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Durham University

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Ms Marzia Beltrami

Library Comms Support Asstistant in the Library & Heritage Collections
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42930

Contact Ms Marzia Beltrami (email at

'The spatial dimension of narrative understanding. Exploring plot types in the narratives of A. Baricco, A. Camilleri, and I. Calvino'

Since my BA studies (Lettere Moderne, Università di Milano) my interests have grown more focused on narrative, from both a theoretical and practical perspective. During my MPhil at the University of Oxford I continued exploring 20thand 21st century literature, with special emphasis on Umberto Eco, Elsa Morante, Cesare Pavese – and I got increasingly fascinated by the potential integration between traditional literary studies and cognitive sciences.

My PhD research project explores the idea that spatiality not only can be the object of narration (i.e., mimetic space as setting of a story) but might also play an active role in the process of narrative understanding. In other words, I suggest that the way readers make sense of a narrative may be similar to the way individuals make sense of a space.

 Without arguing that a space-oriented interpretive framework should necessarily be the most effective way of approaching every narrative, I am exploring the extent to which it could eventuate in a fruitful and flexible model. I selected three cases studies that foreground spatiality also at other levels but are diverse enough from each other to epitomise different articulations of the main hypothesis, namely that narrative understanding may be spatial nature to some extent. In particular, I focus on City (1999) by Alessandro Baricco, the crime fiction series of Montalbano (1994 to present) by Andrea Camilleri, and Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore (1979) by Italo Calvino.

 The research question underlying my project could be formulated in two ways. From a theoretical perspective, what frameworks and models may substantiate the hypothesis of narrative understanding as potentially spatial in nature, and how flexible could a narrative model shaped according to this principle be? Conversely, by taking the standpoint of literary criticism, what types of narratives are more likely to gain interpretive insights from a space-oriented approach? How do my three case studies benefit from this alternative perspective?

My doctoral research is funded by a Departmental PhD Studentship in Modern Languages and Cultures.

Selected Publications

Conference Paper

  • (2016), ‘Nothing to do with the metropolis: A cognitive reading of City by Alessandro Baricco’, SIS interim conference. Trinity College, Dublin.
  • (2016), ‘Urban space as cognitive metaphor? Suggestions from Alessandro Baricco’s City’, Crossdisciplinary Perspectives on Urban Space. Firenze.
  • (2015), ‘Trapped in Embodiment. A Cognitive Analysis of Elsa Morante’s Aracoeli’, ENN 4th International Conference. Ghent, Belgium, Ghent.

Journal Article


  • (2016), ‘Crime plots as trajectories: finding one’s way through counterfactual spaces’, Durham Italian Seminar. Durham.
  • (2016), ‘Plots as maps and plots as trajectories: A work in progress’, Postgraduate Research Feedback Session, Institute of Advanced Studies. Durham.
  • (2013), ‘Perks and Perils of Working Within Interdisciplinarity’, Postgraduate Training Day (Durham – Leeds – Manchester). Durham, England, Durham.

Translated Chapter in Book

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