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Lina Insana

  • Associate Professor of Italian
  • Director of Italian Graduate Studies
  • Italian Program Coordinator


  • PhD, Romance Languages and Literatures, U of Pennsylvania (2000)
  • MA, Italian Language and Literature, U of Pittsburgh (1996)
  • BA, Political Science and Italian, U of Pittsburgh (1991)

Research Interests & Fields of Study

Lina Insana’s research and teaching focuses on modern and contemporary Italian cultural production. Most of her work on Italian writer and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi is concerned with textual mediation, translation, and adaptation; newer research—on Sicilian cultural belonging and manifestations of italianità in the American interwar period (1919-1939)—seeks to interrogate formations of transnational identity at the margins of conventionally-accepted definitions of Italianness.

Her first book, Arduous Tasks: Primo Levi, Translation, and the Transmission of Holocaust Testimony (U of Toronto Press, 2009) examines Primo Levi’s testimonial work through the lens of translation, broadly understood as a mediating and interpretive mode that creates spaces of testimonial agency for the survivor-author. This work was recognized both by the MLA (Scaglione Italian Manuscript Prize, 2007) and the American Association of Italian Studies (20th c. Prize, 2009). Her current manuscript-in-progress, “Charting the Island: Sicilian Position and Belonging from Unification to the European Union,” is a geocritical cultural history of Sicilian belonging under the modern Italian State (1861-present), defining belonging not in terms of individual subjectivities but in critical geographical and spatial-rhetorical terms. As its title suggests, the project develops a theory of ‘charting’ as the way in which producers of culture (both individual Sicilian and continental agents, as well as collective or institutional agents such as those that emerge from encyclopedias, journals, tourism brochures, laws, policies, political and military displays, etc.) locate, map out, and generate a variety of Sicilian geocultural positions, as well as the affiliations, associations, and distances that make them possible within configurations such as 'Italy," the "Mediterranean,' and 'Europe.' The book’s analyses draw on extensive research in and attention to three broadly-defined historical periods (post-Unification Italy; Italian Fascism; post-Schengen Italy), each of which illustrates different crises of the Italian body politic to which Sicily has ostensibly belonged since the 1861 unification (or Risorgimento) of Italy. Charting the Island draws on both literary and non-literary texts from the last hundred years or so: Messina's post-earthquake urban shantytown; Mussolini’s 1937 visit to Sicily to project military force from the island to war-torn Spain on one hand and its nascent Empire on the other; the proposed construction of the Bridge of the Straits; the political theatre of immigration and the symbolic valence of Lampedusa.

She is also engaged in a third book-length project that explores expressions of italianità in North American Italian “colonies” between the first and second World Wars through institutions and cultural icons that helped immigrant communities to negotiate complex and often competing civic identities. Her work in Italian American Studies also extends to research on children’s literature (“Strega Nona’s Ethnic Alchemy,” MELUS 31.2) and teaching (“Italian America on Screen”). With Melissa E. Marinaro (Heinz History Center) and Nancy Caronia (WVU), she is the co-convener of the Italian Diaspora Archive Resource Map project, initially facilitated through a World History Center Working Group.

Prof. Insana has served two terms (2013-2019) as Chair of the Department of French & Italian (serving as summer Chair from 2010-2013) and has been Director of Graduate Studies in Italian since 2010. From 2016-2018 she was Chair of Pitt's Humanities Council. Since 2012 she has been the lead organizer of Pittsburgh’s Italian Film Festival USA, a curated festival of contemporary Italian Cinema that takes place every spring on Pitt’s campus.

Selected Publications

“Diaspora, curriculum, community: A transnational approach to Community-Based Learning.” Forum Italicum 57.1 (2023). Special issue on “Critical Issues in Transnational Italian Studies."

"Locating 'Italies' in the Undergraduate Research Laboratory." "Diversity, Colonisation, and Italian Studies," Italian Studies in South Africa 35.1 (2022): 49-54.

