Romance Languages – Online Resources & more

Postcard of Sanremo ca. 1925, Biblioteca civica Francesco Corradi, Internet Culturale

Even though the Library’s buildings have been closed through April  7  due to the coronavirus pandemic, faculty, students and staff can still access a wealth of resources online, and we are ramping up our outreach and remote services. The newly created guide Remote Resources for UC Berkeley Library Users provides an overview of resources available to you:

  • Online resources
  • Online help 24/7
  • Librarian consultations and instruction
  • Technology assistance
  • Returning and renewing materials (due date for all items due between March 16 and May 31 is now June 1, 2020)

This blog post, which will be updated periodically, aims to highlight online resources for those doing research in the romance languages and literatures within the context of Southern European studies in particular. If you encounter resources of interest not listed please let me know and I’ll add them, especially if they are not included in the directory of library databases or existing library guides for French, Italian and Spanish & Portuguese. See also the e-resources guide for the Caribbean and Latin American Studies.

Book and journal requests are encouraged but the Library is limited to e-formats at this time. And please don’t forget that I remain available for research and reference assistance by email, telephone, chat via Google Hangouts, or Zoom.

Claude Potts
Librarian for Romance Language Collections


Most ebooks in English are acquired through packages with publishers such as Cambridge, JSTOR, Project Muse, ProQuest and are discoverable in OskiCat as well as Start My Search. Here are a few important European ebook platforms that can be explored directly (or individual ebooks encountered through OskiCat):

Cairn ebooks  updated 3/26/20
Primarily a journal collection but UCB has has also purchased access to 568 ebooks through Cairn. During the closure, they are providing access to the full catalog of 10,174 ebooks, the Que sais-je? series and also some popular magazines.

Classiques Garnier Numérique
During the COVID-19 crisis, this publisher is generously providing access to digital versions of books we’ve purchased in print, including collections such as Classiques Jaunes, Littérature française, Littératures francophones and more.

Collection of Spanish and Catalan e-books published in Latin America and Spain. To date, the UCB Library has purchased more than 2,700+ titles. To preview the complete list search OskiCat for “Digitalia e-Books UCB access.”

The Directory of Open Access Books is an initiative to increase the discoverability of open access books. Currently, it includes 27,592 academic peer-reviewed books from 377 publishers.

Digital platform for Éditions L’Harmattan which is the largest publisher of French-language ebooks. Search OskiCat for “Harmathèque eBooks” to discover the 1041 titles acquired by the Library.

HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service added 4/3/20   HathiTrust Digital Library
Current UC Berkeley faculty, staff, and students will be able to take advantage of HathiTrust’s Emergency Temporary Access Service, helping the Library continue to serve its mission even during the COVID-19 pandemic. The service provides view-only access to digital versions of millions of the physical volumes held by libraries across the 10-campus UC system — plus NRLF and SRLF. For more information, read HathiTrust’s guide and FAQ on the Emergency Temporary Access Service.

Humanities E-Book Project (formerly History E-Books Project)
Access to the full text of 5,400 frequently-cited academic books in humanities. (ACLS History E-Books Project – HEB) [1920s – present]

Internet Archive’s National Emergency Library added 3/24/20
A collection of nearly a million and a half digitized books, most still under copyright, in all languages are being made publicly available through June 30, 2020. Up to 10 books at a time can be checked out with the creation of a free account.

OpenEdition Books oa updated 3/26/20
A French open access interdisciplinary humanities and social sciences portal with four complementary platforms: OpenEdition Books (ebooks), OpenEdition Journals (scholarly journals), Calenda (academic announcements), and Hypothèses (research blogs). While most of the 9,463 ebooks are available in html, UCB has purchased freemium access to 4,751 ebooks that are now discoverable in OskiCat through the handle “OpenEdition Books.” Purchased titles have been optimized specifically for e-readers, tablets, and smart phones (ePub, PDF, etc.). 700 new titles were recently purchased and freemium access should be turned on by April however during the period of confinement, most books will be available in all formats.

REDIB (Red Iberoamericana de Innovación y Conocimiento Científico) oa
A platform for the aggregation of open scientific and academic content in the electronic format produced in the Ibero-American context. Currently 3,199 journals and 852 ebooks.

Casalini Libri’s full text digital platform provides access to 3,161 ebooks, 530 conference proceedings, and 141 journals by major Italian publishers.


