held this summer.

The taste of Italy: The lectures are all about Italian food as cultural policy, but also about the branded article, that is, its economic and social significance.

Eight RMU researchers working in the humanities and social sciences have joined forces to establish the Italy Forum, which aims to bundle the activities of the existing forums and centers, network Italy-related research at the respective universities and make it visible. Professor Christoph Cornelißen, historian at Goethe University Frankfurt and one of the forum’s co-founders, describes its purpose and genesis: “In a sense, we regrouped as a new forum last December. Forums or centers had already existed at the individual universities, but we have now merged them into a single one. Here at Goethe University, we got started in December 2019 with our Italy Center, which we kicked off with a high-profile lecture by Carlo Ginzburg. But then the coronavirus pandemic put us on hold for a while. Now, with the support of the three university’s executive boards, we have established the RMU Italy Forum. At its launch in December, Professor Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, gave a lecture at the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz.”

From a Frankfurt-based perspective, Cornelißen says, there was and is a very close connection to Italy, which is historically linked above all to the name Mylius. A Frankfurt merchant, banker and benefactor, Heinrich Mylius had many business connections to Milan, which evolved into cultural ties. Mylius bought a villa on Lake Como, which descendants of the Vigoni family later bequeathed to the Federal Republic of Germany. Today, the famous Villa Vigoni conference center is the headquarters of the German-Italian Centre for the European Dialogue, a place where humanities scholars and social scientists come together to study the many historical and cultural interrelationships between the two countries.

The new RMU Italy Forum, says Cornelißen, will thrive off the research projects of the academics involved. In addition to (art) historians, a number of literary studies scholars, musicologists and political scientists from the three partner universities are involved. “All those conducting research related to Italy in the broadest sense and who are also active in this context at the international level are on board. Of course, a certain enthusiasm for Italy undoubtedly also plays a role.” The forum is interested in attracting further Goethe University researchers for its project.

Cornelißen is already looking ahead: various events will fill the new RMU Italy Forum with life, starting in April with a series of lectures in Darmstadt entitled The Taste of Italy/L’Italia in bocca. Cibo italiano come politica culturale. The lectures are all about Italian food as cultural policy, but also about the branded article, that is, its economic and social significance. The plan is to hold about ten lectures, to take place in Darmstadt, but with support from Frankfurt, of course. Professor Christine Ott from Goethe University Frankfurt will start the series on April 24 with a lecture entitled ‘Dolce amaro. Italian Food as Cultural Policy Mirrored by Contemporary Culture and Literature’. The event will be complemented by an exhibition of historical cookbooks and other documents at Darmstadt University Library. In parallel, we will also organize smaller seminars as part of the forum.

This will include, among other things, a critical discussion of recent historical literature on the 1922 ‘March on Rome’. In addition, a Ginzburg Lecture is to be held in Frankfurt on a regular basis. The next one is planned for December 2023, with the name of famous writer Francesca Melandri being discussed. There are also plans for a colloquium for early career researchers from Germany and Italy. When planning the events, we are, of course, also thinking of a broad audience with an interest in Italy. Frankfurt is home to such a large audience. We are also working closely together in Frankfurt with the German-Italian Association and are in close contact with the Italian Consulate General – not least because Italy will be the guest country of the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2024. The program will then include many joint book presentations.”


L’Italia in bocca. Cibo italiano come politica culturale/The Taste of Italy. Italian Food as Cultural Policy

24.4.2023: Christine Ott (Frankfurt)
Dolce amaro. Italian Food as Cultural Policy Mirrored by Contemporary Culture and Literature

8.5.2023: Gerrit Jasper Schenk (Darmstadt)
Between Plenty and Scarcity – Food Culture in the Medieval Regnum Italicum  

15.5.2023: Dietrich Scholler (Mainz)
Odd Food. Eating and Drinking in the Literature of the Early Modern Period

22.5.2023: Robert Lukenda (Mainz)
Culinary Nation-building at the Time of the Risorgimento: Pellegrino Artusi

5.6.2023: Antje Lobin (Mainz)
Lasciatemi far due chiacchere su questa parola. Culinary Italian in the Light of Linguistic Criticism and Language Policy

On each occasion from 16.15 to 17.45, Technical University of Darmstadt, hybrid (Status as per January 2023, further dates to be announced.)

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