Keeping up with the borsisti: Part II

A few weeks ago, the Life at the BSR blog took a look at the progress of the research and practice of some of the award-holders who arrived at the BSR at the start of the year. This week we are checking in with the other new arrivals: JD Rhodes, Mark Somos and Caroline Cloutier.

John David Rhodes (Balsdon Fellow)


While staying at the BSR, JD is researching modern cinematic depictions of Rome in a project entitled The uneternal city: modern Rome according to cinema. During the past couple of weeks, he has shared his expertise with fellow BSR award-holders by arranging a two-part study series, Spatial and Visual Empiricism. The first session, Piazzas, Doors, Hallways, was a seminar held at the BSR in which the methods for thinking about urban and domestic space, and the spaces that link them, were discussed. The second session, Cinematic Place and Roman Urban History, put this discussion into practice as JD led his group to  EUR, a district in Rome which Mussolini chose to develop as a showcase of Italian Fascist architecture. Below are some photos of the EUR trip, taken by Zoe Cormack (Rome Fellow).


We are very much looking forward to JD’s talk, Disembowelled vision: Fascism, Rome and cinema, taking place at the BSR on Monday 13 March.

Mark Somos (Balsdon Fellow)


On his time spent as an award-holder in Rome so far, Mark writes: ‘My first month at the BSR was wonderful. Like Rome itself, the BSR staff and fellows are a daily source of joy and learning.

‘Work has been going well. For my main project on finishing a census of Vesalius’ Fabrica (1543 and 1555) I’ve visited the BNC, the Lincei, the Vatican and the Angelica, which together hold over half the total copies in Rome. My co-authors and I are on schedule with the  manuscript. Our publisher is very supportive, and continues to invest resources.

‘Because the project is going smoother than expected, I started another one. There were several possibilities, and Christopher [Smith, BSR Director] very kindly advised me on which one to follow. I am now reading Alberti’s I Libri della Famiglia, written in Rome and Florence in the 1430s-40s, and now regarded as the first work to seriously examine the boundaries between private and public in early capitalism. I’ve always thought that an insufficient interpretation of the book; and it turns out that Rome is the place to reread it. When Alberti discusses planting different pine trees, one finds several of the varieties he had in mind in the Villa Borghese. When he transforms the semantic range of terms like ‘masseria’ and ‘masserizia’ to cover thrift, economy, self-mastery, correct relationships within the household, the right way to protect the household from contentious and unprofitable politics, one can then talk to native Romans to learn that ‘masseria’ also invokes a widely recognisable, romantic architectural image of a self-sufficient homestead, something between a villa and a farm. I look forward to closely examining what is probably the most important (and neglected) manuscript in the Vatican.

‘My wife, son and I have also spent a great deal of time just walking around. It’s a joy to share this city, and spend days in the Vatican, Capitoline, MAXXI and other museums.

‘All three things – Vesalius’ anatomy atlas, Alberti’s manual on modern households and politics, and absorbing the living historical city en famille – are only possible here. From completing projects to starting new ones, I expect to enjoy my Fellowship’s benefits for many years to come’.

On Wednesday 8 March, Mark will be giving a talk entitled Gender and power in the reception of Andreas Vesalius’s Fabrica: results from the census, which we are very much looking forward to!

Caroline Cloutier (Québec Resident)


‘During the first weeks of my stay in Rome, I had the privilege of doing on-site studies of trompe-l’oeil paintings from the Renaissance. While those have given me important revelations for my current research, lately I have found myself being strongly inspired by the modern Italian architecture, and the late afternoon sunlight that draws sharp triangular shadows on the suburbian buildings. Feeling enriched from those heteroclite new inspirations, I am currently working on a unique site-specific photographic installation for the March Mostra, that will dialogue with the architecture of the BSR gallery’.

All portrait photos by Antonio Palmieri

‘I have walked this ancient road…’

Nicole Moffatt is a PhD candidate at Macquarie University in Sydney Australia. She is spending spring and summer at the BSR as the Macquarie Gale Rome Scholar for 2017. Her research project is A world both small and wide: Letter-bearers of antiquity. Here Nicole tells us about a recent walking trip on the Via Appia and how it reflects an earlier BSR tradition.