The most comprehensive collection of French-language journals in the humanities and social sciences available online. Full text to more than 500 peer-reviewed academic French and Belgian journals, as well as citations for open-access journals, in the humanities and social sciences. [2001 – present]

Dialnet oa
Indexes articles, conference papers, book chapters, dissertations and other documents in the social sciences and the humanities published mostly in Spain and to a lesser extent in Latin America. Full text provided to open access content. [2001 – present]

Fabrizio Serra Journals
Collection of more than 50 Italian scholarly journals primarily covering literature, literary criticism, philology, and linguistics. [start dates vary by title; most begin in 2000].

OpenEdition Journals oa
Formerly is part of OpenEdition, a comprehensive digital publishing infrastructure whose objective is to promote research in the humanities and social sciences. The open access scholarly journal collection includes 534 mostly French but also English, Italian and Spanish titles in the humanities and social sciences. [1999-]

Persée oa
Free and open access to French scholarly journals in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities as well as to books, conference proceedings, serial publications, primary sources, etc.

RACO: Revistes Catalanes amb Acces Obert oa added 3/24/20
A cooperative open access repository of 506 full text scholarly journals.

REDIB (Red Iberoamericana de Innovación y Conocimiento Científico) oa
A platform for the aggregation of scientific and academic content in the electronic format produced in the Ibero-American context. Currently 3199 journals and 433 ebooks published by CSIC.

Casalini Libri’s full text digital platform provides access to 3161 ebooks, 530 conference proceedings, and 141 journals by major Italian publishers including Fabrizio Serra Editore.

Digital libraries and other online collections



The Languages of Berkeley: An Online Exhibition

La Vallière manuscript of Candide, ou L’optimisme (1758), Gallica, Bibliothèque nationale de France    

Si c’est ici le meilleur des mondes possibles, que sont donc les autres?

If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others like?

— Voltaire, Candide, ou, l’Optimisme (trans. Burton Raffel)

Voltaire, né François-Marie Arouet (1694-1778), was a French philosopher who mobilized the power of Enlightenment principles in 18th-century Europe more than any other thinker of his day. Born into a prosperous bourgeois Parisian family, his father steered him toward law, but he was intent on a literary career. His tragedy Oedipe, which premiered at the Comédie Française in 1718, brought him instant financial and social success. A libertine and a polemicist, he was also an outspoken advocate for religious tolerance, pluralism and freedom of speech, publishing more than 2,000 works in all possible genres during his lifetime. For his bluntness, he was locked up in the Bastille twice and exiled from Paris three times.[1] Fleeing royal censors, Voltaire fled to London in 1727 where he, despite arriving penniless, spent two and a half years hobnobbing with nobility as well as writers such as Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift.[2]

After his sojourn in Great Britain, he returned to the Continent and lived in numerous cities (Champagne, Versaille, Amsterdam, Potsdam, Berlin, etc.) before settling outside of Geneva in 1755 shortly after Louis XV banned him from Paris. “It was in his old age, during the 1760s and 1770s,” writes historian Robert Darnton, “that he wielded his second and most powerful weapon, moral passion.”[3] Early in 1759, Voltaire completed and published the satirical novella Candide, ou l’Optimisme (“Candide, or Optimism”) featured in this entry. In 1762, he published Traité sur la tolerance (“Treatise on Tolerance”), which is considered one of the greatest defenses of religious freedom and human rights ever composed. Soon after its publication, the American and French Revolutions began dismantling the social world of aristocrats and kings that we now refer to as the Ancien Régime.[4]

With Candide in particular, Voltaire is credited with pioneering what is called the conte philosophique, or philosophical tale. Knowing it would scandalize, the story was published anonymously in Geneva, Paris and Amsterdam simultaneously and disguised as a French translation by a fictitious Mr. Le Docteur Ralph. The novella was immediately condemned for its blasphemy and subversion, yet within weeks sold 6,000 copies within Paris alone.[5] Royal censors were unable to keep up with the proliferation of illegal reprints, and it quickly became a bestseller throughout Europe.

Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) is considered one of its clearest precursors in both form and parody. Candide is the name of the naive hero who is tutored by the optimistic philosophy of Pangloss, who claims that “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds” only to be expulsed in the first few pages from the opulent chateau in which he grew up. The story unfolds as Candide travels the world and encounters unimaginable human suffering and catastrophes. Voltaire’s satirical critique takes aim at religion, authority, and the prevailing philosophy of the time, Leibnizian optimism.

