Dr Katharine Mitchell



Personal statement

I was educated in comprehensive schools in England and worked in Italy for my gap year before studying for a BA (Hons) in Italian with French at the University of Leeds. I then taught English in Finland followed by several years in Arts Administration working for major opera companies in London, Sydney and Melbourne while studying for an MA by Research in Italian Opera at Leeds University. I was awarded my doctoral thesis in Italian women writers from the University of Warwick, and before joining Strathclyde I was a Research Fellow for three years at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge. I specialise in representations of middle-class women by women, for women, in late nineteenth- and turn-of-the-century literary culture, and see the connection between my active research and teaching as vital for my students. My first book, Italian Women Writers: Gender and Everyday Life in Fiction and Journalism, 1870-1910 was published by the University of Toronto Press in 2014. Currently, I am writing my second book on the emergence of a 'female gaze' among middle-class gendered theatre, opera, and early cinema spectators.

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 self-assessment team. I currently sit on the University Senate and Court committees and coordinate the University's Society & Policy research theme sub-theme, Communication, Language and Translation. In 2018 I am the PI leading a Royal Society of Edinburgh-funded collaborative project with the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to establish the Scottish Network for Nineteenth-Century European Cultures.

I welcome prospective PhD students in modern Italian culture, especially in relation to women and gender.


Has expertise in:

    • 19th & 20th-century Italian middle-class women writers of domestic fiction
    • Italian tragic realist opera
    • Literary and cultural representations of gender & sexuality
    • 19th-century celebrity culture, including theatre, opera and early cinema spectatorships

Prizes and awards

Visiting Fellow St. Catharine's College, Oxford
Visiting Fellowship
Charles and Joan Alberto Italian Studies Institute Visiting Fellowship
Royal Society of Edinburgh European Visiting Fellowship
Visiting Scholarship
Carnegie Trust Publication Grant

more prizes and awards


Ottocento Italian Dive between the woman's stage and page
Mitchell Katharine
Women and the Public Sphere in Modern and Contemporary Italy (2017) (2017)
Evenings out : female spectators of opera and theatre in late nineteenth-century Italy
Mitchell Katharine
The Formation of a National Audience (2017) (2017)
'Le traviate: suffering heroines and the Italian state between the 19th and 21st centuries'
Mitchell Katharine, Hipkins Danielle
Prostitution and Sex Work in Global Visual Media (2017) (2017)
Priming spectators for Pirandello's Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore (1921) through Puccini, 1884
Mitchell Katharine
Pirandello Studies Vol 37 (2017)
La femme, fatale or fallen?
Mitchell Katharine
2017 (2017)
The Diva in modern Italian culture
Mitchell Katharine, Donato Clorinda
Italian Studies Vol 70, pp. 293-297 (2015)

more publications


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. I also teach Italian grammar, writing skills and translation classes at all levels.

Taught Undergraduate Classes

Yr 1: Basic Italian Language; Italian Literature and Film.

Yr 2: Translation into English; Modern Italy Through Film.

Yr 3: Writing in Italian; Italian Stage and Screen.

Yr 4: Women, Celebrity Culture, and Emancipation in Post-Unification Italy; Translation into English. 

Taught Postgraduate Classes

MLitt in Literature, Culture and Place (2012-13) Women Writers of the Anglo- and Italospheres in the Long Nineteenth Century, 1789-1914.

MSc in Applied Gender Studies (2018-ongoing), Gender and Employment in Italy.


Research interests

My interdisciplinary research specialism on Italian 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 the 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 special issues of the journal Italian Studies on The Diva in Modern Italian Culture (2015) and The Italianist (Rethinking Neera, 2010). I am currently writing a second monograph, provisionally entitled Gender, Writing, Spectatorships: Evenings at the Theatre, Opera and Early Cinema in Italy, 1853-1915, 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, forthcoming in 2019), 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 establishing a Scottish Network for Nineteenth-Century European Cultures. I am also working in collaboration with Prof. Gabriella Romani, Dr Morena Corradi (Queen's, CUNY) and Dr Silvia Valisa (Florida State University) to co-found the Interdisciplinary Network for Nineteenth-Century Italian Studies.

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

Ottocento Italian Dive Between the Woman's Stage and Page’ in Women and the Public Sphere in Modern and Contemporary Italy. Essays for Sharon Wood, eds Simona Storchi, Marina Spunta and Maria Morelli (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), 330-46

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, 1853-1915 (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) 


Professional activities

Exchanges Between Producers and Consumers of Culture in Scotland and Europe in the Long Nineteenth Century
American Association of Italian Studies
AAIS Annual Conference
Celebrated Celebrity Female Friendships in Late Nineteenth-Century Italy
Glasgow Film Theatre Roundtable Discussion
Literary Exchanges and Identity Formations Between Scotland and Europe in the Long Nineteenth Century

more professional activities


Women at the Theatre: Writers as Spectators in Post-Unification Italy (1861-1914)
Mitchell, Katharine (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2014 - 31-Jan-2014
‘Italian Divas at the fin de siècle: Roles, Receptions and Transnational Legacies’
Mitchell, Katharine (Principal Investigator)
The student will undertake a doctoral thesis on 'Italian Divas at the fin de siècle: Roles, Receptions and Transnational Legacies', in partnership with Scottish Opera. Focussing on the highly-acclaimed soprano singer Adelina Patti (1843-1919), who was renowned for her performances of Verdi's heroines, the student will work in conjunction with the Director of Outreach & Education at Scottish Opera during Verdi's bicentenary year (2013) and beyond, to commission performances of Patti's and other nineteenth-century Italian divas' most famous roles, which will be performed by young Scots singers enrolled on Scottish Opera's Emerging Artists Programme

Amount applied for: £53,594
31-Jan-2013 - 31-Jan-2016
Women at the Theatre: Writers as Spectators in Early Post-Unification Italy, 1861-1914
Mitchell, Katharine (Principal Investigator)
21-Jan-2013 - 31-Jan-2013
Divas and Female Theatregoers in Italy’s Long Nineteenth Century (1789-1914)
Mitchell, Katharine (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2012 - 25-Jan-2013
La Mamma: Interrogating a National Stereotype
Mitchell, Katharine (Academic) Wilson, Perry (Principal Investigator) Morris, Penelope (Co-investigator)
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.

09-Jan-2012 - 13-Jan-2014

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