Richard Hodges, in his Visions of Rome: Thomas Ashby Archaeologist, provides an extract of a letter written in January 1920 by a young Winifred Knights, the celebrated British painter and BSR award-holder (1920-3). In it she describes a day spent with Thomas Ashby and other students hiking through the Alban Hills. Ashby, then director of the BSR (1906-25), was a keen walker, an activity he combined with research and photography of the ancient Roman remains across the Italian countryside. The occasion described by Winifred was not an isolated one, as students often accompanied Ashby on his field trips. Robert Gardener (Craven Fellow 1912 to 1914) for example took this photo of him in May 1913 at the Traiana Viaduct, on their journey on the Via Appia-Traiana.


Photo by Robert Gardner – Courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive

It was only in drawing together notes and photos of a recent excursion into the Italian countryside for this blog that I came across Winifred’s description of a similar day nearly a century earlier. The following is an account of that more recent and particularly fine day, with a group from the BSR who likewise walked on the ancient Via Appia, before hiking into the Alban Hills for lunch.

Our group for the day was led by the BSR’s Finance Manager (seasoned hiker, Nick Hodgson), together with award-holders (from the left) Morgan Lewis (Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner), Vivien Zhang (Abbey Scholar in Painting), myself (on camera), Neil McNally (Abbey Fellow in Painting) and JD Rhodes (Balsdon Fellow). From the beginning the plan was clear: as always, coffee and cornetto first, then make our way to the beginning of the Via Appia and from there our way to lunch at Nick’s favourite place in the Alban Hills.


Photo by Nicole Moffatt

First, we took a short detour to visit the Fosse Ardeatine on Via XX Settembre. Here JD shared with us a beautiful and touching memorial dedicated to the 335 victims of a massacre by the Nazis in 1944 at Marzabotto. The monument included a magnificent mausoleum designed by architects Giuseppe Perugini, Nello Aprile and Mario Fiorentini in 1948. It consists of a massive tombstone that seemingly floated above a vast burial vault containing the granite tombs of the victims.


Photo by JD Rhodes

From here we walked on to the Porta Appia, or what is now known the Porta San Sebastiano. The gateway at the end of this road sits within a third century defence wall constructed by the Emperor Aurelian and within it the Arch of Drusus, dated to the first century AD.

The archives of the BSR house a substantial photography collections, including those of Thomas Ashby and Robert Gardener, from a period when the idea of capturing historical structures in the photographic form was still in its infancy. With help from BSR Archivist, Alessandra Giovenco, and Librarians, Morgan’s recent photo of the Porta Appia was matched with earlier photographs.

Just beyond the gateway, recessed into a more recently constructed wall, we located the first milestone of the Via Appia. We were on our way!

Three kilometres on we started to find our pace, and leaving the Aurelian wall well behind, we approached the first century tomb of Cecilia Metella (later thirteen century fortress of the Caetani family). It is around here that the texture of the ancient road began to reveal itself, competing with modern restorations.

Beyond this wall the residential area of the Appia began to fall away and we increased our pace. Walking three abreast, Morgan, JD and Vivien began the serious business of exchanging ideas, pulling apart, examining and reassembling research, issues, opportunities and life experiences.


Photo by Nicole Moffatt


Photo by Nicole Moffatt

It was not all about the walking, as this part of the Via Appia also features tombs and monumnets to ancient lives, be they catacombs, mounds, rotunda or monuments such as that of Marcus Servilius Quartus.

There were now seven kilometres between us and the Aurelian walls, and off to our left were the remains of the magnificent second century Villa Quintilius. It was the modest abode of Sextus Quintilius Maximus and Sextus Quintilius Condianus (consuls of 151 AD). The estate stretched for the best part of a kilometre along Appia and through the trees we glimpsed the aqueduct installed to meet the considerable water requirements of its lavish gardens, fountains and bath house. Cassisus Dio records that things didn’t end well for the Quintili brothers who fell afoul of the Emperor Commodus and after he murdered them he subsumed their vast estate.