While the classical language of Candide is more than 260 years old, it is easy enough to comprehend today. As the lingua franca across the Continent, French was accessible to a vast French-reading public since gathering strength as a literary language since the 16th century.[6] However, no language stays the same forever and French is no exception. Old French, which is studied by medievalists at Berkeley, covers the period up to 1300. Middle French spans the 14th and 14th centuries and part of the early Renaissance when the study of French language was taken more seriously. Modern French emerged from one of the two major dialects known as langue d’oïl in the middle of the 17th century when efforts to standardize the language were taking shape. It was then that the Académie Française was established in 1635.[8] One of its members, Claude Favre de Vaugelas, published in 1647 the influential volume, Remarques sur la langue françoise, a series of commentaries on points of pronunciation, orthography, vocabulary and syntax.[9]

At UC Berkeley, scholars have been analyzing Candide and other French texts in the original since the university’s founding. The Department of French may have the largest concentration of French speakers on campus, and French remains like German, Spanish, and English one of the principal languages of scholarship in many disciplines. Demand for French publications is great from departments and programs such as African Studies, Anthropology, Art History, Comparative Literature, History, Linguistics, Middle Eastern Studies, Music, Near Eastern Studies, Philosophy, and Political Science. The French collection is also vital to interdisciplinary Designated Emphasis PhD programs in Critical Theory, Film & Media Studies, Folklore, Gender & Women’s Studies, Medieval Studies, and Renaissance & Early Modern Studies.

UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library is home to the most precious French holdings, including medieval manuscripts such as La chanson de geste de Garin le Loherain (13th c.) and dozens of incunables. More than 90 original first editions by Voltaire can be located in these special collections, including La Henriade (1728), Mémoires secrets pour servir à l’histoire de Perse (1745) Maupertuisiana (1753), L’enfant prodigue: comédie en vers dissillabes (1753) and a Dutch printing of Candide, ou, l’Optimisme (1759). Other noteworthy material from the 18th century overlapping with Voltaire include the Swiss Enlightenment and the French Revolutionary Pamphlet collections.

Contribution by Claude Potts
Librarian for Romance Language Collections, Doe Library

Sources consulted:

  1. Davidson, Ian. Voltaire. New York: Pegasus Books, 2010. xviii
  2. Ibid.
  3. Darnton, Robert. “To Deal With Trump, Look to Voltaire,” New York Times (Dec. 27, 2018).
  4. Voltaire. Candide or Optimism. Translated by Burton Raffel. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.
  5. Davidson, 291.
  6. Levi, Anthony. Guide to French Literature. Chicago: St. James Press, c1992-c1994.
  7. Kors, Alan Charles, ed. Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment. Oxford University Press, 2002.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.


Title: Candide, ou L’optimisme (Manuscrit La Vallière)
Title in English: Candide, ou L’optimisme (La Vallière Manuscript)
Author: Voltaire, 1694-1778
Imprint: La Vallière (Louis-César, duc de). Ancien possesseur, 1758.
Edition: 1st edition
Language: French
Language Family: Indo-European, Romance
Source: Gallica (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, 3160)

Other online editions:

Print editions at Berkeley:

The Languages of Berkeley [fan]
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The Languages of Berkeley is a dynamic online sequential exhibition celebrating the diversity of languages that have advanced research, teaching and learning at the University of California, Berkeley. It is made possible with support from the UC Berkeley Library and is co-sponsored by the Berkeley Language Center (BLC).

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The Languages of Berkeley: An Online Exhibition

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The Languages of Berkeley is a dynamic online sequential exhibition celebrating the diversity of languages that have advanced research, teaching and learning at the University of California, Berkeley. It is made possible with support from the UC Berkeley Library and is co-sponsored by the Berkeley Language Center (BLC).

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An African American short story in French

Le Mulâtre by Victor SéjourBorn in New Orleans, Victor Séjour (1817-1874) was a Creole writer who moved to France at the age of 19 to continue his education, find work, and flee the racial oppression of Louisiana. His short story “Le Mulâtre” (“The Mulatto”) was first published in the abolitionist journal Révue des Colonies (March 1837) not long after his arrival in Paris and is now freely available through Gallica—the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. It is the first work of fiction written by an African American author. Set in Saint Domingue before the Haitian Revolution, Séjour’s work centers on the injustice and cruelty of slavery. According to Marlene Daut and David O’Connell in her article “Sons of White Fathers: Mulatto Vengeance and the Haitian Revolution in Victor Séjour’s ‘The Mulatto'” published in Nineteenth-Century Literature 65:1 (June 2010), the tale was “not simply a blow . . . struck for the cause of abolition in the French colonies, but [was] . . . also one of the first manifestations of a ‘literature of combat’ written by an American black.””

