The inspiration for the novel that constitutes the creative component of my PhD came from my paternal grandmother. An Italian from the Veneto region, she moved to France with my grandfather after the Second World War. While gifted with a quick mind and an incredible memory, she came from a peasant background and never had an opportunity to use her skills academically. The novel, therefore, follows a young woman with a similar background who, instead of choosing marriage as her way out, runs away to a larger city – Bologna – and tries to make a life for herself while the Second World War unfolds.
The critical component of my PhD is interested in the processes through which a writer might be able to convey an authentic sense of place, despite using a setting they are not very familiar with, or where they have not lived for an extended period of time. I touch on the question of cliches and tropes – how the writer’s culture might colour their representation – but also on the depicted country’s own representations. The issue of language, and how to incorporate (or not) the language of the action, if different, into that of the narration, also comes into consideration. Lastly, I look at the representation(s) of the Italian Resistance, and more generally at the challenges of historical fiction.