Remembering Rosa Maria Bosinelli

Franca Ruggieri, Remembering Rosa Maria Bollettieri Bosinelli

Five months have passed since those January days when Rosa Maria, Cicci  for all of us, who had planned to come to Rome for a conference on the Easter Rising organized by John McCourt, became aware of the first symptoms of that illness that within two weeks was found to be incurable, and that was terrifyingly brief. In fact, it ended just two months later, on 20th March, perhaps without her being fully aware of just what was happening.

That Thursday afternoon of 14th January I had gone to meet her at Termini station and, before going on to the reception at the Irish Embassy, she wanted me to go with her to see Michelangelo’s statue of Moses in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli. It was a visit connected to the mistranslation of a Hebrew word that explained why Michelangelo had given his statue horns – and which Cicci had once written an essay about.

The thought of death is the aspect of life that affects us most from when we become adults; when we have our first experiences of loss. Joyce, we remember, wrote The Dead when he was about 25 years old.

In 1623, in Meditation XVII, John Donne spoke words that are often quoted about the common destiny of all mortals, encouraging us to experience the end of every life as if it were our own:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend\’s were.

Each man\’s death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

The awareness of our own fragility, and the precariousness of being human, increases as we age. And it becomes sadder, in fact I’d say, more tragic, now there is this sudden, immense loss of such a giving friend who was so full of life.

It is still too painful to speak of her in absence, also perhaps because memories and commemorations can have an air of the conventional, of ritual, of things that have to be done by those who remain; formalities, that the humanity in our friend might well have refuted.

“Non omnis moriar”, is the brief, measured, wise quotation from one of Horace’s Odes, written on the back of the last photograph that we have of her, which was taken last year and distributed to her friends at the commemorative event held at the University of Bologna. It is her calm, confident smile that encourages us to remember; because when we suffer, the words of memory are the only things that give any meaning to our sense of loss. And even though our words are almost always inadequate, since they say too much or too little, they are the only (unsatisfactory) means that we have for entrusting our memories.

Much can be said – and many have said it and continue to do so – about Rosa Maria Bollettieri Bosinelli, Professor Emeritus of the University of Bologna, an internationally renowned scholar of literature and of Joyce, a Full Professor of English Language who carried out original research in Italy on Translation Studies, on new technologies and the new media.

For me, and for my generation, Rosa Maria was extremely important and totally unreplaceable both as a scholar and as a friend. She was a firm point of reference, and her voice was steady and calm; it expressed her knowledge and humanity, her wisdom and prudence. And these qualities were always to the fore in her relationship with the young, and not only with her own students. In fact she felt that the young must be given space. As she once said to me: by now they know how to do things better than we do. In fact while she had worked for – and on – the first Italian edition of Finnegans Wake in 1982 (translated by Luigi Schenoni and introduced by Giorgio Melchiori), in recent years she welcomed the new Mondadori project to complete that translation; in fact these young translators often asked her for advice on entire passages or on specific translation choices. Her support for young people in general, was, in fact, a fundamental aspect of her academic, and her civil, commitment.

When the idea of establishing The James Joyce Italian Foundation was discussed in 2006, Cicci was the first person who was willing to support me, and she continued to help me with the whole bureaucratic process. As always, it was with loyalty and kind-heartedness that she got in touch with Umberto Eco, who immediately became honorary member of the Foundation. Several years earlier, in 1996, Eco, a friend and colleague at Bologna, had written the Introduction to Anna Livia Plurabelle, which was published by Einaudi and edited by Cicci. It included her excellent essay, which accompanied the original English text with the two Italian translations, Joyce’s own, with Nino Frank, and one by Luigi Schenoni, as well as the French translation by Samuel Beckett and others.

And again, it was thanks to her direct involvement that Eco spoke at the first Graduate Conference organized by The James Joyce Italian Foundation in Rome in 2008, concluding proceedings with his speech, “Joyce’s Misfortunes in Italy”.

Cicci has many friends, and she managed to convey her unique friendship to each of them; she was loved in different ways by many. And from that feeling of friendship, her love of life was apparent; an honest, clear love that was incapable of jealousy or envy, although it never lacked clear, coherent judgement – reflected, as we see, in that photo taken last year in Trieste. Understanding, tolerance and an appreciation of life always accompanied her clarity of vision.

This was the source of her main strength, and even in times of difficulty, she had an untiring desire to look deeply, and to see the positive in every situation and in everyone. To accept things and put them together; to smile – and always go forward.


Paola Pugliatti for Rosa Maria Bosinelli

As soon as I started going through my papers to gather together various moments of my relationship with Rosa Maria—a friend, a colleague, a fellow traveller— I realised that I was not only dealing with my own personal relationship with her, but that I was dealing with History itself: the history of the development of language teaching in the public universities of Italy, and the vital role which Rosa Maria played in those developments. While many of you certainly know of Rosa Maria as a Joycean, you may not know of this other dimension of Rosa Maria, of her activity as a scholar, teacher, and civil servant in the institution of the Italian university, and her passionate engagement in experimenting with new methods of language teaching and new ways of communicating linguistic awareness to her students.

