Professor Travels to Italy For Face-to-Face Communication
July 25, 2007
Jack Lannamann, associate professor of communication, traveled to Italy
recently thanks to a grant from the Center for International Education.
He offers the following account of his trip.
Oh quanto è corto il dire e come fioco
al mio concetto! e questo, a quel ch'i' vidi,
tanto, che non basta a dicer 'poco'!
How incomplete is speech, how weak, when set
against my thought! And this, to what I saw
is such-to call it little is too much. (From Dante, “Divine Comedy” Paradiso,
Canto 33. Mandelbaum, Tr.)
Perhaps only Dante can get away with such a disclaimer, but it is true
that a description of Italy in late spring makes me aware of my limits
with language. The University of Parma, where I met with my colleagues
in the doctorate of social psychology, is located near the center of the
beautiful city of Parma.
As a center of learning, the university has a rich history. When Dante
wrote the words from the “Divine Comedy” back in the 14th century,
the school was already 200 years older than UNH is now. Over the years,
the institution has weathered the changes brought on by popes, dukes and
powerful neighbors. In one phase of that history, the buildings where I
met with my hosts were used as the stables for Napoleon’s horses.
This sense of living history surrounds the campus.
As I traversed via Gramsci and entered the university gates, I was greeted
by a brilliant image of the early 20th century Italian political philosopher,
Antonio Gramsci, on a poster announcing a conference to celebrate the legacy
of his thought. It turned out that a friend was organizing the conference,
and I returned to UNH with one of the posters. It now hangs in my office
where I can point to it as I try to explain what Gramsci’s idea of
hegemony has to do with communication.
The purpose of my travel to Italy was simple. I went to meet with colleagues
at the University of Parma to continue work on a collaborative study program.
The program links the newly developed doctorate of social psychology at
Parma with the department of communication here at UNH. As a member of
the graduate faculty at the University of Parma, I advise Ph.D. candidates
in the social psychology program who have specific interests in communication
theory. The UNH-Parma collaboration is still in its early stages of development
and it requires the kind of sustained conversation that can only be had
in face-to-face working sessions.
I met with the head of the psychology department, professor. Laura Fruggeri,
and with professors Nadia Monacelli, Tiziana Mancini, Luisa Molinari, and
Sergio Manghi. We discussed the initial success of the program and how
the link between UNH and the University of Parma had already resulted in
several graduate students traveling to Durham to pursue their research
These early encounters have been rewarding. While at UNH, one of these
students sat in on my undergraduate classes and added a valuable international
component to my senior seminar “Perspectives on Culture and Communication.” She
also participated in departmental colloquia and various scholarly reading
One of themes that we discussed during our meeting had to do with finding
a comfortable balance between maintaining the flexibility of our existing
collaboration on the one hand, and adding structure to what is, after all,
an institutional arrangement. As we discussed this question, it became
clear that there are benefits to be gained from a more formal structure.
Parma is a highly ranked Ph.D. program in Italy. The high caliber students
in that program have much to offer UNH. Formalizing an exchange program
would benefit both UNH and Parma. We discussed drafting a formal agreement
to institutionalize what has been a fruitful relationship.
During our discussion we also confronted the issue that although the UNH/Parma
exchange of faculty has been bi-lateral, the student exchange has been
a one-way street. UNH undergraduates typically do not have a sufficient
command of the Italian language to allow them to benefit from coursework
at the University of Parma.
We explored several options to resolve this problem. One of the more intriguing
proposals involved using web-based technology to create remotely accessible
research colloquia and semi-regular video-conferences allowing students
to collaborate on intercultural research projects without the need to relocate.
Formalizing the institutional link between the two universities might also
allow students to access the diverse library holdings available at each
I am grateful to the Center for International Education for making my
trip possible. I am excited about the potential for continued collaboration
with my Italian colleagues and students. I expect that this work (along
with my new Gramsci poster) will find its way into my undergraduate teaching
in several forms, including new case study material, readings, and classroom
discussions. Thank you for your support.