The Autobiography of a Language

Emanuel Carnevali's Italian/American Writing

By Andrea Ciribuco

Subjects: Italian American Studies, Literature, Literary Criticism, Italian Studies, Ethnicity
Series: SUNY series in Italian/American Culture
Hardcover : 9781438475257, 240 pages, August 2019
Paperback : 9781438475240, 240 pages, July 2020

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Table of contents


1. Translating Childhood, Decoding America

2. The Newcomer and the Splendid Commonplace: Using English as a Second Language

3. Representing Italy in America

4. A Language for Bazzano: An Italian American Returns Home

5. Between the Atlantic and Oblivion: Carnevali in the 1930s

Conclusion: Emanuel Carnevali in the 21st Century


Explores the links between language, cultural identity, and creativity through the works of Emanuel Carnevali, one of the first Italian American authors to attain literary recognition.


The Autobiography of a Language is an exploration of the deep and powerful ties between language and identity, focusing on an Italian American author and addressing global themes of modern writing. This is the first extensive, book-length work on Emanuel Carnevali (1897–1942), the first Italian American to attain literary recognition. It is a study on how an Italian immigrant to New York became an author and a key figure in transnational modernism. Most importantly, though, it's a study of contacts between American and Italian literatures in the modernist era, and an exploration of the challenges of writing in a second language. Carnevali's works are almost exclusively in English, even though he spent only eight years in the United States before returning to Italy. Combining literary analysis with some of the latest findings in applied linguistics and the study of bilingualism, this book contributes to a very active debate in the fields of comparative literature and translation studies: the implications of translingual writing. Andrea Ciribuco considers both the linguistic and cultural aspects of writing in a second language, examining its potential and pitfalls, and bringing Carnevali's works in touch with the sociocultural context of the great wave of Italian emigration.

Andrea Ciribuco is postdoctoral research fellow in the discipline of Italian at the National University of Ireland, Galway.


"Ciribuco … provides close analyses of Carnevali's poetry, fiction, criticism, and translations … She also contributes much-needed background on Carnevali's life and times, providing information that is not in his fragmentary, posthumously published autobiography." — CHOICE

"With this in-depth and acute analysis, Ciribuco makes an important contribution to the critical realm of both Carnevali's literary and cultural life, as well as the world of the Italian/American cultural arena." — Anthony Julian Tamburri, Queens College, City University of New York