Dr Olivia  Santovetti

Dr Olivia Santovetti

Associate Professor in Italian

+44 (0)113 343 3635

Summary: Eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth-century Italian authors; theory of the novel; self-reflexivity in Italian literature


My main interest is in the novel: its structure, its history and its culture. After a degree in Philosophy from the University of Rome, 'La Sapienza', I completed an MPhil in European Literature and a PhD at the University of Cambridge. The thesis examined the workings of digression in Italian literature from the birth of the modern novel in the early nineteenth century to the era of post-modernist experimentation. My aim was to explore the tensions digression engenders in the novel, by creating extra time within narration, disrupting the readers' expectations, and generating an act of reflection upon the narrative process itself. The approach was comparative, and referred to the work of other digressive authors, including Cervantes, Sterne and Diderot. This research was elaborated in my monograph: Digression: A Narrative Strategy in the Italian Novel (Bern: Lang, 2007).

My current research investigates the representation of reading and readers in the nineteenth-century Italian novel; my project, 'The woman reader in Italian literature and visual arts in the fin de siècle period', is funded by the British Academy (see website: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/arts/WomanReader)

I have published on Manzoni, Tarchetti, Dossi, De Roberto, Fogazzaro, Neera, Pirandello, Gadda,  Calvino and Elena Ferrante (on Ferrante see also my contribution to the podcast 'Language versus dialect, or why we're obsessed with Elena Ferrante', The World in Words , 11 April 2017, Public Radio International, USA). I have also published work on Laurence Sterne, and edited and translated a selection of his Sermons for Signorelli (1994) and for Mondadori (a section of the 'Meridiani' volume on Laurence Sterne, forthcoming). Before joining the University of Leeds, I was an Affiliated Lecturer and then Leverhulme Fellow at the Department of Italian of the University of Cambridge.


Level Module
Level 1 Reading Italian Literature A
Level 1 Italian Language A
Level 2 Tall Tales
Level 2 Italy: Regions, Identities and Nation
Level 3 Italo Calvino
Level 3 Italian Language B

Office hours: Tuesday 11:00-13:00

Research and selected publications


  • Digression: A Narrative Strategy in the Italian Novel from Manzoni to Calvino (Bern: Lang, 2007).

Edited volumes

  • Self-reflection in Italian Literature,  special issue of The Italianist, 35, 3 (2015)
  • Laurence Sterne. Dieci sermoni di Mr Yorick (Rome: Signorelli, 1993).

Book Chapters and Journal Articles

  •  'Lettura e lettrici dentro il romanzo: il tema dell'identificazione letteraria nel romanzo italiano di fine ottocento', in C'è un lettore in questo testo? Rappresentazioni letterarie della lettura in Italia, edited by Giovanna Rizzarelli and Cristina Savettieri (Bologna: il Mulino, 2016), pp.183-202.
  • 'Lettura, scrittura e autoriflessione nel ciclo de L'amica geniale (2011-2014) di Elena Ferrante, Allegoria, 73 (2016), pp.179-92. Also avaialble on Arcade: http://arcade.stanford.edu/content/lettura-scrittura-e-autoriflessione-nel-ciclo-de-lamica-geniale-di-elena-ferrante
  • 'Reading as “evasione militante”: Fosca (1869) by Iginio Ugo Tarchetti', in The Formation of a National Audience: Readers and Spectators in Italy, 1750-1890 edited by Gabriella Romano and Jennifer Burns (Madison, New Jersey: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 2016). In print
  • 'Self-reflection in Italian Literature. Introduction', The Italianist, 35, 3 (2015), pp. 309-17.
  • 'Far consentire l'animo di chi legge': Manzoni, the novel and the issue of literary identification. Analysis of the digression on 'romanzi d'amore',  The Italianist, 35, 3 (2015),  pp.353-68.
  • 'Sterne, Calvino and Digressions', The Shandean, 25 (2014), pp. 147-58.
  • 'Metaliterary Fogazzaro: Bovarysme and Mysticism in Malombra (1881)', in Beyond Catholicism Heresy, Mysticism and Apocalypse in Italian Culture, edited by Fabrizio De Donno and Simon Gilson (London: Palgrave Macmillian, 2014), pp. 147-169.
  • 'Metaliterary Fogazzaro: Bovarysme and Mysticism in Malombra (1881)', Italian Studies, 68, 2, (2013), pp. 230-245.
  • 'Neera (1846-1918). The world seen from the window: Reading, Writing and the Power of Fantasy', The Italianist, 33, 3 (2013), pp.388–402.
  • 'Ottocento', in The Year's Work in Modern Language Studies 2011, 73 (2013), pp. 225-244.
  • 'Ottocento', in The Year's Work in Modern Language Studies 2010, 72 (2012), pp. 295-306.
  • 'Straight Line or Aimless Wandering? Italo Calvino's Way to Digression', in Digression in European Literature. From Cervantes to Sebald, edited byAlexis Grohmann and Caragh Wells (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 169-180.
  • 'Italian Digressions', in Textual Wanderings: The Theory and Practice of Narrative Digression, edited by Rhian Atkin (Oxford; Bern: Legenda, 2011), pp. 47-63.
  • 'The Cliché of the Romantic Female Reader and the Paradox of Novelistic Illusion: Federico De Roberto's L'illusione (1891)', in The Printed Media in Fin-de-siècle Italy. Publishers, Writers, and Readers, ed. by Ann Hallamore Caesar, Gabriella Romani, and Jennifer Burns (Oxford; Bern: Legenda, 2011), pp. 49-63.
  • ‘Rovello’, entry for the Dizionario tematico di letteratura edited by by Remo Ceserani, Mario Domenichelli and Pino Fasano 3 vols (Turin: UTET, 2007), pp. 2099-2102.
  • ‘Traviamento’, entry for the Dizionario tematico di letteratura edited by by Remo Ceserani, Mario Domenichelli and Pino Fasano 3 vols (Turin: UTET, 2007, pp. 2501-2503).
  • 'On the Minute Particle 'If' and the Many Disruptions It Might Cause', Pirandello Studies, vol.29 (2009), pp.29-37. 'The Sentimental, the 'Inconclusive', the Digressive: Sterne in Italy', in The Reception of Laurence Sterne in Europe ed. by Peter de Voogd and John Neubauer and part of the series The Reception of British Authors in Europe (The Continuum International Publishing Group: London, 2004), pp. 192-220.
  • '"Viluppi", "Intoppi", and "Tranelli" : Traps for the reader in Carlo Dossi's texts', Italian Studies, 63 (2003), pp.88-103.
  • 'Digressive art as humorous art? Luigi Pirandello's Uno, nessuno e centomila', Pirandello Studies, 20 (2000), pp.117-134.
  • Anne Bandry and Olivia Santovetti, 'Thomas Twining Reads Tristram Shandy', The Shandean, 11 (1999-2000), pp.135-46.
  • 'The Adventurous Journey of Lorenzo Sterne in Italy', The Shandean, 8 (1996), pp.78-97.
  • 'Rovello' and 'Traviamento', entries in the Dizionario tematico di letteratura ed. by Remo Ceserani, Mario Domenichelli and Pino Fasano (Turin: UTET, forthcoming).

Research supervision

The areas in which I can supervise research include eighteenth-, nineteenth- and twentieth-century Italian authors.