New Faculty Profile: Matteo Cantarello

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Welcome to our new Faculty member, Matteo Cantarello, Visiting Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies with a specialization in crime fiction in contemporary Mexican and Italian literature, especially the cultural representations of organized crime, violence, and youth cultures in urban spaces and on the border.

How your first few weeks have been at William & Mary?

The first weeks have been great. To be honest, I did not sleep much at the beginning as everything was new and I was very excited at the idea of becoming familiar with the school, the department, and of getting to know students and colleagues. In line with this, by now I am sure that many in the department have noticed my addiction to coffee. These past two weeks have been much better. After six years in a city like Baltimore—which I love—Williamsburg is allowing me to continue my work at a faster pace but in a more relaxing environment.

What are you teaching this year?

I am teaching three classes in the fall and three in the spring and my teaching will be equally distributed between language, culture, and literature. I am really thankful for such an opportunity. It will allow me to have classes very different from one another and lots of students with distinct interests and expectations. Thanks to this, I will be working on adopting new teaching strategies and on selecting class materials in line with the taste and pre-existing knowledge of the student population. I just hope that my classes will not be on the opposite sides of campus!

What is the focus of your research? What projects are you working on right now?

The core of my research analyzes fictional representations of phenomena of organized crime. I work mostly on Mexico and Latin American productions but, at the same time, I keep an eye on Italian literary and filmic fictions. The scope of my research is twofold: first, I work to demonstrate why and how fiction can be so powerful and efficient in describing organized crime phenomena. Second, I aim at inserting these fictions into a broader discourse: that of national identity and national culture. Right now, I am converting my dissertation into a monograph and I am in the preliminary stage of my future project, The Expendables: Women, Adolescents, and Latin American Organized Crime.

What classes will you be teaching next semester?

Next semester I will be teaching intermediate Spanish, Issues in Mexican Culture, and Literary Criticism. I am thrilled to teach three classes so different from one another because I will be able to enjoy three audiences with completely different expectations. It will be challenging, but I am going to enjoy the whole spectrum of opportunities a literary scholar has, as I will combine languages, cultures, and literature.

What would be your dream class to teach and why?

Last year, at Johns Hopkins University, I was awarded a Dean’s Teaching Fellowship that granted me the opportunity to teach a course of my own design. In “Transatlantic Mafias: Organized Crime in Mexico and Italy,” students read Mexican and Italian fictions that portrayed literary representations of organized crime. It was terrific to see how enthusiastically students reacted to the ideas I had in mind. They truly enjoyed the possibility to read in parallel novels belonging to two different literary traditions. I think that, as a scholar, this is what I enjoy the most: finding similarities between cultures and literary traditions even if they are separated by continents or oceans. I hope that such an opportunity could happen again soon.

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