Photo by Vivien Zhang

Moving on a kilometre or so down the road the Casa Rotonda loomed into sight. A mausoleum dating to the first century BC that now supports a farm house that was built in the Middle ages. This is an interesting example of the repurposing of buildings and monuments from antiquity: an emerging interest of mine. A comparison of the two photos suggests some preservation works on both buildings.

Eight kilometres on we passed the distinctive Torre Selce, a twelfth century tall-tower medieval fortress built on the remains of a first century BC tomb. The photos below record stages in its deterioration and then restoration – and the mystery remains as to the identity of the gentleman in Ashby’s photo.

Before long, monuments, tombs and crowds faded and the road stretched on (and on) through the Parco dell’ Appia Antica. To distract from aching feet, I reflected on my research and the letter-bearers for whom this road would have been very familiar. More specifically, the complaint by some writers that the contents of their letters (presumably carried by a bearer with ‘loose lips’) sometimes travelled faster than the letters themselves! The idea of information (absent of modern technology and any form of privacy) looping ahead of the person carrying, it an interesting one. Presumably the contents of a letter were being shared with any number of fellow travellers, as they walk and exchange views of a range of matters over a bag of nuts, handful of cranberries, chocolate, fruit and bottles of water … hold on, that was us!


Photo by Nicole Moffatt

At this point the cornetto and caffè of breakfast were a distant memory, and the priority was to reach Nick’s restaurant by 3pm. Its location: the picturesque town of Castel Gandolfo, also home of the Pope’s Summer Palace with commanding views of the volcanic Lake Albano. The catch: it was many, many, many metres above sea level. Still Nick’s confidence was unwavering as he pushed our group ever onwards, ever upwards through alleyways and country lanes, past orchards, an inquisitive foal and an excitable, yet singularly focused, Rottweiler.

Finally, 25km of ancient road and a hiking trail woven through the Alban Hills lay behind us. In front of us, Gandolfo and our prize … lunch. Alas, our restaurant table was not ready on arrival as earlier patrons had settled in for a languid Sunday lunch. Too weak to argue, we staggered off to a local bar and over a birra resolved to stage a ‘stretch-in’ protest at its front door. Eventually, the patrons were sent on their way and the table was ours!


The BSR archives contains a thumbnail sketch of the ancient town of Amelia, drawn by Thomas Ashby nearly a century ago. On it are various observations and a comment that has stuck with me since it was first pointed out by my colleague Jane Wade. Ashby simply wrote ‘I have walked this ancient road …’ and I might suggest it was probably with a number of students in tow. I’d like to think on Sunday the more recent edition of BSR award holders enjoyed a glimpse of this earlier Ashby BSR tradition.


BSR Archives – Courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive

Thank you to Valerie, Alessandra, Beatrice and Francesca: the generous and knowledgeable staff of the BSR library who have indulged my personal interest in Thomas Ashby, his research methods and Roman roads in general. Thank you also to Nick Hodgson, who surely went above and beyond the call of duty for a Finance Manager when he agreed to walk this ancient road with us.

Nicole Moffatt (Macquarie Gale Rome Scholar)


Photo by Vivien Zhang

BSR research at Tarquinia

In November the BSR hosted a workshop of UCL and the Soprintendenza Archeologia on geophysics projects in central Italy where a range of sites were presented. Building upon these discussions, in early February a team from the BSR undertook three days of magnetometry with the Università degli Studi di Milano at the site of the city of Tarqunia at the invitation of Professor Giovanna Bagnasco Gianni.


Tarquinia. Photo by Stephen Kay

The aim of the survey was to provide a comparative dataset for an early geophysical prospection conducted across the city in the 1980s by the Fondazione Lerici. The unpublished results appear to reveal in some detail elements of the city, much of which is buried. The new survey, conducted at a higher resolution revealed traces of a network of roads across the town as well as some hitherto unknown buildings south of the famous Ara della Regina (so-called as early antiquarians upon its discovery thought it was a pyramid due to the stepped sides of the Etruscans podium!). The BSR looks forward to continuing this new successful collaboration with Professor Bagnasco Gianni and her team (with special thanks to Matilde Marzullo and Andrea Garzulino for their support in the field).

