University of Cambridge > > Pedagogy, Language, Arts & Culture in Education (PLACE) Group Seminars > ALICE, PINOCCHIO, FANTASY, AND INTERNATIONAL STEREOTYPES


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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Lucian Stephenson.

Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Collodi’s Pinocchio are two of the most famous, most translated books in the world: they are national and transnational classics. Despite the fact that Pinocchio is widely regarded as stereotypically Italian, and_Alice_ as stereotypically English, they have transcended their national origins. The books share generic elements and tropes of international fantasy traditions modulated by their creative moments – the Italian Risorgimento and the English high-Victorian period. In their globalisation (or glocalisation) through translations, adaptations, and Disneyfication, the national characteristics of these books have either been lost, or have been developed into caricatures and stereotypes (Pinocchio, like the Italians, is wild, emotional and unreliable; Alice, like the English, is calm, unemotional and self-assured).

This talk discusses the ways in which the national stereotypes and national characteristics (inherent or perceived) in these books are absorbed into or conflict with international concepts of fantasy.

Followed by an Informal Launch of Laura and Peter’s new book: AS FIT AS A FISH : The English and the Italians Revealed

This book reveals what the Italians and the English don’t know about each other. It is about demolishing stereotypes and celebrating differences!

Its title, As Fit as a Fish is the Italian equivalent of the English idiom As Fit as a Fiddle. Language looks at the world differently!

Using sources as varied as accounts of 16th century travellers and playwrights (on food) to yesterday’s newspapers (on gender politics) – and a private survey (on underwear) we look at the odd and the unexpected.

How do Italians and the English see themselves and each other? What are the differences between north and south in each country? We take in language learning, ceremonies and rites of passage, and national style: do the Italians understand the ‘stiff upper lip’? Do the English have an equivalent of ‘La Bella Figura’?

We explain the quirks of eating in and eating out: when you should not order a cappuccino, when you should help yourself to wine – and the truth about pasta!

As Fit as a Fish tells you a great many things that you didn’t know that you needed to know.


Laura Tosi is Associate professor of English Literature at the University Ca’ Foscari in Venice. She has researched and written articles on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, women’s studies, Eighteenth-century mock-heroic poetry, postmodernist fiction, and children’s literature. She has written a monograph on Ben Johnson’s plays (Comunicazione e aggressione, Milan 1998) and John Webster (La memoria del testo, Pisa, 2001). She has edited and translated a collection of Victorian fairy tales (Draghi e Principesse, Venice, 2003) and a volume on the literary fairy tale in England (La fiaba letteraria inglese, Venice, 2007). In 2000 in Venice she organized an international conference on children’s literature, proceedings of which were published in 2001 (Hearts of Lightness: the Magic of Children’s Literature). In October 2007 she organized an international conference on Shakespeare’s Venetian plays (she has edited the proceedings for Ashgate, Visions of Venice in Shakespeare, 2011). She has also edited, with A. Petrina, Representations of Elizabeth in Early Modern Cultur_e (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) and the only history of children’s literature in England written in Italian, _Dall’ABC a Harry Potter (Bononia University Press, 2011. Her latest monograph is on adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays for children, from the Lambs’ tales to contemporary novels (Raccontare Shakespeare ai bambini, Milan, 2014)

Peter Hunt was the first specialist in Children’s Literature to be appointed full Professor in a British University (Cardiff). He is Visiting Professor at Newcastle University, and in autumn 2013, Visiting Professor at Università Ca’ Foscari, Venice. He has lectured on Children’s Literature at over 150 universities, colleges and to learned societies in 23 countries, has written or edited 25 books on the subject, and has published 190 papers, 130 reference-book entries, and 170 reviews. His books have been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Persian and Portuguese (Brazil). He has also published four novels for young adults and two shorter books for young children. His latest work includes the children’s literature section of Oxford Online Bibliographies (OUP New York, 2013) a collection of essays on Tolkien for Palgrave (New Casebooks, 2013) and (with Dennis Butts) How Did Long John Silver Lose His Leg, and Other Mysteries of Children’s Literature (2013). In 2003 he was awarded the Brothers Grimm Award for services to children’s literature, from the International Institute for Children’s Literature, Osaka.

This talk is part of the Pedagogy, Language, Arts & Culture in Education (PLACE) Group Seminars series.

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