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Dr Katharine Mitchell



Personal statement

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 at the University of Leeds. My PhD in Italian Literature is from the University of Warwick, and before joining Strathclyde I was a Junior Research Fellow at Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge.

I specialise in gender studies, women's studies, literary studies, opera studies, and cultural studies in the late C19th and early C20th centuries. 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 and Opera in Italy, 1870-1910, and collaborating with Dr Ursula Fanning (UCD) and Dr Gabriella Romani (Seton Hall University, NJ) on an edited book, to be published with Classiques Garniers (Paris, 2018), entitled Matilde Serao Beyond National Fame: Reframing the Neapolitan Writer’s Reception and Networks, as well as on establishing a global research network in nineteenth-century Italian studies, and a separate Scottish network for nineteenth-century European cultures.

For a recent online review of my latest monograph, click here

I teach and research celebrity culture, theatre and opera spectatorships, and women writers in post-Unification Italy, women's cultural history, opera, theatre, and film, on undergraduate and taught postgraduate courses. I supervised a PhD project on letterati and tragedians in early eighteenth-century Venetian opera from 2015-2017, and teach Italian grammar and translation classes at all levels. I am convenor of all Level 3 classes.

From 2011 to 2014 I convened the School's Languages & Literatures Research Seminars. 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 a member of the judging panel for the Undergraduate Awards Languages and Linguistics category. During the academic year 2015-16, I established and chaired the School of Humanities Athena SWAN Bronze award Self-assessment Team.

I welcome applications from prospective PhD students on all aspects of modern Italian culture and literature.


Has expertise in:

    • 19th & 20th-century women writers
    • tragic opera
    • gender & sexuality in 19th and 20th-century culture
    • domestic fiction
    • the figure of the diva
    • female spectatorship of C19th theatre & opera

Prizes and awards

Athena SWAN Chair for the School of Humanities SAT
Visiting Scholarship
Visiting Fellowship
Charles and Joan Alberto Italian Studies Institute Visiting Fellowship
Royal Society of Edinburgh European Visiting Fellowship
Carnegie Research Grant

more prizes and awards


'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 MediaProstitution and Sex Work in Global Visual Media, (2017)
Priming spectators for Pirandello's Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore (1921) through Puccini, 1884
Mitchell Katharine
Pirandello Studies Vol 37, (2017)
Ottocento Italian Dive between the woman's stage and page
Mitchell Katharine
Women and the Public Sphere in Modern and Contemporary ItalyWomen and the Public Sphere in Modern and Contemporary Italy, (2017)
Evenings out : female spectators of opera and theatre in late nineteenth-century Italy
Mitchell Katharine
The Formation of a National AudienceThe Formation of a National Audience, (2017)
Beauty Italian style : Gendered imaginings of, and responses to, stage divas in early post-unification literary culture
Mitchell Katharine
Italian Studies Vol 70, pp. 330-346, (2015)
Rural women in early 20th-century Europe
Mitchell Katharine
Scottish Opera programme (Jenufa), (2015)

more publications


Undergraduate teaching

R3109: Italian 1a and 1b Beginners' Italian

R3111: Introduction to Italian 

R3203: Italian 2a & 2b Translation into English 

R3200: Modern Italy (Film) - Semester 2

R3006: Italian language 3b project 

R3005: Italian and English language 3a writing 

R3374: Italian Stage & Screen - Semester 1

R3533: Honours Italian Translation into English - Semester 2

R3534: Women, Celebrity Culture & Emancipation in Post-Unification Italy - Semester 2

I am class coordinator for all courses at Level 3

Postgraduate teaching and supervision

Masters in Literature, Culture and Place: Women Writers of the Italo- and Anglo-spheres in the Long Nineteenth Century (2012-13)




Research interests

Research publications since 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, and Spectatorship: Evenings at the Theatre and Opera in Italy, 1870-1910 (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

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

more projects