The theme of the necropoli of the Etruscans, and in particular their painted tombs, is being explored by Morgan Gostwyck-Lewis, the BSR Scholars’ Prize in Architecture award-holder. Since joining us at the BSR in January, Morgan has visited several Etruscan sites, looking at the movement between ornamental order and figurative image through the painted interiors of Etruscan tombs. Our current Abbey Fellow in Painting Neil McNally has been looking at Etruscan artefacts, mirrors and ritual.


The site of the Etruscan tombs at Cerveteri. Photo by Morgan Lewis.

This weekend, Director Christopher Smith will be attending a conference in Tarquinia organised in memory of Giuseppe Cultrera, and presenting a new volume edited by Giovanna Bagnasco Gianni on Fascino etrusco nel primo Novecento, conversando di arti e di storia delle arti. More details about the event can be found at

Stephen Kay (Archaeology Officer)

Keeping up with the borsisti

As we approach the halfway-point of the January-March period at the BSR, this week we take a look at where some of our new award-holders are up to, and how the city of Rome and living at the BSR have influenced their research and practice so far.

Nicole Moffatt (Macquarie Gale Rome Scholar)


On her research and her time spent at the BSR so far, Nicole said: ‘Connectivity is a modern concept and its meaningful translation to an ancient context – particularly based on documentary evidence – is still an emerging area of research. My ideas on connectivity in the ancient world are changing and developing under the influence of fellow award holders, guest speakers at the BSR seminar series, and visiting members of the greater BSR network –  all who have generously share their own research, perspectives and suggestions on mine across the communal dinning table every day.

‘In a more formal context BSR library (and her wonderful staff), together with the American Academy and the Vatican library have extended my research capabilities and help me to both position it and clarify my thoughts as to its relevance in other areas’.

Jason Blockley (Coleman-Hilton Scholar)


Jason Blockley joins us at the BSR from Sydney, and he has been taking advantage of having Europe on his doorstep, and so far he has travelled to Berlin, Ravenna and London for conferences, museums and site visits as part of his research on his topic, Economies of late antique North Africa.

Neil McNally (Abbey Fellow in Painting)


Neil has been making the most of the abundance of galleries and exhibitions on offer in Rome. Always keeping a keen eye out for news of gallery openings, he reckons that as of yet he has not missed an opening since arriving in Rome! He has been balancing out the contemporary delights of the city’s art scene with visits to many of the city’s historical sites.

Sinta Tantra (The Bridget Riley Fellow)


On her experience of the BSR so far, Sinta commented: ‘As an artist, its been so wonderful speaking to individuals from other disciplines such as history, classics, architecture. Rome is a city filled with the unexpected where layers of history are literally stacked on top of each other. For me, one of the most intriguing sculptures is on Pizza della Minerva where you can see an Egyptian Obelisk from 6th century BC balanced on top of a 17th century carved marble pig-like elephant by Bernini’.

Morgan Gostwyck-Lewis (Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner)


Scholars’ prizewinner Morgan Lewis is using his time at the BSR to research Etruscan tombs, and as such has been on numerous trips to ancient towns in the surrounding Lazio countryside, including Tarquinia, Veii and Cerveteri. One of the many perks of a BSR award is being allowed special access to sites that are otherwise closed to the public, all thanks to our wonderful Permissions Officer, Stefania Peterlini.


Ellie Johnson (Administrative Assitant)

All photos by Antonio Palmieri

A culinary tour of Italy at the BSR

Last week, one of our marvellous chefs Luca Albanese took it upon himself to guide the BSR award-holders, staff and residents on a culinary tour of Italy. Luca had to narrow the choice of Italian regions from twenty down to seven, and on each day we had a taste of a different region of Italy. Here Luca tells us a little about the culinary heritage of each region and the process of putting the week’s menu together.


Luca’s menu for the week

Monday: Liguria

Ligurian cooking is humble, and the dishes are very simple. The ingredients of pesto, the typical dish of the region, are basil, garlic, pine nuts, pecorino and oil, and the potatoes and beans added to the pasta make it a unique dish. The vegetable pie is also a speciality, containing borage, chard, spinach, egg, parmesan and rice. Although Liguria is mostly coastal, I wanted to test out the dishes from the inland parts of the region, full of traditions and influences from Piedmont and France.

