La tua storia mi riguarda

I left my teaching job at Roma 3 University last autumn, after having worked there for almost thirty years. I started at the Faculty of Letters, but was moved to the university’s language centre, attended by students from all the other faculties, in which a second language – generally English – was a requirement, so my classes were composed of people destined to become engineers, economists, architects, historians of various kinds, philosophers, scientists (pure, political and applied), lawyers, schoolteachers and, in the case of students at DAMS cla group(Discipline Arti Musica Spettacolo), actors, directors, musicians, screenplay writers and, alas, bar staff. The physical teaching conditions were, by Italian university standards, surprisingly adequate: well-lit classrooms with the required audio-visual equipment, teacher visible to all (a sine qua non in most academes but not necessarily in Rome) and chair-desk combinations designed for human beings, at the outset at least. But what made the teaching so stimulating was the range of experiences, and aspirations, the students brought to the lessons. Not all of them were initially happy to be there, regarding the pursuit of the last colonial vestige of the Empire as irrelevant to their main interests, and it was part of my job – a part I relished – to persuade them that this wasn’t the case. Others, the majority, were Anglophiles in one way or another, in love with the music or the art galleries or the pubs, with London, or an idea of London, eager to take advantage of Erasmus (don’t go there, Charles, just don’t) and seeing the class as an opportunity to deepen and extend that love. I have nothing but fond memories of my time in the classroom there and one of the groups I particularly enjoyed teaching turned up in my last year, initially in the classroom and then, as COVID hit, at least in part online. Two members of that group, Joshua De Loa and Alessia Marini, contacted me last autumn to ask me if I’d be prepared to be interviewed by them for Studi Umanissimi, an online editorial project with the aim of collecting people’s stories, of listening. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the business of listening as something active, and of travelling as a form of listening, of attention to the other, and I’ll be writing something about this before too much more time has passed, something that may involve my going back, I regret to say, to the painful issue of Erasmus. But enough of that now.

I apologise to those of you who don’t understand Italian, the language in which the interview was conducted. I’d like to promise you that it will be coming to your local cinema in a subtitled or dubbed version but that isn’t going to happen, I’m afraid.

Two things before I go. One, the title of this post is the tagline of Studi Umanissimi. One translation might be ‘Your story concerns me’ and that is already a powerful statement, but it seems to me that the word riguarda does more than any single English word. Apart from ‘concern’, it can mean ‘relate to’ or ‘affect’ and it contains within it the idea of ‘re-seeing’ and of being seen. As a tagline, it’s clever and deep at the same time. Two, the photo above was taken some years ago and is not, unfortunately, of the group in question.

And here is a link to the video:

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