I was educated in Leicestershire at local comprehensive schools, and after working in Italy for a year I studied for a BA(Hons) in Italian with French at the University of Leeds. Following a period of TEFL teaching in Finland, I worked in Arts Administration in major opera companies in London and Sydney while studying for an MA by Research on Italian opera at the University of Leeds. My PhD in Italian Literature is from the University of Warwick (awarded in 2007), and before joining Strathclyde in 2011 I was a Junior Research Fellow at Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge.
At Strathclyde I am a member of the University's Feminist Network, and the AHRC's Peer Review College. I am also a Carnegie Research Assessor for the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, and have sat on the judging panel for the Undergraduate Awards Languages and Linguistics category. From 2011 to 2014 I convened the School of Humanities Languages & Literatures Research Seminars, and during the academic year 2015-16 I established and chaired the School of Humanities Athena SWAN Bronze award Self-Assessment Team. I currently sit on the University Senate committee and coordinate the University's Society & Policy research theme sub-theme, 'Translation, Language and Communication'.
I am convenor of all Level 3 classes and teach undergraduate and postgraduate classes on celebrity culture, theatre, opera and film spectatorships, and women writers in post-Unification Italy, women's cultural history, opera, theatre, and film. I supervised a PhD project on letterati and tragedians in early eighteenth-century Venetian opera from 2015-2017, and teach Italian grammar, writing and translation classes at all levels.
I welcome applications from prospective PhD students on all aspects of modern Italian culture and literature, gender and celebrity studies.
My interdisciplinary research specialism on women as agents of cultural change (e.g. as writers, performing artists, readers and spectators) draws on gender studies, women's studies, literary studies, opera studies, theatre studies, feminist film studies and cultural studies in late C19th and early C20th Italy.
I am author of Italian Women Writers: Gender and Everyday Life in Fiction and Journalism, 1870-1910 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014), co-editor of Women and Gender in Post-Unification Italy (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2013), and recently co-edited a special issue of the journal Italian Studies on The Diva in Modern Italian Culture (2015). I am currently writing a second monograph, provisionally entitled Gender, Writing, and Spectatorship: Evenings at the Theatre, Opera and Early Cinema in Italy, 1850-1920, and collaborating with Dr Ursula Fanning (UCD) and Prof. Gabriella Romani (Seton Hall University, NJ) on an edited book, to be published with Classiques Garniers (Paris, 2018/19), entitled 'Matilde Serao Beyond National Fame: Reframing the Neapolitan Writer’s Reception and Networks'. I am PI on the RSE-funded project 'Establishing SNNEC' which is hosting a series of workshops in 2018 with a view to creating a Scottish Network for Nineteenth-Century European Cultures. I am also working in collaboration with Prof. Gabriella Romani (Seton Hall, NJ) to spearhead a nineteenth-century Italian studies network.
From January 2019, I will be a Visiting Fellow at St. Catharine's College, Oxford.
Research publications since REF 2014
'Priming Spectators for Pirandello's Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore (1921) through Puccini from 1884', in Pirandello studies 37 (2017)
with Danielle Hipkins, ‘Le traviate: Suffering heroines and the Italian state between the 19th and 21st centuries’ in Prostitution and Sex Work in Global Visual Media: New Takes on Fallen Women, eds Danielle Hipkins and Kate Taylor (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 195-217
‘Late Nineteenth-Century Italian Women Writers’ Re-Imaginings of the femme fatale’ in Women and the Public Sphere in Modern and Contemporary Italy. Essays for Sharon Wood, eds Marina Spunta and Simona Storchi (Leicester: Troubadour, 2017), 1-13
‘Evenings Out: Female Spectators of Opera and Theatre in Late Nineteenth-Century Italy’, eds Jennifer Burns and Gabriella Romani, The Formation of a National Audience: Readers and Spectators in Italy, 1750-1890 (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2017), 259-80
‘Beauty Italian Style: Gendered imaginings of, and responses to, stage divas in early post-Unification literary culture’, in ‘The Diva in Modern Italian Culture’, eds, Katharine Mitchell and Clorinda Donato, special issue of Italian Studies 70:3, (2015), 330-346
with Clorinda Donato, eds, ‘The Diva in Modern Italian Culture’, special issue of Italian Studies 70:3 (2015)
‘Literary and Epistolary Figurations of Female Desire in Early Post-Unification Italy, 1861-1914’ in Italian Sexualities Uncovered: The Long Nineteenth Century,eds, Valeria Babini, Chiara Beccalossi, and Lucy Riall (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)
