World-famous Italian writer to speak at URI

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Dacia Maraini to talk about women’s issues as part of lecture series

KINGSTON, R.I. – Feb. 26, 2013 – Did you know that the purpose of most women in the Middle Ages was to bear children? An education was considered a useless impediment to the sanctity of the family.

The women who managed to write – and think – lived in convents, where they were free from having children and permitted to study, or they were courtesans smart enough to hold their own with the most famous male intellectuals of the day.

World-renowned Italian writer and feminist Dacia Maraini will explore the role of women in past times during what promises to be lively talks this week as a visiting scholar at the University of Rhode Island. All talks are free and open to the public.

For starters, Maraini will discuss female writers from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance in “From Convent to Brothel: Women’s Writers” at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 27, in the Lippitt Hall auditorium.

“How could a girl who had to prepare herself to give birth and raise children have a mind free to focus on ideas and study?” says Maraini. “An education was too refined and culturally complex. Above all, girls were married at the age of puberty and required to have a child every year.”

The women’s studies scholar will also moderate a panel talk about women’s issues on Friday, March 1, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the Agnes G. Doody Auditorium in Swan Hall. URI President David M. Dooley, Provost Donald H. DeHayes, and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Winifred Brownell are expected to make remarks.

Panelists will include professors from URI, the College of the Holy Cross, Bard College, Harvard University, Wheaton College, and Assumption College. Anne Marie D’Attelo, a board member of the National Organization of Italian American Women, and Ana Lita of Global Bioethics Initiative in New York, will also speak. The panel is expected to Skype with an organization in Italy that rescues prostitutes from North African and Eastern Europe.

“Why Do I Write” is the topic of Maraini’s talk Monday, March 4, at 5:30 p.m., also in Lippitt Hall. Maraini comes from a family of writers – her grandfather, grandmother, and father were writers – and she published her first novel when she was 24.

“The journey of writing is not always an easy one,” says Maraini. “At the same time, I have an instinct, which pushes me to go on and travel. It is a habit of such intensity and immense pleasure, and it is a fundamental part of my life. I could not live without it.”

Finally, Maraini, also a playwright, will participate in productions, in English, of two of her plays Tuesday, March 5, at 6 p.m., also in Swan Hall.

The talks are part of URI’s Distinguished International Visiting Scholar Program, which hosts distinguished scholars on campus to talk about their academic pursuits.

“We are indeed fortunate to host one of the finest contemporary Italian writers, Dacia Maraini, on our campus,” says DeHayes. “Ms. Maraini is a prolific and renowned author, playwright, and women’s studies scholar, and she exemplifies and inspires the passion and values that we aspire to in our community. Her visit highlights our combined commitment to internationalization, quality scholarship, and the celebration of women’s rights and intellectual contributions. Please join us on campus for these special events that highlight the extraordinary work of Dacia Maraini.”

The cultural activities are also included in the celebration of “The Year of Italian Culture in the United States,” under the title “Preeminent Italian Female Authors: Dacia Maraini.” For details, please visit

For more information about Maraini, visit

For more information about the talks, e-mail URI Italian Professor Michelangelo La Luna at or call him at 401-874-5968.

Pictured above: Dacia Maraini, an Italian writer and feminist who is giving talks at the University of Rhode Island.

Photo courtesy of Michelangelo La Luna