La cucina ligure è una cucina povera, i piatti sono molto semplici. Nel pesto, prodotto tipico della regione, ci sono: Basilico, Aglio, Pinoli, Pecorino e olio, l’aggiunta di patate e fagiolini alla pasta lo rende un piatto unico. La torta di verdure, anche questo è un piatto unico, perché all’interno possiamo trovarci Boragine, Bieta, Spinaci, Uova, Parmigiano e Riso. Nonostante la Liguria sia una regione prevalentemente di mare, ho preferito far conoscere i piatti dell’entroterra, ricchi di tradizioni e influenze con Piemonte e Francia.


Tuesday: Toscana

Tuscany is renowned for its Florentine steak, a delicacy whose excellence can only be understood by those who have tried it! Tuscany is also famous for many other dishes, including pappa with tomato, ribollita – a Tuscan soup made with vegetable and bread, so called because it is made the day before eating (bollire = boil) and the next day it is reboiled – and gnudi, gnocchi made with semolina, ricotta and spinach, often served with butter and sage or tomato.

La Toscana è famosissima per la Bistecca alla Fiorentina, un unico pezzo da 1kg che solo chi l’ha assaggiata può capire la meravigliosa sensazione che si prova. Ma la Toscana è anche famosa per molti altri piatti, la Pappa col Pomodoro, la Ribollita (chiamata così perché si cuoce il giorno prima e il giorno dopo si fa ribollire), gli Gnudi, che sono gnocchi fatti con farina ricotta e spinaci, solitamente conditi con Burro e salvia o pomodoro.

Wednesday: Campania

The queen of Neapolitan cooking is without doubt the Margherita pizza, whose base is thicker than Roman pizza. Pizza was invented in Naples: the story goes that it was made for Queen Margaret by a Neapolitan pizza-maker in June 1889. Campanian cooking has produced many iconic dishes, such as caprese, melanzane parmigiana, pasta alla Sorrentina and carne alla Genovese, which despite its name was created in Naples. Many say that this dish was first made in a trattoria in front of the jetty where boats from Genova docked, but no one knows for sure.

La regina della cucina partenopea è senza dubbio la Pizza Margherita, un po più alta della pizza romana. La pizza fu inventata a Napoli, una leggenda vuole che sia stata fatta appositamente per la Regina Margherita da un pizzaiolo napoletano nel giugno del 1889. La cucina Campana ha dato la luce a molti piatti, come la Caprese, la Parmigiana di melanzane, la pasta alla Sorrentina, la carne alla genovese, che malgrado il nome è stata creata a Napoli, molti dicono che questo piatto era fatto da una trattoria di fronte al molo dove attraccavano le barche provenienti da Genova, ma non è una cosa certa.


Thursday: Lazio

Dishes from Rome and Lazio use a lot of “poor” ingredients, and the animals’ offal is often used, in dishes such as coratella, Roman-style tripe, sweetbreads and pajata (calf intestines). However, for the giro d’Italia I chose more conventional dishes, such as cacio e pepe, artichokes with mint, roast lamb and sautéed broccoli. For dessert I made black cherry tarts, which is a traditional produce from Sezze Romano, an ancient town in southern Lazio.

La cucina romana e del Lazio è piena di prodotti “poveri”, infatti vengono spesso usate le interiora degli animali, in piatti come la Coratella, La trippa alla romana, le Animelle, la Pajata. Ma per il nostro giro d’Italia ho scelto piatti più vicini al gusto di tutti, come il cacio e pepe, i carciofi con la mentuccia, l’abbacchio al forno e i broccoletti ripassati. Come dolce ho proposto le Crostatine di visciole, prodotto tipico di Sezze Romano, antico paese che si trova a sud del Lazio.