A full English translation of “The Mulatto” was published more than one hundred years after his death in The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1997). Remembered as one of the first black writers of both the African American and French literary traditions, Victor Séjour enjoyed a period of success as a playwright, was naturalized as a French citizen, and is buried in the Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. The Library has reprints in French and a few English translations of his works in the Main Stacks while The Bancroft Library houses two rare first editions – La madone des roses : drame en cinq actes, en prose (1869) and La tireuse de cartes; drame en cinq actes et un prologue, en prose (1860) in its African American Writers collection.

This post has been shared as part of a UC Berkeley initiative announced by Chancellor Carol Christ to mark the 400th anniversary of the forced arrival of enslaved Africans in the English colonies.


French Literary Prize Winners 2019

French Literary Prize Winners 2019

France’s array of literary prizes offer a glimpse of emerging French and francophone writers, and also award accolades to the well-known. The winning titles with hyperlinks on this list provided by Amalivre in Paris are now available for check-out in UC Berkeley’s collection. To view the most recent book purchases across disciplines within French studies, please consult the recent acquisitions list in OskiCat.

Fall Awards Author Title Publisher
Governor General’s Literary Award (roman français) * Céline Huyghebaert Le drap blanc Le Quartanier
Grand prix de la littérature policière * Richard Morgiève Le Cherokee Joëlle Losfeld
Grand prix du roman de l’Académie Française * Laurent Binet Civilizations Grasset
Grand prix du roman métis * Laurent Gaudé Salina: les trois exils Actes sud
Prix Décembre * Claudie Hunziger Les grands cerfs Grasset
Prix de Flore Sofia Aouine Rhapsodie des oubliés La Martinière
Prix de la langue française * Louis-Philippe Dalembert Mur méditerranée Sabine Wespieser
Prix de la nouvelle de l’Académie française * Louis-Antoine Prat Belle encore et autres nouvelles Somogy
Prix des cinq continents de la francophonie * Gilles Jobidon Le tranquille affligé Leméac
Prix du roman FNAC * Bérengère Cournut De pierre et d’os Le Tripode
Prix Femina * Sylvain Prudhomme Par les routes Gallimard
Prix Femina essai * Emmanuelle Lambert Giono, furioso Stock
Prix Goncourt * Jean-Paul Dubois Tous les hommes n’habitent pas le monde de la même façon L’Olivier
Prix Goncourt des lycéens * Karine Tuil Les choses humaines Gallimard
Prix Guillaume Apollinaire (Poetry) * Olivier Barbarant Un grand instant Champ Vallon
Prix Interallié * Karine Tuil Les choses humaines Gallimard
Prix Landernau * Sylvain Prudhomme Par les routes Gallimard
Prix Médicis * Luc Lang La tentation Stock
Prix Médicis essai * Bulle Ogier & Anne Diatkine J’ai oublié Seuil
Prix Renaudot * Sylvain Tesson La panthère des neiges Gallimard
Prix Renaudot des lycéens * Victoria Mas Le bal des folles Albin Michel
Prix Renaudot essai * Eric Neuhoff (Très) cher cinéma français Albin Michel
Prix Senghor du premier roman francophone *
Ester Mann & Levon Minassian
Le fil des anges Vents d’ailleurs
Prix Wepler * Lucie Taïeb Les échappées Editions de l’Ogre
Other General Literary Prizes
Prix des Deux Magots (January) * Emmanuel de Waresquiel Le temps de s’en apercevoir L’Iconoclaste
Prix des Libraires (June) * Franck Bouysse Né d’aucune femme
La Manufacture de Livres
Grand prix de la francophonie de l’Académie Française *
Grand prix littéraire de l’Afrique noire (May) * Armand Gauz Camarade Papa Nouvel Attila
Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman (May) * Marie Gauthier Court vêtue Gallimard
Prix Goncourt de la nouvelle * Caroline Lamarche Nous sommes à la lisière Gallimard
Prix Ahmadou Kourouma (May) * David Diop Frère d’âme
Prix Goncourt de la poésie (May) * Yvon Le Men awarded for the body of his work
Prix Goncourt de la biographie (June) * Frédéric Pajak Manifeste incertain 7 Noir sur blanc
Prix Landernau Polar (May) * Thomas Canteloube Réquiem pour une République Gallimard
European Union Prize for Literature (auteurs français) * Sophie Daull awarded for the ensemble of her work Ed. Philippe Rey
Prix Mallarmé (Poetry) * Claudine Bohi Naître, c’est longtemps La tête à l’envers
Prix Orange (June) * Jean-Baptiste Maudet Matador Yankee Le Passage
Prix de l’Académie française Maurice Genevoix (June) * Jean-Marie Planes Une vie de soleil Arléa
Prix Ouest France Etonnants Voyageurs (June) * Anaïs Llobet Des hommes couleur de ciel Ed. de l’Observatoire
Prix des Lecteurs de L’Express (June) * Jean-Claude Grumberg La plus précieuse des marchandises Seuil
Prix Jean d’Ormesson (new 2018 –not restricted to living authors or new titles) * Julian Barnes La seule histoire (translated from the English) Gallimard
Grand Prix de Poésie de l’Académie française * Pierre Oster For the ensemble of his work
Prix de la Bibliothèque nationale de France (June) * Virginie Despentes For the ensemble of her work
Prix du livre Inter (June) * Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam Arcadie POL


