Lina Insana

  • Chair, Department of French and Italian
  • Director of Italian Graduate Studies
  • Associate Professor of Italian


1332 Cathedral of Learning
F: 412-624-6263

Area of Interest

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



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,” sketches out the spatial rhetorics by which Sicilian cultural production shapes the island’s position and belonging to configurations of identity like “Italy,” the “Mediterranean,” the “South,” and “Europe.” Focusing on three big-picture and high-stakes moments in Sicilian history—the 1908 Earthquake of Messina and Reggio Calabria; the ventennio nero; and Italy’s entry into the European Union—she engages with a wide-ranging set of cultural objects, allowing the project to embrace 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”).

Prof. Insana has been Chair of the Department of French & Italian since 2013 and is Director of Graduate Studies in Italian. She is also 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

"'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 Tesimony." 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-present

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-present)

Heinz Regional History Center, Italian American Program Advisory Board, 2004-2010 (Advisory Board Chair 2007-2010)

Professional Affiliations