I met Rosa Maria in 1973, a year after I had started teaching in Bologna. At that time, she was teaching English in the Faculty of Political Science of the University of Bologna where language teaching was considered to be mere preparatory work for the more “serious” activity of reading political texts. In what was a largely male-dominated context, language teaching (mainly English, French, and Spanish) had been entrusted to a group of female teachers who had to strive constantly for survival, but who also engaged in a struggle for the recognition of language teaching and research as a domain possessing its own specific scientific dignity. It was in such a context that Rosa Maria began experimenting with the innovative use of specific materials for the teaching of English as a second language, which culminated in the publication of, in collaboration with two of her colleagues, an innovative student guidebook entitled Reading as Communication (1981). It was through such efforts that, beginning in the early 1980s, Bologna became, also owing to the presence of eminent linguists such as Luigi Heilman and Luigi Rosiello, one of the centres in Italy of an “emancipation” process of language teaching and research; and that, from the “ancillary” position it had been confined to in relation to other disciplines (literature, law, medicine, political and social sciences, and so on), it became a fully dignified academic discipline. Rosa Maria was constantly on the front line in the furthering and promoting of this process, both as a teacher and as a researcher, and soon she became recognized as a key figure for language teaching and research within the University of Bologna.

Full recognition came in the late 1980s when the Advanced School of Modern Languages for Interpreters and Translators of the University of Bologna was established in Forlì, largely through the vital contribution of Rosa Maria’s constant and passionate institutional engagement. She went on to become director of the school from 1992 to 1996, then head of the school’s Department of Interpretation and Translation from 1999 to 2005, and upon retirement, Rosa Maria was granted the prestigious position of Emerita.

Her teaching in Forlì was characterised by the elaboration of themes and methods for the teaching of English for specific purposes. Some of the courses she developed were: “Gender and Language”, “The Language of War”, “Multimedia Translation”, the “Language of Advertising”, the “Language of Politics”, and the “Language of Crime Fiction”. And these courses were often accompanied with and followed by essays published, and papers given at numerous conferences. It is within this context, and in the spirit of making students acquainted with the infinite possibilities of language and translation, that one of her most innovative projects took shape. In the early 1990s, Rosa Maria and Raffaella Baccolini were co-teaching a course on British and American legal language. In a week-end, early summer-time brain storming session at Rosa Maria’s seaside home in Marina Romea, near Ravenna, in trying to find strategies to make a course on rather dry legalese more engaging, they hit upon the idea of using films like the recently released, Presumed Innocence (1990), and classics like Billy Wilder’s Witness for the Prosecution (1957). While this idea was a great success in the classroom, having to deal with comparing the often dubbed-in-Italian films with original film scripts in English took on a life of its own. Before long, the topic of dubbing became the subject of numerous seminars, projects, conferences and publications, and as invariably happened with any of Rosa Maria’s research projects, it soon attracted other scholars who devoted attention to the same topic in different linguistic and cultural contexts, with the result that an entirely new research domain was established on multimedial and multicultural translation and dubbing in film and television.

It was no doubt Rosa Maria’s desire to make sure her students were acquainted with the challenges of the complex linguistic and multimedia messages surrounding us, and the desire to strengthen their capacity to decode their ambiguity that made Joyce a regular presence on the scene of her teaching activity, as well as on that of some of her colleagues. Indeed, the delicate samplings from complex literary texts which Rosa Maria offered in her courses, including those from Shakespeare, made of her classes an extremely enriching and gratifying experience for the students of Forlì.

Constantly on the side of invention and innovation, Rosa Maria generously donated her ideas and her time to younger scholars and shared them with colleagues to whom she transmitted her contagious enthusiasm: Adele, Chiara, Chris, Delia, Elena, Ira, Keith, Laura, Patrick, Raffaella, Sam, Serenella, Trudy,  and many others appear as her collaborators in the list of her publications; and the three works listed as forthcoming in her c.v. bear the names as co-authors of three of her student-colleagues: Elena, Ira, and Serenella. And with regard to her latest project—an examination of two unpublished Joyce manuscripts— which you will hear at this Conference from Serenella Zanotti, in the jointly elaborated paper entitled “A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Teacher” we have one more witness of her generosity living on, even beyond death.

By Nicoletta’s consent, Rosa Maria’s books on Joyce and on the twentieth-century novel, are now ready to be transferred to Forlì, and to the Ruffilli Library, where, once catalogued, they will join those donated by Bernie Benstock and by Luigi Schenoni. Her books will contribute in a significant way to the creation of one of the most substantial Joyce collections in Italy, equalled only by that of Giorgio Melchiori in the University Library of Roma Tre.

I believe I speak for all of Cicci’s friends in saying that I am sure that this is the proper destination of what her generosity would have imagined and wished for.

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