The Languages of Berkeley: An Online Exhibition

Cover for 1st edition of Mensagem (1934), (Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal)

Ó mar salgado, quanto do teu sal
São lágrimas de Portugal!

Quando virás, ó Encoberto,
Sonho das eras portuguez,

Tornar-me mais que o sopro incerto
De um grande anceio que Deus fez?

O salty sea, so much of whose salt
Is Portugal’s tears!

When will you come home, O Hidden One,
Portuguese dream of every age,

To make me more than faint breath
Of an ardent, God-created yearning?

                                            (Trans. Richard Zenith, Message)

Living in a paradoxical era of artistic experimentalism and political authoritarianism, Fernando António Nogueira Pêssoa (1888-1935) is considered Portugal’s most important modern writer. Born in Lisbon, he was a poet, writer, literary critic, translator, publisher and philosopher. Most of his creative output appeared in journals. He published just one book in his lifetime in his native language Mensagem (“Message”). In the same year this collection of 44 poems was published, António Salazar was consolidating his Estado Novo (“New State”) regime, which would subjugate the nation and its colonies in Africa for more than 40 years. Encouraged to submit Mensagem by António Ferro, a colleague with whom he previously collaborated in the literary journal Orpheu (1915), Pessoa was awarded the poetry prize sponsored by the National Office of Propaganda for the work’s “lofty sense of nationalist exhaltation.”[1]

Because of its association with the Salazar’s dictatorship, Mensagem was regarded as a national monument but also as something reprehensible. Translator Richard Zenith describes it as a “lyrical expansion on The Lusiads, Camões’ great epic celebration of the Portuguese discoveries epitomized by Vasco de Gama’s inaugural voyage to India.”[2] At the same time, it traces an intimate connection to the world at large, or rather, to various worlds (historical, psychological, imaginary, spriritual) beginning with the circumscribed existence of Pessoa as a child. Longing for the homeland, as in The Lusiads, is an undisputed theme of Pessoa’s verses as he spent most of his childhood in Durham, South Africa, with his family before returning to Portugal in 1905.

Pessoa wrote in Portuguese, English, and French and attained fame only after his death. He distinguished himself in his poetry and prose by employing what he called heteronyms, imaginary characters or alter egos written in different styles. While his three chief heteronyms were Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis and Álvaro de Campos, scholars attribute more than 70 of these fictitious alter egos to Pessoa and many of these books can be encountered in library catalogs sometimes with no reference to Pessoa whatsoever. Use of identity as a flexible, dynamic construction, and his consequent rejection of traditional notions of authorship and individuality prefigure many of the concerns of postmodernism. He is widely considered one of the Portuguese language’s greatest poets and is required reading in most Portuguese literature programs.[3]

According to Ethnologue, there are over 234 million native Portuguese speakers in the world with the majority residing in Brazil.[4] Portuguese is the sixth most natively spoken language on the planet and the third most spoken European language in terms of native speakers.[5] Instruction in Portuguese language and culture has occurred primarily within the Department of Spanish & Portuguese. Since 1994, UC Berkeley’s Center for Portuguese Studies in collaboration with institutions in Portugal brings distinguished scholars to campus, sponsors conferences and workshops, develops courses, and supports research by students and faculty.

