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South Asia Department

Maddalena Italia


Maddalena Italia
Maddalena Italia
Email address:
Thesis title:
The erotic untranslatable: the modern reception of Sanskrit love poetry in the West and in India
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors


I completed my BA and MA in Classics at the University of Milan, with my MA dissertationfocusing on the Sanskrit figure of speech śleṣa (“Śleṣa, or 'double meaning': traces of stylistic continuity from the Ṛgveda to Sanskrit kāvya literature”). At SOAS I took the MA Languages and Cultures of South Asia, majoring in Sanskrit Literature; during this Master's programme I also took up the study of Hindi. My SOAS Master's dissertation (“Non-verbal communication in Sanskrit kāvya literature: an emic perspective”) dealt with the theoretical frameworks through which literary body language is analyzed in Sanskrit systematic thought on drama and literature (nāṭya- and sāhityaśāstra).

PhD Research

My current research focuses on the reception and translation of Sanskrit love poetry, with particular attention to the strategies of domestication and appropriation employed by modern translators, both Western and non-Western (most notably Indian). Moreover, I try to show how familiarity with Classical Greek and Latin tradition functions as a 'lens' through which scholars and poets translate (or rather, fail to translate) the conventions that are used in Sanskrit poetry to represent feminine individuality, physicality and sexuality. 

This study applies the notion of untranslatability to a specific genre – erotic poetry – in the context of translation from an ancient, non-Western language. Accordingly, one of the aims of my work is to theorize and explore the hermeneutical dimensions of the concept of 'erotic untranslatable'.

PhD Publications

Italia, M. (forthcoming). “About the book Extreme Poetry by Yigal Bronner”. Indologica Taurinensia: the Journal of the International Association of Sanskrit Studies 37.

Italia, M. (2011). Book review of “Yigal Bronner, Extreme Poetry: The South Asian Movement of Simultaneous Narration”. Pandanus ’11: Nature in Literature, Art, Myth and Ritual 5 (1): 152-6.