"How do you solve a problem like the center? Columbus and Transnational Italian StudiesTransnational Italian Studies Working Group, H-ItalianDiaspora, 25 January 2022, 

“Translating Narratives of Passage and Rescue at the Limits of ‘Fortress Europe’: Ethics, Sicilian Specificity, and the Law of the Sea.” “Nation(s) and Translation,” Annali d’Italianistica 38 (2020). Eds. Norma Bouchard and Valerio Ferme. 295-324.

"'Italians of Pittsburgh: Don’t Be Selfish!’ Consumer Citizenship and Italian Colonial Identity in WWI-Era Pittsburgh, PA.” Italian American Review 7.2 (Summer 2017): 121-47.

“Sicily, Terra Ballerina: Shifting Terrain in a Contested Fascist-era Mediterranean.” Sicily and the Mediterranean: Migration, Exchange, Reinvention. Eds. Claudia Karagoz and Giovanna Summerfield. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. 125-50. 

"Atti deliberati—e omissioni—di memoria" [Deliberate Acts—and Omissions—of Memory]. Il Memoriale italiano ad Auschwitz. Documentazione, conservazione e progetto di integrazione 2008-2012. Eds. Giuseppe Arcidiacono and Sandro Scarrocchia. Bergamo: Sestante Edizioni, 2014. 11-28.

"Translation Matters: Primo Levi, Translation, and the Transmission of Holocaust Testimony." MLA Approaches to Teaching the Writings of Primo Levi. Eds. Nicholas Patruno and Roberta Ricci. NY: Modern Language Association, 2014. 89-104.

"On Italian Bridges: Navigating Rocks and Hard Places in Post-Wall Europe." The German Wall: Fallout in Europe. Ed. Marc Silberman. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 187-204.

Arduous Tasks: Primo Levi, Translation, and the Transmission of Holocaust Testimony. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2009.

"In Levi's Wake: Adaptation, Simulacrum, Postmemory." Italica 86.2 (2009): 212-38.

"Strega Nona’s Ethnic Alchemy: Stregheria, Magic Pasta, and That Amazing, Disappearing ‘N.’" MELUS 31.2 (2006): 207-43.

"Traumatic Translation: the Ancient Mariner’s voyage from English to Italian—and back again." Journal of Italian Translation 1.1 (2006): 23-35.

"Fascist Appropriations: The case of Jolanda de Blasi’s Le scrittrici italiane." Strong Voices, Weak History: Women Writers of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in England, France, and Italy. Eds. P. J. Benson and V. Kirkham. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2004. 314-40.

"Redefining dulce et utile: Boccaccio’s defense of literature on economic terms." Heliotropia 2.1 (2004), 5 August 2004.

Selected Honors and Awards

  • University of Pittsburgh Humanities Center Fellow, Fall 2010
  • American Association of Italian Studies 20th c. Book Award, for Arduous Tasks: Primo Levi, Translation, and the Transmission of Holocaust Testimony (U of Toronto Press), 2009
  • Aldo & Jeanne Scaglione Publication Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies, for Arduous Tasks: Primo Levi, Translation, and the Transmission of Holocaust Testimony (U of Toronto Press), 2007 (awarded by the MLA)



  • Elementary, Intermediate, and Advanced Italian Language 
  • Italian Cultural Heritage II
  • Modern Italian Literature in Translation
  • Italian Novella 
  • Italian Novel   
  • Italian Detective Fiction
  • Italian America on Screen
  • Fascism and Resistance
  • Literature of the Holocaust
  • Translation Studies
  • From Novel to Screen


  • Representations of the Holocaust
  • Fascism and Resistance
  • Sicilian Literature
  • Translation Studies
  • Italian Detective Fiction

Selected Service Appointments

  • Chair of the Department of French & Italian, 2013-2019
  • Director of Graduate Studies, Italian, 2011-present
  • Chair of the Humanities Council, 2016-2018
  • Director of Undergraduate Studies, Italian, 2000-2010
  • Jewish Studies Program Executive Committee (elected yearly; 2012-2019; 2020-present)
  • Heinz Regional History Center, Italian American Program Advisory Board, 2004-2010 (Advisory Board Chair 2007-2010)

Professional Affiliations


Research Interests

Post-Risorgimento Italian Literature and Culture; Holocaust Studies; Fascism and Resistance; Sicilian Literature and Culture; Translation Studies; Italian American Studies