Contribution by Claude Potts
Librarian for Romance Language Collections, Doe Library

Sources consulted:

  1. Preface to Richard Zenith’s English translation Message. Lisboa: Oficina do Livro, 2016.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Portuguese (PORTUG) – Berkeley Academic Guide (accessed 2/4/20)
  4. Ethnoloque: Languages of the World (accessed 2/4/20)
  5. CIA World Factbook (accessed 2/4/20)

Title: Mensagem
Title in English: Message
Author: Pessoa, Fernando, 1885-1935.
Imprint: Lisbon: Parceria António Maria Pereira, 1934.
Edition: 1st
Language: Portuguese
Language Family: Indo-European, Romance
Source: Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal

Other online editions:

Print editions at Berkeley:
  • Mensagem. 1a ed. Lisboa : Pereira, 1934.
  • Mensagem. Print facsimile from original manuscript in BNP. Lisboa : Babel, 2010.
  • Mensagem. Comentada por Miguel Real ; ilustrações, João Pedro Lam. Lisboa : Parsifal, 2013.
  • Mensagem : e outros poemas sobre Portugal. Fernando Cabral Martins and Richard Zenith, eds. Porto, Portugal : Assírio & Alvim, 2014.
  • Mensagem. Translated into English by Richard Zenith. Illustrations by Pedro Sousa Pereira. Lisboa : Oficina do Livro, 2008

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The Languages of Berkeley is a dynamic online sequential exhibition celebrating the diversity of languages that have advanced research, teaching and learning at the University of California, Berkeley. It is made possible with support from the UC Berkeley Library and is co-sponsored by the Berkeley Language Center (BLC).

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The Languages of Berkeley: An Online Exhibition

Photo of Grazia Deledda in her youth (Sardegna Digital Library) and title page for first book edition of La madre (1920).

It took centuries before Italy could codify and proclaim Italian as we know it today. The canonical author Dante Alighieri, was the first to dignify the Italian vernaculars in his De vulgari eloquentia (ca. 1302-1305). However, according to the Tuscan poet, no Italian city—not even Florence, his hometown—spoke a vernacular “sublime in learning and power, and capable of exalting those who use it in honour and glory.”[1] Dante, therefore, went on to compose his greatest work, the Divina Commedia in an illustrious Florentine which, unlike the vernacular spoken by the common people, was lofty and stylized. The Commedia (i.e. Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso) marked a linguistic and literary revolution at a time when Latin was the norm. Today, Dante and two other 14th-century Tuscan poets, Petrarch and Boccaccio, are known as the three crowns of Italian literature. Tuscany, particularly Florence, would become the cradle of the standard Italian language. 

In his treatise Prose della volgar lingua (1525), the Venetian Pietro Bembo champions the Florentine of Petrarch and Boccaccio about 200 years earlier. Regardless of the ardent debates and disagreements that continued throughout the Renaissance and beyond, Bembo’s treatise encouraged many renowned poets and prose writers to compose their works in a Florentine that was no longer in use. Nevertheless, works continued to be written in many dialects for centuries (Milanese, Neapolitan, Sicilian, Sardinian, Venetian and many more), and such is the case until this day. But which language was to become the lingua franca throughout the newly formed Kingdom of Italy in 1861? 

With Italy’s unification in the 19th century came a new mission: the need to adopt a common language for a population that had spoken their respective native dialects for generations.[2] In 1867, the mission fell to a committee led by Alessandro Manzoni, author of the bestselling historical novel I promessi sposi (The Betrothed, 1827). In 1868, he wrote to Italy’s minister of education Emilio Broglio that Tuscan, namely the Florentine spoken among the upper class, ought to be adopted. Over the years, in addition to the widespread adoption of The Betrothed as a model for modern Italian in schools, 20th-century Italian mass media (newspaper, radio, and television) became the major diffusers of a unifying national language.

Grazia Maria Cosima Deledda (1871-1936), the author featured in this essay, is one of the millions of Italians who learned standardized Italian as a second language. Her maternal language was Logudorese Sardo, a variety of Sardinian. She took private lessons from her elementary school teacher and composed writing exercises in the form of short stories. Her first creations appeared in magazines, such as L’ultima moda between 1888 and 1889. She excelled in Standard Italian and confidently corresponded with publishers in Rome and Milan. During her lifetime, she published more than 50 works of fiction as well as poems, plays and essays, all of which invariably centered on what she knew best: the people, customs and landscapes of her native Sardinia.

