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Italian students embody the Wisconsin Idea

Cover page for the Italian 450 semester-long project.

Cover page for the Italian 450 semester-long project.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The students of Professor Buccini’s Italian 450 class decided to use their language skills to promote the Wisconsin Idea.

Each Monday at 2:30 pm, the class met to translate Carlo Goldoni’s comedic play La famiglia dell'antiquario, which translates to The Antiquarian’s Family. The play, written in 1750, tells the story of a man who collects antiques. It specifically follows the lives of his future daughter-in-law and his wife, and the tension in their relationship.

Buccini’s class combines native English undergraduates and graduate students from Italy. The graduate students work as group leaders to help the Italian undergraduate students perfect their Italian language skills. Meeting in and out of class time, the group of students have worked for the entirety of the semester to translate the play.

Professor Buccini, who is the associate chair and the director for graduate studies for Italian, teaches the class to advanced undergraduate and graduate students entirely in Italian. Her focus area includes 17th, 18th and early 19th century Italian literature and culture.  She received the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2013.

To translate Goldoni’s play, Buccini divided the class into three groups led by graduate students. Each group translated one of the three acts of the comedy. Buccini developed the course after reading an article about Thomas Dickinson, a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who founded the Wisconsin Dramatic Society. The Wisconsin Dramatic Society brought plays to life that would likely not be produced by Wisconsin’s larger theaters. Society members have translated several foreign plays.

Buccini said the effort the class has made is truly admirable.

“As a professor, I have witnessed dedication, a strong sense of collaboration among the students, and a commendable effort on their part to refine their knowledge of Italian and English through the translation process.”

Kyle Studnicka Pineda, a student involved in the translation project, feels that the work he and his classmates are doing is a good embodiment of the Wisconsin Idea. The Wisconsin Idea states that education should influence people’s lives outside of the classroom. Pineda said the Italian 450 class decided to take on this project after learning about the goals of the Wisconsin Dramatic Society, which dissolved a few years after its foundation in Madison in 1910.

In order to translate the play, the class had to expand their knowledge base to include Venetian dialects. Since Carlo Goldoni was a Venetian playwright, several parts of it were written in Venetian, which then needed to be translated first into modern Italian before it could be converted into English. Pineda said this dual translation not only made the task particularly difficult, but also lengthy.

Pineda said he is grateful for this class and Buccini’s mentorship.

“Professor Buccini's inspiring lectures were a great asset to the success of our project,” Pineda said. “Studying the different dialects was also a great way of understanding Italian culture. I look forward to taking my language skills to Italy next year as I prepare to study abroad in Lombardy."



Story by Emily Curtis, Language Institute

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