Italian Women Writers: Gender and Everyday Life in Fiction and Journalism, 1870-1910 (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2014) -- ‘In this groundbreaking study, Mitchell analyzes some domestic fiction and some non-fiction pieces – especially journalism and essays – of three middleclass Italian women who were professionally active between 1870 and 1910’. (C. De Santi, Choice Magazine, vol 52:2 (2015)
Forthcoming research publications
Gender, Writing, Spectatorships: Evenings at the Theatre, Opera, and Early Cinema in Italy, 1850-1920 (in preparation)
‘Pleasuring Female Spectators: Responses in the French Press to the Parisian Staging of Matilde Serao’s Dopo il perdono (1906)’, in Matilde Serao Beyond National Fame: Reframing the Neapolitan Writer’s Reception and Networks, eds Ursula Fanning, Katharine Mitchell, and Gabriella Romani (Paris: Classiques Garniers, 2018)
‘Cultural Movements and Taste’ in the Oxford Handbook to Europe in the Long Nineteenth Century, 1789-1914, ed. by Michael Rapport (Oxford, OUP, 2018)
- AHRC Panel Member (Event)
- Peer reviewer
- AAIS Annual Convention
- Italian Women Writers and Journalists in Post-Unification Italy
- Debunking Some Myths of Femininity: Female Experience through Italian Domestic Fiction at the fin de siecle
- Enrico Palandri
- Joseph Farrell
more professional activities
- Women at the Theatre: Writers as Spectators in Post-Unification Italy (1861-1914)
- Mitchell, Katharine (Principal Investigator)
- Period 01-Jun-2014 - 31-Jul-2014
- Women at the Theatre: Writers as Spectators in Early Post-Unification Italy, 1861-1914
- Mitchell, Katharine (Principal Investigator)
- Period 21-Jul-2013 - 31-Aug-2013
- La Mamma: Interrogating a National Stereotype
- Mitchell, Katharine (Academic)
- Incomparably loving, servant and owner of her children, often tearful but always on her feet holding the family together…Adored, feared and caricatured, in discussions about the Italian family ‘la mamma’ has become a glorious archetype… the enduringly popular image of the Italian mother is of a strong woman who dotes on her son and dedicates herself to him intensively. In exchange she gets the right to veto his choices, his constant attentions and an unrivalled emotional and symbolic dependency.’ (‘Madri fra oppressione ed emancipazione’, in A.Bravo et. al., Storia sociale delle donne nell’Italia contemporanea, 2001, p.78).
The idea of the ‘mamma italiana’ is one of the most widespread and recognisable stereotypes in perceptions of ‘Italian national character’ both within and beyond Italy. This figure (and its effects) makes frequent appearances in jokes and other forms of popular culture, but it has also been seen as having a profound effect on the lived experience of modern-day Italians. ‘Mammismo’ is popularly considered, for example, to be a contributing factor to many of what are perceived as current ‘problems’ with the Italian family including the advanced age at which many Italian ‘children’ (particularly, but not only, sons) leave home, the extremely unequal gender division of labour within Italian households and even Italy’s dramatically low birth rate. In a book published in 2005 (La mamma), Marina D’Amelia raised the very interesting hypothesis that the idea of a particularly strong relationship between Italian mothers and their sons is far from the universal, timeless feature of Italian society that many assume it to be. Instead, she argues, this ambiguous stereotype, which exalts mothers but essentially blames them for many of Italy’s problems, is an example of an ‘invented tradition’, one that was forged just after the Second World War as a means of explaining Italy’s ills. A recent study by Silvana Patriarca (Italian Vices, 2010), moreover, has suggested that this stereotype is part of a wider, long-standing tradition of self-denunciation of ‘defects’ in the ‘Italian character’.
These workshops aim to explore the origins, meaning and influence of the stereotype. They will historicise and contextualise it by examining other, contrasting, ways in which maternity, and the mother-son relationship, have been understood and represented in culture and society over the last century and a half in Italy and its diaspora. The impact on daughters and husbands will also be explored and close attention will be paid to the role of ‘mammismo’ in both the embodied experience and representations of masculine, as well as feminine, identities. There will be particular focus on the way in which the stereotype influences present day debates on the family and on social policy and on the relationship it has with perceptions of Italian ‘national character’.
The workshops aim to open up a wide-ranging, interdisciplinary debate on this often joked about, but rarely seriously discussed, deep-rooted part of the Italian national psyche. By bringing together persons primarily interested in representation with those interested in lived experience and in social policy we aim to help formulate ideas which will give social policy-makers new insights.
- Period 09-Jan-2012 - 13-Jan-2014
- Divas and Female Theatregoers in Italy’s Long Nineteenth Century (1789-1914)
- Mitchell, Katharine (Principal Investigator)
- Period 01-Jul-2012 - 25-Jan-2013