JHI Circle of Fellows Spotlight—Cristiana Roffi

March 14, 2024 by Sonja Johnston

Cristiana Roffi holds a joint doctoral degree (cum laude) in Latin Literature from the University of Trento and the University of Augsburg. Her main research interests focus on the reception of classics, imperial Latin poetry (in particular Ovid) and ecocriticism. Her fellowship research project is titled Mother Earth. Towards an Ecofeminist Approach to Ovid's Metamorphoses. Cristiana is our 2023-25 A&S Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Humanities.

What are your main research interests?

My main research interests focus on the reception of Classics, Imperial Latin poetry and ecofeminism. Because I firmly believe that the more ancient the roots are, the more universal the themes they nourish, an understanding of how and why antiquity and its transmission are interwoven in the fabric of our present days is pivotal in my approach to the classical world.

What project are you working on at the JHI and why did you choose it?

At the JHI I am working on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, an 8 AD Latin epic poem and one of the most influential works in Western culture, which is garnering more attention from ecocritics and environmental theorists alike. Nonetheless, no scholarly work within the classics analyzes the connection between a procreative Earth with a nurturing, human mother or equates the abuse of the environment with the subordination of women. Through an interdisciplinary approach that combines philological analyses of Latin sources, modern ecocriticism, and feminist perspectives, this project shows how and why Earth and women are closely connected within the Metamorphoses, reconsidering the interactions between women and the natural world. I choose this project because it provides insights into contemporary environmental problems, including the over-intensive exploitation of land and resources. In this historical moment of urgent global concerns, wherein the environmental humanities have emerged as an essential and international field of study, my work highlights the relevance of engaging with classical antiquity to actively foster social progress. After half a century of putting science and technological progress first, it is now time to put the humanities on the front line as well.

How has your JHI Fellowship experience been so far?

The JHI Fellowship allows me to share spaces and ideas with senior and junior scholars with expertise in various disciplines. I deeply believe that networks can affect faculty members’ access to resources and, ultimately, their career success and satisfaction. Since academia is a highly competitive environment, having all the support you need is a key factor to happiness and well-being. Senior faculty members support junior colleagues by providing resources through advice, friendship, and teaching feedback. Being highly involved in positive relationships with JHI fellows helps me overcome a compartmentalized education system in favor of a more fluid, multifaceted, and integrated concept of culture. Lastly, I always feel supported by staff members who assist us in navigating the complex bureaucracy and maintaining a welcoming environment.

Can you share something you read/watched/listened to recently that you enjoyed/were inspired by?

At TIFF I watched Perfect Days, directed by Wim Wenders. I was inspired by the connection with nature and the need to pause to appreciate the perfection of small, seemingly insignificant details. The main character, Hirayama, looks at the world with his eyes, but sees with his heart. There is life in his spartan apartment, in the gesture of taking a coffee from a street vending machine, in his passion for cleaning public toilets in Tokyo. In particular, I enjoyed the choice of music: 60s and 70s American and British rock, the Lou Reed track that gives the film its title and Nina Simone’s Feeling Good.

What is a fun fact about you?

As an explorer wannabe and a fellow fan of Shark Week, I love climbing roots and stones, jumping off waterfalls with both my eyes closed and swimming in turquoise waters (one of the best adventure I ever experienced was in the national forest of El Yunque, Puerto Rico). If you do not see me working in old libraries, especially when the ripe smell of autumn fills the streets, you can easily find me at home, hands mixed in dough and cream. Having played volleyball for almost 10 years, I enjoy watching team sports and, of course, rooting for my country