Oxford and Italy have always had a remarkably close and academically rich relationship. The Agnelli-Serena Chair in Italian Studies, which was 100 years old in 2019, is one deep manifestation of that relationship.
Another 100 year anniversary for the Chair was reached recently with the anniversary of the birth on 12 March 1921 of Gianni Agnelli.
Simon Gilson, the Agnelli-Serena Professor of Italian in the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, explains the pivotal role of Mr Agnelli in preserving and boosting the study of Italian at Oxford University.
He says: "Known as l’Avvocato, Gianni Agnelli, the great Italian industrialist and head of FIAT was a man of great cultural interests and sophistication. With the retirement of the Serena Chair of Italian, Cecil Grayson in 1987, the Chair had fallen into abeyance.
“At that point, Agnelli offer a major benefaction that not only resuscitated the Chair but to a large extent revived the Oxford Italian Sub-Faculty that forms part of the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages.”
Since that time successive Agnelli-Serena chairs, John Woodhouse, Martin McLaughlin and now Simon Gilson, have all through their books, academic reputations, students, and their very strong participation in Italian academic life, all exercised a prominent bridging function, both between Italy and Oxford and between the Anglophone and Italian worlds of scholarship.
Today, Italian is taught as an undergraduate degree at Oxford University to some 160 undergraduates at any one time. The demand for doctorates in Italian is also high and outpaces the funding available.
We are fundraising for posts and scholarships in Italian studies, if you want to find out more contact the Development Office: https://www.humanities.ox.ac.uk/development
Image from FIAT Archive