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Berberi receives Imagine Fund Award for research on Albanian voices in Italian literature

MORRIS, Minn. — Viktor Berberi, assistant professor of Italian, received a 2013 all-University Imagine Fund Award for his research on Albanian voices in Italian literature. The award will allow Berberi to purchase new books and research materials. It will also help finance his trip to Rome next summer. There, Berberi plans to review Italian literature archives and manuscripts.

Berberi’s interest in this research stems from his personal investment in Italian literature as well as his connection to his heritage. Berberi’s father was Albanian, and pursuing this research allows him to remain close to personal and culturally familiar subject matter.

Among the Albanian authors Berberi is researching are Ornela Vorpsi, Anilda Ibrahimi, Ron Kubati, Elvira Dones, Artur Spanjolli, and the poet Gëzim Hajdari. He is also looking at writing of the Arbëresh, an Albanian minority community in regions of southern Italy, including Girolamo De Rada and Carmine Abate. These authors’ works allow Berberi to look at how Albanian authors have challenged and broadened the literature of migration genre and to examine Albanian oral tradition.

“The Albanians and Arbëresh had the same myths, legends, and folktales, but used them in different ways and transformed them in Albanian-Italian literature,” said Berberi.

Berberi’s research also examines the interactions between Albanian and Italian cultures through languages. He noted that several of these Albanian authors continue to write in Italian regardless of where they are, despite having a language of their own. Berberi believes Albanians continue to use the Italian language because it is a tool for reaching out to the rest of the world and critiquing Italian culture.

According to Berberi, “Albanians felt a cultural affinity with Italy and expected to be welcomed and culturally recognized.” He added that, while Albanians “expected to find the familiar” in Italy, “this does not always happen.”

Using this research, Berberi hopes to complete a book on the subject of Albanian voices in Italian literature. He has already finished several chapters and hopes to complete a book proposal by the end of the summer.

This project is supported by generous funding from the University of Minnesota’s Imagine Fund Awards and University of Minnesota, Morris's Faculty Research Enhancement Fund.