Dr Alessia Zinnari
Lecturer in Italian
Alessia Zinnari is Lecturer in Italian at the University of Glasgow, where she has also taught Spanish and Comparative Literature. She obtained her PhD at the University of Glasgow in August 2020. Her thesis, entitled ‘Mental Illness, Women’s Writing and Liminality: A Comparative Study of Leonora Carrington and Alda Merini’, is grounded in feminist theory and focuses on the works that the two authors produced as a result of their experiences of hospitalisation in psychiatric institutions. In 2020, Alessia contributed to the edited collection Leonora Carrington: Living Legacies (Vernon Press) with a chapter on Carrington’s liminal journey in Down Below. She has also published on Alda Merini’s writing, in particular on her representation of institutional violence. Alessia's research interests include women's writing and art, life writing studies, trauma studies and the medical humanities.
Research and Teaching Interests
I am interested in exploring the intersections between gender, illness, trauma and culture. My PhD thesis investigated the connections between illness, space and the construction of the self in 20th-century women’s writing. Both British-Mexican artist and writer Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) and Italian poet Alda Merini (1931-2009) were diagnosed with mental illness and hospitalised in their twenties, and recounted their experiences in their memoirs of illness. Through a comparative analysis of these texts, with a focus on the representation of space and on mythical symbolism, my study showed that women’s oppression in a patriarchal society has been a key factor in contributing to the mental breakdowns narrated by these authors.
I am currently in the process of seeking funding for my postdoctoral project, titled ‘Women, Art & Trauma: A Comparative Study of Contemporary Mexico and Italy’. This study takes an interdisciplinary and feminist approach to explore the representation of trauma in the works of four women creators who worked across different media in 20th and 21st century Mexico and Italy. I am interested in understanding how the use of different media (photography, writing, painting and comics) affected these artists’ representations of trauma. Arguing that a multimedia approach focused especially on the visual is the best lens through which to analyse these representations, I will challenge established notions that define trauma as ‘unnarratable’.