Friday: Veneto

Veneto has thousands of flavours, from liver with onions to salted cod soaked in milk, with sautéed onions and anchovies. Radish is another product typical of Veneto, and the signature dish of the region is risotto alla trevigiana. Also associated with this part of Italy is the famous dessert tiramisù, even though it actually comes from Friuli, which forms part of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region on the border between Italy and Slovenia. The tale associated with tiramisù  tells that clients at Veneto’s brothels were provided with the dessert upon arrival and departure.

Il Veneto ha mille sapori che variano dal Fegato con le cipolle al Baccalà alla vicentina che viene affogato nel latte, con un cospicuo soffritto di cipolle e acciughe. Un altro prodotto tipico del Veneto è il radicchio e quindi il Risotto alla Trevigiana diventa piatto della regione. Una curiosità, tipico di queste zone è il famosissimo dolce Tiramisù, anche se c’è il Friuli che rivendica la paternità del piatto. Anche qua la leggenda racconta che il Tiramisù veniva dato all’entrata/uscita delle “Case chiuse” per “rinforzare” i giovani clienti.


Saturday: Calabria

I revisited Calabria with a sandwich comprising several elements from this marvellous region. Spicy salami, Tropean onion and aubergine with olive oil… I think the result was “explosive!”

Ho rivisitato la Calabria con un panino ricco dei prodotti di questa meravigliosa terra. Salame piccante, cipolla di tropea e melanzane sott’olio…penso che il risultato sia stato “Esplosivo”!

Sunday: Sicilia

I wanted to honour Sicily with one of the best dishes in Italian cuisine, pasta alla Norma, made with a sauce of aubergines and baby tomatoes enriched with a sprinkle of salted ricotta. Sicily is the doorway to the east, and this has been an influence on many of its dishes, especially its desserts. Typical Sicilian dishes include panelle (Sicilian fritters), Sicilian sword fish, stucco alla messinese (Messina-style cod), falsomagro (stuffed steak pieces), cannoli, cassata… I could go on forever. Palermo is renowned for its many street-food vendors, and the most popular product is panino cu a milza (spleen sandwich)… only for connoisseurs!

Ho voluto omaggiare la Sicilia con uno dei piatti più buoni della cucina italiana, la pasta alla Norma, fatta con un sugo di melanzane e pomodorini arricchiti con una spolverata di ricotta salata. La Sicilia è la porta d’ingresso all’oriente e in moltissime cose ne è stata influenzata, soprattutto per i dolci. Piatti tipici siciliani sono Panelle, Pesce spada alla siciliana, Stocco alla messinese, il Falsomagro, i Cannoli, la Cassata e potrei continuare all’infinito. Famosi a Palermo sono i venditori di cibo per strada, lo street food, il prodotto più venduto è il panino cu a milza…solo per intenditori.



All photos and words by Luca Albanese

English translation by Ellie Johnson.

The BSR welcomes a new cohort of borsisti

At the end of December we said arrivederci to eleven award-holders, and at the start of 2017 we welcomed nine new borsisti into the fold. Here we take a look at the goings-on at the BSR thus far this year.

Welcome Week was a great success, with numerous tours and talks. We had two evenings in which our resident scholars and artists introduced their practice or area of research, and those returning brought us up to speed with where the first three months at the BSR had led them. It was fantastic to see such a range of disciplines, from letter-bearers in Roman antiquity to cinematic depictions of modern Rome via photographic installations and the study of Welsh painters in Rome.

Click here to see the full list of this year’s award-holders and their research topics.


Our January-March award-holders after the introductory talks. Photo by Antonio Palmieri

No Welcome Week would be complete without a lecture and tour from our Director Christopher Smith, and this time was no exception! On Friday evening, Christopher gave a wonderful talk on the Etruscans which was the perfect prelude to a tour of the nearby Villa Giulia, which houses the National Etruscan Museum. It was a great privilege to be shown around this treasure trove of Etruscan delights by a leading expert in the field who has a wealth of information on practically every piece in the museum!

The following week, our resident artists and scholars were led on two tours: the first by Visual Art Residency and Programme Curator Marco Palmieri, who lent his expert knowledge to a tour of the De Chirico Foundation, as well as selecting a number of Rome’s contemporary art galleries. This was followed by a tour of some of the highlights of Baroque Rome, including Palazzo Barberini and the genius of Borromini and Bernini manifested in nearby churches, with Assistant Director Tom True at the helm.