The UC Berkeley Library houses approximately 265 books by and about Deledda as well as our digital editions of her novel La madre (The Mother). It was originally serialized for the newspaper Il tempo in 1919 and published in book form the following year. Deledda recounts the tragedy of three individuals: the protagonist Maria Maddalena, her son and young priest Paulo, and the lonely Agnese with whom Paulo falls in love. The mother is tormented at discovering her son’s love affair with Agnese.  Three English translations of La madre have appeared, however, it was the 1922 translation by Mary G. Steegman (with a foreword by D.H. Lawrence) that was most influential in providing Deledda with international renown.

Deledda received the 1926 Nobel Prize for Literature “for her idealistically inspired writings which, with plastic clarity, picture the life on her native island and with depth and sympathy deal with human problems in general.”[3]  To this day, she is the only Italian female writer to receive the highest prize in literature. Here are the opening lines of Deledda’s speech in occasion of the award conferment in 1927:

Sono nata in Sardegna. La mia famiglia, composta di gente savia ma anche di violenti e di artisti primitivi, aveva autorità e aveva anche biblioteca. Ma quando cominciai a scrivere, a tredici anni, fui contrariata dai miei. Il filosofo ammonisce: se tuo figlio scrive versi, correggilo e mandalo per la strada dei monti; se lo trovi nella poesia la seconda volta, puniscilo ancora; se va per la terza volta, lascialo in pace perché è un poeta. Senza vanità anche a me è capitato così.

I was born in Sardinia. My family, composed of wise people but also violent and unsophisticated artists, exercised authority and also kept a library.  But when I started writing at age thirteen, I encountered opposition from my parents.  As the philosopher warns: if your son writes verses, admonish him and send him to the mountain paths; if you find him composing poetry a second time, punish him once again; if he does it a third time, leave him alone because he’s a poet.  Without pride, it happened to me the same way. [my translation

The Department of Italian Studies at UC Berkeley dates back to the 1920s.  Nevertheless, Italian was taught and studied long before the Department’s foundation. “Its faculty—permanent and visiting, present and past—includes some of the most distinguished scholars and representatives of Italy, its language, literature, history, and culture.” As one of the field’s leaders and innovators both in North America and internationally, the Department retains its long-established mission of teaching and promoting the language and literature of Italy and “has broadened its scope to include multiple disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives to view the country, its language, and its people” from within Italy and globally, from the Middle Ages to the present day.[4] 

Contribution by Brenda Rosado
PhD Student, Department of Italian Studies


Source consulted:

  1. Dante Alighieri, De Vulgari Eloquentia, Ed. and Trans. Steven Botterill, p. 41
  2. Mappa delle lingue e gruppi dialettali d’italiani, Wikimedia Commons (accessed 12/5/19)
  3. From Nobel Prize official website:
    See also the award presentation speech (on December 10, 1927) by Henrik Schück, President of the Nobel Foundation: (accessed 12/5/19)
  4. Department of Italian Studies, UC Berkeley (accessed 12/5/19)

Title: La madre
Title in English: The Woman and the Priest
Author: Deledda, Grazia, 1871-1936
Imprint: Milano : Treves, 1920.
Edition: 1st
Language: Italian
Language Family: Indo-European, Romance
Source: HathiTrust (University of California)

Other online editions:

  • La madre. 1st ed. Milano : Treves, 1920. (Sardegna Digital Library)
  • The Woman and the Priest. Translated into English by M.G. Steegman; foreword by D.H. Lawrence. London, J. Cape, 1922. (HathiTrust)

Print editions at Berkeley:

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The Languages of Berkeley is a dynamic online sequential exhibition celebrating the diversity of languages that have advanced research, teaching and learning at the University of California, Berkeley. It is made possible with support from the UC Berkeley Library and is co-sponsored by the Berkeley Language Center (BLC).

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Libretto of opera based on Mirèio by Charles Gounoud (1918) from HathiTrust

A Lamartine:
Te consacre Mirèio : es moun cor e moun amo,
Es la flour de mis an,
Es un rasin de Crau qu’emé touto sa ramo
Te porge un païsan.

