Gianna Albaum is a scholar of modern Italian literature. Her work examines the intersection of drugs, technology, and modernity in the late 19th and early 20th century.
As a doctoral candidate at New York University, she has received a number of grants and fellowships, including Friends of FAI (Fondo dell’Ambiente Italiano) Fellowship and a Marietta di Croce Research Grant. She was named a fellow at the Remarque Institute in Fall 2018, and has been awarded a Fulbright for the academic year 2019-2020. She is currently a Global Research Initiative Fellow at NYU Florence.
Her dissertation, “NARCO MODERNS: Stimulation and Stupefaction in Post-Unification Italian Culture,” takes as its primary object a series of narratives in which drugs—as emblems of intoxication, hallucination, and stimulation—are a rhetorical vehicle for the expression of both hopes and anxieties about ‘modernity.’ For these authors, modernity is a drug—it stupefies, it delights, it anesthetizes, it poisons. Her work examines both narratives that invoke drugs literally (e.g. Paolo Mantegazza’s treatise on the coca leaf) and those that imagine modernity as narcotic in a more figurative sense (e.g. metaphors of popular literature as a drug, Serao’s characterization of the lotto as the “oppio della miseria”).
The primary authors examined in her dissertation include Paolo Mantegazza, Ippolito Nievo, Matilde Serao, Italo Svevo, and Pitigrilli.
Publications and Articles
“Mantegazza’s Coca Dreams” (forthcoming in Italian Quarterly) examines Paolo Mantegazza’s 1859 treatise on the properties of the coca leaf against the backdrop of contemporary scientific theories of race, climate, and energy. I argue that Mantegazza saw the coca leaf—as well as narcotics more broadly—as a critical tool in the biopolitical project of making Italians ‘healthier,’ and, thus, more productive.
Works in progress include an article on themes of history, temporality, and prophecy in Nievo’s Storia filosofica dei secoli futuri (1860). I read Nievo’s Storia filosofica as a thoughtful and satirical critique of contemporary attempts to apply the tools of natural science to the study of history.
Her M.A. thesis, “Surviving Abandonment: Melancholia and Forgiveness in Elena Ferrante’s I giorni dell’abbandono,” was nominated for the GSAS Master’s Award for Academic Achievement.
Gianna has also delivered presentations at a number of conferences. Here is a list of some of the titles:
- “Drugs and Intoxication in Nievo’s Storia filosofica dei secoli futuri.” Pharmakon Symposium. New York University. Spring 2019.
- “The Future on Drugs in Ippolito Nievo’s Storia filosofica dei secoli futuri and Emilio Salgari’s Le meraviglie del duemila.” Future (Im)perfect. UC Berkeley Comparative Literature Conference. Fall 2018.
- “Kicking the Habit: Svevo’s La coscienza di Zeno and the Italian Addict.” Chiasmi. Brown-Harvard Graduate Student Conference in Italian Studies. Spring 2018.
- “Paolo Mantegazza’s Coca Dreams.” Rutgers Italian Graduate Society. Fall 2017.
- “In the Name of God: Violence and Divine Justice in Dario Fo’s ‘Mistero Buffo’ and ‘La bibbia dei villani.’” Pacific and Modern Arts and Languages (PAMLA). Fall 2016.
- ”From Medea to Ariadne: Forgiveness and Abandonment in Elena Ferrante’s I giorni dell’abbandono.” American Association for Italian Studies (AAIS). Spring 2015.