The results of #Senso, a social reading project with the University of Edinburgh proposed by professors Marco Palone and Carlo Pirozzi to their students of Italian.
#Senso, the social reading project on Camillo Boito‘s novella of the same name, took place on Betwyll from 26 September to 2 October. The results of the project were presented at the Italian Institute of Culture of Edinburgh on the occasion of the 18th Week of the Italian Language in the World. We asked the two professors to share how it went.
#Senso: Italian in Edinburgh
In the last weeks, professors Marco Palone and Carlo Pirozzi – supported by their colleague Alessandro Calbiati – proposed the students of their Italian advanced course at the University of Edinburgh to read and comment on Senso. An idea based on the theme of the 2018 Week of the Italian Language: “Italian and the web, social networks for the Italian Language”. The project was open to the entire community of Betwyll users, thus gathering native speakers and students learning Italian. The results of this pilot were presented at the Italian Institute of Culture of Edinburgh on 16 October. They followed the lecture “L’italiano (e le sue varietà) nella rete: problemi descrittivi e aspetti di carattere generale” by Paolo D’Achille, professor of Linguistics at Università degli Studi Roma Tre.
“The Institute room was overflowing with people and all the sessions had an interested audience. The innovation component of #Senso was really appreciated by the colleagues who did not know the project. Its success can be proved by the large participation of readers who decided to play (more than 200)”. Professor Palone presented #Senso through an introduction on the methodology used and on the projects being showcased on the app. He also explained how he dealt with the preparatory phase. The didactical and methodological introduction are in fact essential to enable the full and satisfactory participation of the students.
A participated and amusing read
On Betwyll, #Senso got 1071 twylls (comments) in 5 reading days. “Though we were unable to reread them all, we observed some comment typologies”, professors share. “In particular, we noticed how commenters tend to identify themselves with the characters. If they initially empathized with Livia, the countess protagonist of the novella, a more general trend – highlighted by several comments – shows their emotional involvement in the story. Especially in the relationship between Livia and Remigio, as well as towards the lawyer”.
Betwyll was chosen for “the idea of having a participated reading experience, interacting with other Italian speakers, dividing the text in smaller portions to comment on and discuss. We are convinced of the importance of the collective and participated dimension of literature”. More specifically, “if teaching includes a collective game dimension to activate a personal understanding and encourage an amusing discussion, then Betwyll and twitterature represent a useful, smart and effective tool and platform to make literature attractive to students”.
Students and the work on Betwyll
The project involved 26 last-year students learning Italian along with another language or subject, such as History or History of art. PhD students also joined, one of them being specifically studying Senso. The project was included in a course where professor Pirozzi also teaches composition and a colleague translation from English into Italian.
Students initially worked in class. “During my two 50-minute classes”, professor Pirozzi explains “I simulated a social reading experience trying to read some paragraphs of the text, comment on them and discuss them with the students. I then left them free to work on their own, to write their first twylls, which we read in class for a short debate. Certainly, the text proved to be a little difficult. The students were however helped by the twylls of the native speakers that encouraged an answer or an additional comment, or simply an interpretation. The positive aspects of Betwyll were the feeling of a truly choral reading of a text accompanied by a paratext constantly in fieri. This encourage the students-readers to share their views while playing and interacting with an online community of readers”.
Reading as a collective act
Coming to the interaction with the Betwyll community, for professor Pirozzi “the idea of having an open project was successful. Our students, non native, benefited from that because they read short texts in Italian, understood the comments and felt more free to join with their own”. Though, sometimes, the presence of native speakers restrained them for the fear of making mistakes.
“Senso, professors confirmed, “had a good response from the audience, though our students did not participated as much as we hoped. According to them, the text sometimes was difficult”. Considering instead the overall objectives of the project, the professors added that it was “an excellent way to promote reading and turn it into a collective act“.
Born in Rome, he graduated in Classics at the Università “La Sapienza”, where he also graduated in Manuscript Conservation and Oriental Languages. After a PhD in Freiburg (2013-2016), he’s been teaching as a Ministerial Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. He loves writing and is interested in creative writing.
After gaining his PhD in Italian Literature (Chieti-Florence), he moved to Edinburgh being awarded with two different fellowships. Subsequently, he joined the Italian Department of St Andrews University as a Research Fellow (2014–2016). In 2017 he was appointed Teaching Fellow in Italian Studies.
Dr Pirozzi has taught a wide range of courses in Italian language and culture at different levels, in universities and other cultural institutions in Italy and Scotland.