To Lamartine :
To you I dedicate Mirèio: ‘tis my heart and soul,
It is the flower of my years;
It is a bunch of Crau grapes,
Which with all its leaves a peasant brings you. (Trans. C. Grant)

On May 21, 1854, seven poets met at the Château de Font-Ségugne in Provence, and dubbed themselves the “Félibrige” (from the Provençal felibre, whose disputed etymology is usually given as “pupil”). Their literary society had a larger goal: to restore glory to their language, Provençal. The language was in decline, stigmatized as a backwards rural patois. All seven members of the Félibrige, and those who have taken up their mantle through the present day, labored to restore the prestige to which they felt Provençal was due as a literary language. None was more successful or celebrated than Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914).

Mirèio, which Mistral referred to simply as a “Provençal poem,” is composed of 12 cantos and was published in 1859. Mirèio, the daughter of a wealthy farmer, falls in love with Vincèn, a basketweaver. Vincèn’s simple yet noble occupation and Mirèio’s modest dignity and devotion mark them as embodiments of the country virtues so prized by the Félibrige. Mirèio embarks on a journey to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, that she might pray for her father to accept Vincèn. Her quest ends in tragedy, but Mistral’s finely drawn portraits of the characters and landscapes of beloved Provence, and of the implacable power of love still linger. C.M. Girdlestone praises the regional specificity and the universality of Mistral’s oeuvre thus: “Written for the ‘shepherds and peasants’ of Provence, his work, on the wings of its transcendant loveliness, reaches out to all men.”[1]

Mistral distinguished himself as a poet and as a lexicographer. He produced an authoritative dictionary of Provençal, Lou tresor dóu Felibrige. He wrote four long narrative poems over his lifetime: Mirèio, Calendal, Nerto, and Lou Pouemo dóu Rose. His other literary work includes lyric poems, short stories, and a well-received book of memoirs titled Moun espelido. Frédéric Mistral won a Nobel Prize in literature in 1904 “in recognition of the fresh originality and true inspiration of his poetic production, which faithfully reflects the natural scenery and native spirit of his people, and, in addition, his significant work as a Provençal philologist.”[2]

Today, Provençal is considered variously to be a language in its own right or a dialect of Occitan. The latter label encompasses the Romance varieties spoken across the southern third of France, Spain’s Val d’Aran, and Italy’s Piedmont valleys. The Félibrige is still active as a language revival association.[3] Along with myriad other groups and individuals, it advocates for the continued survival and flowering of regional languages in southern France.

Contribution by Elyse Ritchey
PhD student, Romance Languages and Literatures 

Source consulted:

  1. Girdlestone, C.M. Dreamer and Striver: The Poetry of Frédéric Mistral. London: Methuen, 1937.
  2. “Frédéric Mistral: Facts.” The Nobel Prize. (accessed 11/12/19)
  3. Felibrige, (accessed 11/12/19)

Title: Mirèio
Title in English: Mirèio / Mireille
Author: Mistral, Frédéric, 1830-1914
Imprint: Paris: Charpentier, 1861.
Edition: 2nd
Language: Occitan with parallel French translation
Language Family: Indo-European, Romance
Source: Gallica (Bibliothèque nationale de France)

Other online editions::

Print editions at Berkeley:

The Languages of Berkeley [fan]
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The Languages of Berkeley is a dynamic online sequential exhibition celebrating the diversity of languages that have advanced research, teaching and learning at the University of California, Berkeley. It is made possible with support from the UC Berkeley Library and is co-sponsored by the Berkeley Language Center (BLC).

Follow The Languages of Berkeley!
Subscribe by email

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Book talk (en français) with Lyonel Trouillot

Wednesday, November 13
5-6:30 pm
4229 Dwinelle (French Department Library)

Lyonel Trouillot is a novelist, poet, journalist and professor of French and Creole literatures in Port-au-Prince. He will discuss his novel Kannjawou (Actes Sud, 2016) which was recently translated into English (Schaffner Press, 2019). He will be introduced by Soraya Tlatli, professor of French at UC Berkeley.

Sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Department of French
Cultural Services, French Embassy in the U.S.


Featured Publisher – Edizioni e/o

The independent publishing house Edizioni e/o was founded in Rome in 1979 by Sandro Ferria and Sandra Ozzola who had a profound interest in cultural dialogue and exchange. Early on they focused on literary translations into Italian, particularly with writers from Eastern Europe, but soon began to publish writers from their own country as Lia Levi, Gioconda Belli, and Elena Ferrante. In 2005, the founders launched Europa Editions which brings into the English-speaking world some of the Europe’s best contemporary writers. Here are a few of the latest Edizioni e/o titles in Italian that can be found in Berkeley’s collection: