Find out more about the Department of Excellence 2018-2022

2018-2022: five years of excellence for the Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Scientific achievements, stimulation of research, dialogue with the non-academic world, innovative teaching and the design of a new, strategic Second cycle Degree Course (LM-43) focusing on computer science methodologies for the humanities, which will integrate textual, cultural, digital and transdisciplinary competences, with a specific focus on processes of computation and data representation, and transcoding and transmediality

In 2018, the Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures was included by the Ministry of Universities and Research as one of the 180 "Departments of Excellence"  and awarded extraordinary funding amounting to €6 million, invested over five years in activities aimed at enhancing scientific research, developing innovative teaching methodologies, establishing strategic teachings and Courses of Study, recruiting new scholars and organising initiatives to disseminate research findings to the general public.

These activities are part of a specific research project, coordinated from 2018 to 2022 by the Project Manager, Prof.ssa Maria Grazia Cammarota, which is divided into two major sections: Digital Humanities and Specialised and Literary Translation Studies. Observed also in their reciprocal interrelationships, these two fields of investigation have produced research findings that show how new methodologies for the organisation and digital processing of data can shed light on crucial cultural, linguistic, literary, semiotic and philological issues, which have always been at the core of our Department's scientific expertise. Issues that have a real impact not only on the academic world, but also on specialist professions, involving the interfaces between industrial production and communicative, creative, artistic and media aspects, the organisation of cultural events, etc.

From 2018 to 2022, the Department organised 50 events, including interdisciplinary conferences and a long series of seminars, workshops, laboratories and study days involving foreign scholars, visiting professors and, in line with the Department's inherent vocation for internationalisation, important foreign institutions. Many volumes, essays and articles have been published presenting the complex scientific findings obtained, in the field of both Digital Humanities and Translation Studies (some of which have been awarded international prizes), showing their more markedly transdisciplinary, interlinguistic, intercultural and intersemiotic aspects, and a new journal, the Journal of Studies in Russian Formalism with Translation Notebooks, has been launched.

The major investments in setting up innovative research infrastructures included the purchase of four simultaneous interpreting booths (for a total of eight stations), which are used both in language teaching and for seminar and workshop activities, with the collaboration of professional interpreters and translators. In addition, the VideoDigitalLab multimedia laboratory was created, dedicated to the management of new visual communication systems, and, thanks to University funds, the UniBg Eye-Tracking Lab was set up, equipped with the latest generation hardware and software to carry out various biometric readings, in order to better understand human behaviour in the face of visual stimuli of various kinds.

Over the course of five years, important ties were also forged with other Italian departments that have won projects of Excellence related to the Digital Humanities, such as the Universities of Verona, Modena-Reggio Emilia, Udine and Venice. Our Department has worked with these to effectively share and disseminate the results achieved by the research, as well as to launch the possibility of new synergic projects. The crowning achievement of this experience, but also the starting point for thinking about future projects, was the great shared event known as the Digital Humanities Marathon, a scientific and knowledge dissemination path linked to the Excellence project among the general public, which took place in the five locations from 10 to 14 October 2022.

The 2018-2022 Project of Excellence saw the Department's teaching staff strive to develop new language learning methods that make use of the information technologies offered by the Digital Humanities, as well as critical transdisciplinary approaches inspired by the project's various areas of investigation. Numerous educational workshops have been set up, aimed at enhancing key skills related to new technologies, translation, management and the valorisation, mediation and regeneration of linguistic, social, cultural and territorial resources. In the three-year first cycle degree course in Modern Foreign Languages and Literature and in the Second cycle degree courses, numerous strategic lessons linked to the scientific fields of the project have been introduced. A new Second cycle degree course hinging on an innovative pathway in the Digital Humanities (LM-43) is at an advanced stage of design, thus becoming a full-fledged part of the Department's educational offering.

The new Course of Studies in Text Sciences and Culture Enhancement in the Digital Age is designed as a response to the demands of the digital age in which we live, in which it is essential to develop high quality humanistic studies focusing on linguistic, literary, historical, philological and cultural heritage, combining these with a careful consideration of the needs of the information society. The Digital Humanities generate new applications and new models of representation for traditional knowledge, building a revolutionary and transdisciplinary scientific research, which combines the humanistic perspective with the focus on scientific and technological analytical skills, ensuring the development of critical thinking in the digital age.

Important opportunities for study and training within the Department include the Summer and Winter Schools for Master's Degree students and PhD students in Language Sciences and Transcultural Humanities, including Legal Translation (September 2020 and June 2021), Tralectio: translating literature today. The Poetic Text. 1st edition (June 2021), Audiovisual translation - Arabic, Chinese and Japanese. 1st edition (September 2021), Early medieval German texts: digital tools and translation strategies (January 2022), Tralectio: translating literature today. The short form. 2nd edition (June 2022), Audiovisual translation. 2nd edition (July 2022). 

A great deal of effort has also been made by the Department in terms of enhancing and promoting scientific research (with the activation of national and European projects) and staff development, including rewarding young researchers by awarding three-year PhD scholarships and research grants on project topics.

Lastly, under the aegis of the Third Mission-Public Engagement, the Department has promoted numerous initiatives aimed at presenting the findings of its research to the territory and disseminating them to the general public. This activity has been possible thanks to the organisation of well-established festivals and events, staged both in person and remotely, such as the Letture di classici. La traduzione dei testi letterari cycle (Readings of Classics. The translation of literary texts), now in its fourth edition, and the production of multimedia materials published on open access platforms. Mention should be made here of the cycle of over sixty 5-minute videos with Dante, #cinqueminuticondante, the Scuole più accessibili project, dedicated to school facilities with specific services on deafness. Without forgetting the commitment made in the direction of a concrete impact on the reality that, even in its most dramatic aspects, surrounds research and scientific communication. Such initiatives include the production of the handbook for fostering mutual Italian-Ukrainian cultural and linguistic comprehension, intended for Ukrainians hosted in Italy or Italians hosting children from Ukraine.