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Dr Elizabeth Wren-Owens

Dr Elizabeth Wren-Owens

Reader in Italian

School of Modern Languages

+44 (0)29 2087 6438
2.12, 66a Park Place, Cathays, Cardiff, CF10 3AS
Available for postgraduate supervision

My research interests include:

  • Antonio Tabucchi in European contexts
  • Twentieth Century Italian Narrative
  • Socio-political engagement in literature and links between culture and citizenship
  • Travel writing
  • Detective fiction
  • Italian diasporic and migrant writing
  • Italians in Wales: comparative perspectives
  • Translating cultures

I graduated from the University of Warwick in 2001 with a first class honours degree in French and Italian, then completed a Masters degree in Italian at Bristol (2002) and a PhD in Italian Studies at Warwick (2006), focusing on socio-political engagement in the works of Antonio Tabucchi and Leonardo Sciascia. I joined Cardiff in 2007, having taught previously at the Universities of Warwick, Bristol and Bath.

Honours and awards

  • 2010: BA overseas conference grant
  • 2009: Awarded Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy
  • 2005: Doctoral Fellowship awarded by the Warwick Humanities Research Centre to host an interdisciplinary conference, ‘Dialogue with Tradition: Contemporary Writers and Literary Heritage’
  • 2002-2005: AHRC doctoral award for PhD research
  • 2000: Bursary from the University of Milan to study at their Gargagno centre

Professional memberships

I am a member of the Society for Italian Studies, the Amici di Leonardo Sciascia, and the American Association of Italian Studies. I peer review scholarly articles for a number of journals, and also review books.

I am external examiner at Lancaster (UG) and Warwick (PG).

Speaking engagements

  • July 2012: ‘Translating cultures: Italian identity in Triple Languages in Wales and Canada’, at the SIS interim conference, Transnational Italy: National Identity and the World Atlas, at the University of Reading, UK
  • April 2008: ‘Constructing Italian Identity: The (Native) American Contact Zone’, at RMMEC inaugural event, Cardiff
  • Jan 2006: ‘Tabucchi’s Pessoa: A Legacy Repaid?’, at ‘Fictional Representations of Fernando Pessoa’, University of Leeds
  • Dec 2006: ‘Racism and the Other in Sandro Onofri’s Writing’, at the Birmingham-Warwick seminar series
  • July 2011: ‘The emergence of Welsh Italian narrative, or the commodification of nostalgia’, at SIS biennial conference, St Andrews
  • May 2011: ‘Integrated or repressed Identity? Welsh Italian narrative in international contexts’, at ‘Within and Without: Representing Diasporas in Europe (Cardiff, UK)
  • April 2010: ‘Introducing, Authenticating, Authorizing: The Role of the Introductory Voice in Migrant Writing by Italians and Migrants into Italy’, at AAIS annual conference, Michigan
  • May 2008: ‘Between Far Right and Traditional Left: Sandro Onofri as Engaged Intellectual’, at AAIS annual conference, Taormina (Sicily)
  • March 2006: ‘From Powerless to Power Brokers: The Shifting Representation of the popolo in Antonio Tabucchi’s Piazza d’Italia (1975) and Il piccolo naviglio (1978), presented at the University of Salford, UK
  • Dec. 2005: ‘Portuguese Empire as Hybrid Host: Antonio Tabucchi’s Postcolonial Writings’,   presented at ‘Scontro/Incontro: The Hybrid Experience of Italy and its Colonies’, presented at The Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, London.
  • July 2005: ‘The Shifting Constructs of Sciascia’s Sicily’, presented at the Society for Italian Studies Biennial conference, University of Salford, UK
  • Feb. 2005: ‘Dialogue with the Past and the Self in the Works of Antonio Tabucchi’, presented at the ‘Dialogue with Tradition: Contemporary Writers and Literary Heritage’ Conference at the University of Warwick, UK.
  • Oct 2004: ‘A Microscopic Change? Microhistory and Conceptual Historical Space in Sciascia’s Later Historical Texts’ presented at the UniversitĂ© Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
  • May 2004: ‘Geographical and Psychological Space in Sciascia’s Work’ presented at the University of Warwick Italian Department Postgraduate Forum.
  • April 2004: ‘Ghostly and Real Bodies in Tabucchi: From Dissatisfaction to Resolution’ presented at the Society for Italian Studies Conference in London.
  • March 2004: ‘The Tools of the Detective: Leonardo Sciascia’s Approach to Literature in the Mid to Late 1970s’ presented at the University of Utrecht, Holland.
  • May 2003: ‘Engagement through Geographical and Border Spaces in Tabucchi’s Work’ presented at the Society for Italian Studies Postgraduate Colloquium at Edinburgh University.










At Cardiff  I contrbute to teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate level. My modules include courses on Italian migration, Italian culture and representation, and translation. I also run a student teaching module for final-year languages students, which combines pedagogical traiining with mentored teaching placements in local schools.

I am able to supervise postgraduate research in the following areas:

  • Twentieth Century Italian narrative
  • Translation
  • Migrant identities and narrative
  • Concepts of socio-political engagement in literature
  • Italian travel writing
  • Italian detective fiction

My most recent research project, In, on, and through translation: Tabucchi's travelling texts will be published by Peter Lang in 2018. It combines an analysis of the ways the Italian writer Antonio Tabucchi's texts have been translated into other languages with an examination of the way his translations, critical essays and fictions reflect on the value and possibilities of translation. The book suggests that using translation as a means through which to approach Tabucchi’s works enables us to both develop new perspectives on Tabucchi’s texts, and to reflect on some key issues in translation studies. One of its major innovations is the analysis of a new body of interviews with Tabucchi’s translators, from across Europe, Asia, and America. The interviews, conducted as part of the study, offer fascinating new perspectives on the way the same (often Eurocentric) texts move between languages, and the possibilities and challenges the translation process offers in different linguistic and cultural spaces.

I also research the Italian community in Wales, in particular the way in which this diasporic narrative has developed in relation to other Italian migrant narratives. I have published on Italian Welsh narrative and cafĂ© culture, on first-wave Italian American and African Italian autobiographies, on Sandro Onofri and the Italian Left’s response to racial violence in Italy, and on Tabucchi’s response to Pessoa. Previous publications have addressed socio-political engagement in Italian literature, particularly in the work of Sciascia and Tabucchi, representations of empire in Tabucchi, Italian detective fiction and the usefulness of Lacan’s notion of the real in understanding Tabucchi’s texts.

I am interested in supervising PhD students in the areas of:

  • Twentieth Century Italian narrative
  • Translation
  • Migrant identities and narrative
  • Concepts of socio-political engagement in literature
  • Italian travel writing
  • Italian detective fiction