Literary criticism, literary theory, philosophy of literature, Rhetorics, anthropology of literature, styilistics. Mikhail Bakhtin, Russian Formalists, Giambattista Vico


After getting my high school diploma at Liceo Beccaria, Milan (56/60) I have graduated in Italian Literature in 1996 at Università degli Studi in Milan, with a dissertation in History of Literary Criticism, Voce e intonazione nel pensiero estetico di Michail Bachtin [ Voice and Intonation in Bachtin’sAesthetics], under the supervision of Prof. Franco Brioschi (110 cum laude, recommended for publication). I have earned my PhD in History of Italian Language and Literature in 2001 at the same university, with a dissertation Retorica e topica della “Scienza nuova” [Rhetorics and Topics in “The New Science”]. In 2002 I worked with Parlement international des écrivains in Paris. In 2003 I started working on Russian Formalism, in particular on Boris Èjchenbaum, as post doctoral student at the Italian Department of Università degli Studi, in Milan. I have also been involved in planning and teaching courses in Critical & Literary Theory, Stylistics and Semiotics, Comparative Literature. I have taught Writing, Italian Language for Foreigners (Summer Courses of Italian Language and Culture at Gargnano del Garda); Literary Theory and Methodology (Teachers Qualification School, Silsis); Professional Writing, Narratology (Iulm University); Literary Theory and Criticism (Milan School for Interpreters and Translators). Since 2003 I have taught seminars on metre, narrative and rhetorics in the Writers program at Paolo Grassi Theatre School. I have taught seminars on metre at the Milan Cinema School and the Claudio Abbado Music School as well.

Other Publications


Founder and Director of Enthymema. International journal of literary criticism, literary theory, and philosophy of literature


Blog Posts


    1.      “Michail Bachtin’s Philosophy of Literature”

    A philological reading of writings by Michail Bachtin in pursuit of a global theoretical framework and cultural genealogies. The positioning of Bachtin’s thought at the crossroads between ethics and aesthetics, linguistics and literary criticism, philosophy and literature: with a focus on transdisciplinary approaches.

    2.      “Russian Formalism and the construction of Literay Theory”

    A new look at Russian Formalism through the analysis of documents and works written in Russian that have never been translated into Italian and other major Western languages. The main aim is to kickstart a new reflection on the historical significance and on the theoretical and methodological contribution by Formalism and make sense of the division between the circles of Moskow (Mik) and Petergrad/Leningrad (Opojaz). Translation of works by Borij Eichenbaum and Grigorij Vinokur into Italian is also part of the project.


    3.      “Giambattista Vico as writer”

    A project on the relationship between the thought and works by Vico and the development of  modern literature. An investigation aimed at outlining Vico’s idea of literature, analyse his role as reader and writer – with particular attention to poems and “minor” works – his understanding of the literary institution and how it relates to his intellectual activity. Minor works, the meaning of terms such as “letterato” and “letteratura”, the perception of an audience and the “horizon of expectation”, thoughts on contemporary literature are addressed in particular.

    4.      Literary Form in the 20th Century

    Form, structure, dispositif – descriptions of literary works in a century where the foundations of art and morphologies of culture have been one of the primary objects of intellectual pursuit. The origin of the idea of form among Russian formalists, its main diversifications – mechanism, organism and system, as suggested by Peter Steiner. On the plural genesis of the idea of structure, coming from phenomenology, linguistics, anthropology. How these concepts have been translated into literary practice. On the end of the primacy of structuralism and the rise of new paradigms developed since the second half of the 20th century, the new theoretical frameworks based on the notions of dispositif and fold.

    5.      Rhetorics as form of knowledge and the limits of persuasive expressivity

    Recognized as foundations of everyday human interactions, storytelling and metaphor provide today the theoretical framework for deconstructing the differentiation between literary and extra-literary facts. Cognitivist thought validates hints from non-conformist theorists from the 1970s who insisted on the continuity between types of everyday speech and literary genres, on the absence of specific traits that make distinction between non-literary and literary texts possible, and on the foundation of such distinctions on historical, social, contextual, pragmatic and constructivist factors.

    In 1996, Mark Turner claimed that “the literary mind”, well before translating into the ability of writing poems or novels, provides the conditions for knowing the outside world. By “projecting stories” we can, in fact, give shape and meaning to our existence: from the simplest experience to complex cultural constructions, the world can be seen as a big chain of “parables”, where the connection from a source story to a target story is no different from the way metaphor works. As shown by Lakoff and Johnson, as well as by Giambattista Vico three hundred years earlier, rhetorics is a form of knowledge.


    However, the need is felt to overcome this approach. Analyses from cognitivist scholars, supported by neuroscience, highlight some of the problems that similar perspectives encounter while making sense of the peculiar traits of literary works. The idenfitification of metaphors in a literary text has, in fact, little value for literary analysis. Even if storytelling permeates all layers of our everyday existence, we need to understand how the aesthetic and cognitive potential is inscribed in some works and not in others. How can we keep the connection with “the embodied mind “ and avoid dilute the literary text into amorphous and widespread narrativity/metaphor?

    Stefania Irene Sini

    Profile picture of Stefania Irene Sini


    Active 1 month, 3 weeks ago