Color photograph of the head and shoulders of Mary Jane Dempsey, standing against a white wall

Mary Jane Dempsey

Rome Prize in Modern Italian Studies
September 6, 2021–July 22, 2022
PhD Candidate, Department of Romance Languages, Cornell University
Project title
Remember to Forget: Migration, Gender, and Transnational Identities in Twentieth-Century Italy
Project description

My dissertation examines how women’s transnational narratives of emigration and immigration reveal tensions between what is remembered and what is forgotten. These tensions highlight contradictions in defining a national identity. My project attempts to uncover memories, found in diaries, autobiographies, and novels written by women migrating to and from Italy, in order to link these multidirectional histories. By focusing on transnational women writers’ personal accounts of twentieth-century mobility, I argue that remnants of fascism, colonialism, and regionalism from Italy’s past continue to affect perceptions of belonging in the Italian context. I aim to challenge hegemonic definitions, outlined by laws and print media, of what it means to be Italian. In this way, my dissertation interprets women’s memories of migration, those repressed and those recalled, to trace new transnational expressions of belonging.