Alessia Zinnari

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Research Title

'Mental Illness, Autobiography and Female Creativity: a Comparative Study of Leonora Carrington and Alda Merini'.

Research Summary

The aim of my research project is to explore the construction of female subjectivity and the psychological and political importance of trauma writing in the memoirs of illness of two different authors: the British-born Mexican painter and writer Leonora Carrington and the Italian poet and writer Alda Merini, whose autobiographical narratives were written respectively in 1943 and in 1983. I will be working comparatively, with a particular interest in investigating what this cross-cultural comparison shows about the relationship between mental health and creativity, and on demonstrating how these texts are important testimonies of patriarchal processes of silencing and othering women artists. My aim is to shed light on the courageous re-empowerment, self-therapy and identity exploration that these women undertake in their memoirs. I draw from feminist psychoanalytic theory, the medical humanities, autobiography studies, memory and trauma studies, as well as human geography and history of antipsychiatry and deinstitutionalisation in Europe. 


Book Chapter in Leonora Carrington: Living Legacies (Wilmington, USA: Vernon Press) forthcoming 


April 2010: ERASMUS Study Scholarship in Salamanca, Spain, Universidad de Salamanca

December 2011: INPS Grant for Undergraduate Excellence in Study, Italy £1000

January 2013: ERASMUS Scholarship in Glasgow, University of Strathclyde

June 2014: College of Arts Scholarship for Taught MLitt in Comparative Literature, SMLC, University of Glasgow £5.500 (Fees only)

May 2015: College of Arts Doctoral Scholarship, PhD in Comparative Literature, SMLC, University of Glasgow (Full bursary)

June 2017: Ella Maxwell Scholarship for conference participation £200

June 2017: Mac Robertson Scholarship for Archival Research at the University of Pavia £900

September 2017: College of Arts RSA for conference participation £200


Conference Papers


  •   ‘Comparative Literature: Defining the Undefinable’

13/03/2014 Ten Years of Comp Lit at Glasgow University Symposium, University of Glasgow (UK)


  •  ‘Alda Merini’s and Leonora Carrington’s Experiences of Mental Illness’

May 2015, Creativity: Method or Madness?, International PG Conference, University of Glasgow (UK)

  •  ‘The Other Truth. Alda Merini’s Hospitalisation in the Paolo Pini Mental Hospital in Milan’

12/12/2016 SMLC seminar series, University of Glasgow (UK)

15/02/2017 Historical Perspectives Seminars Series, University of Glasgow (UK)

08/03/2017 Women, Place and Belonging, International Women’s Day Symposium, University of Glasgow (UK)


  •   ‘Spaces and Places in Alda Merini’s and Leonora Carrington’s Narratives of Hospitalisation in Mental Asylums’

25/03/2017 ‘You Are Here’: Interdisciplinary Conference on Space, Place and Embodiment, Creighton University (Omaha, Nebraska, USA)

  •    ‘Alda Merini’s Narrative of Illness and the Power of the Poetic Voice’

29/06/2017 Society for Italian Studies Biannual Conference, University of Hull (UK)


  •   ‘“I must live through that experience all over again.” Leonora Carrington’s Narrative of Trauma and Hospitalisation’

30/06/2017 Leonora Carrington Centenary Symposium, Edge Hill University (UK)


Conferences Organised

17/06/2016 ‘Writing in Transit: A One-Day Networking Event for Researchers in Interlingual, Intercultural and Intermedial Fields’, Co-organised with Dr Laura Martin, Dr Elwira Grossman, and with the support of the SMLC, University of Glasgow (UK)



2013 - Ongoing, University of Strathclyde

Italian Oral - Beginners, Non-beginners, Level 2 and 3

Level 3 Technical and Literary Translation (English to Italian)

Level 3 Business Students: Executive Summary Writing (Italian)

2016- Ongoing, University of Glasgow

Comparative Literature Level 2(A): Crossing Borders

Comparative Literature Level 2(B): Exploring Identities

Italian Level 2 Oral Language

Additional Information

  • Year Abroad Admin Internship. In 2015-2016, I have been involved in adding content to the Year Abroad moodle page of the School of Modern Languages (University of Glasgow), promoting study abroad exchanges and internship programmes. I have also coordinated the study abroad online forum, encouraging communication and experience exchange between students. I was supervised by Dr Sheila Dickson.


  • Conference Skills Internship. In June 2016, I organised together with Dr Laura Martin and Dr Elwira Grossman, and with the help of Professor Michael Syrotinski, a one day symposium at the University of Glasgow, Writing in Transit. The event was aimed at connecting young researchers who work interdisciplinary, with a particular focus on comparative literature, translation studies and art. This experience gave me the opportunity to get acquainted with all the stages of conference organisation, from creating a call for papers to selecting abstracts and booking conference rooms and meals.


  • Compiling Bibliographies Internship. In August 2016, I assisted Dr Eamon McCarthy in compiling bibliographies for his Spanish Culture 1 course as part of my internship scheme.


  • PG Representative. In 2016-2017, I acted as a spokesperson for the PGR students in the school, attending meetings and discussing issues with members of staff within the SMLC and the College of Arts.


  • Conference Assistant. For the 2017 Conference of the Society for Latin American Studies (University of Glasgow, 6th and 7thApril 2017).  


  • Translating Feminism Network Coordinator. Since January 2017, I have been curating the Twitter and Facebook pages of the Translating Feminism project, which is based at the University of Glasgow and funded by the Leverhulme Trust. I also assist some members of the organising committee during their workshops and archival visits, and I occasionally contribute to their blog with guest posts. This collaboration is ongoing.