As always, the BSR has managed to fit a wealth of expertise on a wide range of topics into a few weeks in its conferences and evening lectures. The first event of the new year was a talk given by Catherine Fletcher, author of The Black Prince of Florence, who reflected on the depiction of the Medici family in light of Rai Uno’s new series Medici: Masters of Florence and the debate it has prompted about the relationship between historical fact and fiction. The podcast of this talk is coming soon! Since then, the BSR has also hosted Il Comizio dei Re, a conference bringing together new research on the Lapis Niger, a brilliant lecture on ancient biographical tradition by Roy Gibson, and an event presented by the British Council in Italy as part of the debate on migration in Europe.


British Council in Italy – ‘Bridges and Walls’

However, this does not mean to say that our award-holders have remained within the BSR walls since January – in keeping with the international outlook of the BSR, several scholars and artists have been on some exciting trips abroad for their research or practice. Zoe Cormack (Rome Fellow) encompassed Venice, London and Durham into one trip. On the Museo di Storia Naturale in Venice where Zoe was carrying out her research, Zoe said:

‘It is one of the largest, best conserved and most well documented collections of South Sudanese material culture in Europe.   Although African history is not a traditional draw to Venice, the Museo di Storia Naturale is one of the few places in the world where visitors can see historic South Sudanese material culture and artworks on permanent display.

‘I was lucky to spend a week studying the objects and supporting documentation in the Museum.  I was able to see Miani’s handwritten diaries from Sudan, some of his notes on the collections and a 1865 lithograph showing the original display of the objects. This trip has enormously enhanced my understanding of the formation of the collection and its history. I am very grateful to the staff of the Museum for their hospitality and for expertly guiding me through their collections’.

Also flying across the continent was Vivien Zhang (Abbey Scholar in Painting), this time to Berlin to meet Gábor Domokos, one of the creators of the gömböc, which has been, in Vivien’s words, ‘a source of inspiration for the past two years and going strong’. She even received her own gömböc as a gift!

Sinta Tantra (Bridget Riley Fellow) also travelled to London, where not only does she currently have her work produced in collaboration with Nick Hornby on display in group exhibition I Lost my Heart to a Starship Trooper, but also where she participated in the discussion Women’s work? Artists in conversation, an intergenerational discussion between artists, offering overlapping perspectives at the intersection of race, gender and politics.



Ellie Johnson (Administrative assistant)  

Transnationalizing Modern Languages at the BSR

The BSR is collaborating on a transformational AHRC Beacon project Transnationalizing Modern Languages, which is devising new approaches to fortify Modern Languages in response to decline in UK provision for the discipline. This project challenges the tradition of containing the study of modern languages within discrete national boundaries by investigating cultural exchange within communities and individuals across time and space.

In October, we hosted a three-day conference Transnational Italies: Mobility, Subjectivities and Modern Italian Cultures examining the mobility of Italian culture through patterns of emigration and immigration, and its interactions with other cultures across the globe.

In this video you can hear the opening talks by BSR Director Professor Christopher Smith, and conference organisers Professor Charles Burdett (Bristol), Professor Loredana Polezzi (Cardiff), and Dr Barbara Spadaro (Bristol).

See the TML website to hear further recordings from the conference including roundtable sessions and keynote lectures by Professor Ruth Ben Ghiat (New York) and Professor Dame Marina Warner (Birkbeck).

The conference was accompanied by a participatory exhibition BEYOND BORDERS. Transnational Italy (curated by Viviana Gravano and Giulia Grechi), displaying research processes and results. The BSR gallery was curated as a domestic environment, a metaphor for how language and culture offer us space to ‘inhabit’ our lives and our relations with others.

Later on in November, two of the organisers, Charles Burdett and Loredana Polezzi, gave a lecture at the British Academy exploring how a new focus on the web of interconnections between cultures is enriching our understanding of language and space.


For further information about Transnationalizing Modern Languages visit the project’s website:

Text by Tom True (Assistant Director)
Videos by Gianfranco Fortuna
Photos by Carolina Farina (Routes Agency)