Italian Studies Seminar | Letter writing and friendship networks: pragmatics of religious correspondence in 19th-century Italian and Spanish
Italian Studies presents
Seminar | Letter writing and friendship networks: pragmatics of religious correspondence in 19th-century Italian and Spanish
Dr Francesco De Toni (Forrest Prospect Fellow, University of Western Australia)
Letters are a privileged source for the investigation of the role of language in maintaining social ties and, especially, of personal relationships such as friendship. However, both friendship bonds and letter writing are embedded in specific historical and cultural contexts, which affect the social and linguistic conventions regulating the exchange of letters between friends.
Although epistolary friendship has a long-lasting tradition in Christian religious communities, epistolary and friendship practices among religious groups in the modern era remain a rather unexplored field of research. The 19th century represents a period of considerable interest, as it saw the development of extensive transnational and multilingual networks of private correspondence between members of the Catholic Church, especially in the context of religious missions. The recently unveiled epistolary networks of the Benedictine community of New Norcia in 19th-century Australia offer new material for the study of epistolary friendship as a sociopragmatic phenomenon.
In this seminar I will present the results of my PhD project, which investigated the role of letter writing in constructing and expressing friendship in a corpus of private letters in Italian and Spanish from New Norcia’s epistolary networks. The results of this investigation show how the definition and construction of friendships through letter writing were achieved by variations in the pragmatic structures that express the subjectivity and social positioning of the letter writers and that realise the writers’ situational goals. While these results are limited by the nature of the correspondence analysed, they offer new insight into the pragmatics of letter writing in Romance languages and into the history of friendship in Western culture.
About the presenter
Dr Francesco De Toni is a linguist and an Honorary Research Fellow and Adjunct Research Fellow in the School of Humanities and the School of Allied Health of the University of Western Australia (UWA). In 2019, he completed a PhD in European Languages and Studies (Italian and Spanish linguistics) at UWA under the supervision of Prof John Kinder and Prof Jacqueline Van Gent, with a thesis on epistolary communication and friendship ties among Catholic missionaries in 19th-century Western Australia. After working for the Department of Health of Western Australia (2020), Dr De Toni completed a Forrest Prospect Fellowship at UWA (2021-2022), with a project on emotions in health communication (HEALL’D – Health Communication in Australia: Language and Discourse), under the joint supervision of the Schools of Humanities, Allied Health and Medicine. In 2022, he declined a Marie-Curie Fellowship at Stockholm University and moved back to the WA Department of Health to work on a project on digital language technologies in clinical consultations. His main research interests are pragmatics, language and emotion, corpus and computational linguistics, communication in health care, and historical linguistics.
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For more information, contact: Associate Professor Antonia Rubino (email@example.com)
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