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Robey, David

ROBEY, David




Office—Dept. of Italian Studies, School of Modern Languages, University of Reading, White-knights, Reading RG6 6AA, England. E-mail—[email protected].


Educator, Italian scholar, writer, editor. University of Manchester, Manchester, England, professor of Italian; Wolfson College, Oxford, England, emeritus fellow; University of Reading, Reading, England, professor of Italian, head of the School of Modern Languages, director of ICT in Arts and Humanities Research Program, and member of Arts and Humanities Research Board.


(Editor) Structuralism: An Introduction to Wolfson College Lectures, 1972, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1973.

(Editor, with Ann Jefferson) Modern Literary Theory: A Comparative Introduction, Barnes & Noble Books (Totowa, NJ), 1982, revised edition, 1986.

Sound and Structure in the Divine Comedy, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.

(Editor, with Peter Hainsworth) The Oxford Companion to Italian Literature, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor of introduction to The Open Work, by Umberto Eco, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1989.


David Robey's specialty is Italian literature, and he has taught in several colleges in England. Robey is editor of Structuralism: An Introduction, a collection of seven lectures given at Wolfson College, Oxford, in 1972. Contributors John Lyons, Edmund Leach, Jonathan Culler, Umberto Eco, John Mepham, Robin Gandy, and Tzvetan Todorov examine structuralist theory within a number of disciplines, as well as its linguistic roots, its use in social anthropology and semiology, and its relation to mathematics and philosophy. A structural analysis of American novelist Henry James's tales is provided by Todorov, which a Times Literary Supplement reviewer felt "is better to read than it perhaps was to listen to." Peter Caws wrote in Comparative Literature that "the virtue of David Robey's collection … is that it does not pretend to be a unified account, but calls on representatives of some of these diverse fields to interpret structuralism as it has made theoretical contributions to each."

Robey is also editor, with Ann Jefferson, of Modern Literary Theory: A Comparative Introduction, which in its first edition contains six chapters that focus on Russian formalism, modern linguistics, Anglo-American New Criticism, structuralism and post structuralism, modern psychoanalytic criticism, and Marxist theories. The second edition adds chapters on reading/interpretation and feminist theory, as well as expands upon previously covered areas.

Robey's Sound and Structure in the Divine Comedy is a computer-based analysis of the famous philosophico-political poem by Italian poet Dante Alighieri, and was called a "fine book" by Pietro G. Beltrami in Modern Language Review. Robey wrote a paper titled "Sound and Structure in Dante's Divine Comedy" while he was with the Department of Italian Studies of the University of Manchester. It was presented in 1998 at the Joint International Conference ALLC/ACH (Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing and Association for Computers and the Humanities), and posted on the Web site of the Center for Applied Linguistics Online. In the paper, Robey explains that the project "produces (1) an electronic test of the Divine Comedy and Dante's lyric poetry marked up in terms of syllable count and accent; (2) on the basis of this, a systematic structural description of Dante's rhythmical practice, in the sense of the distribution of accentual structures and the application of syllable divisions …; (3) a much more powerful account of assonance and alliteration in the Comedy, since I am now able to link these features (as I could not do in my earlier studies) to accentual structure."

The book analyzes the sounds and distribution of sounds within Dante's text, compares them to occurrences in related texts, and comes to the conclusion that the work contains unusually high occurrences of specific features. It is, therefore, a further examination of the poem and an example and study of how technology can be used for scholarly research.

In addition, Robey is editor, with Peter Hainsworth, of The Oxford Companion to Italian Literature, a collection of 2,400 entries arranged alphabetically, by Italian scholars, primarily academics in Great Britain and Ireland, with a number from the United States. Very well-known works appear under their English titles, while lesser-known works are titled in Italian. The volume covers writers over nine centuries, as well as some general entries, in categories that include genres and types, literary movements, themes and issues, humor and irony, cultural contexts and institutions, language, social and political context, non-Italian writing and influences, other arts, and sources for further reference. Notable Italian filmmakers are covered as well as lesser-known figures from the 1930s, such as Mario Camerini and Alessandro Blasetti.

Times Literary Supplement reviewer Masolino D'Amico noted that "the turn-of-the-century trinity, Giosuè Carducci, Giovanni Pascoli, and Gabriele D'Annunzio, viewed with undiluted admiration and awe in their day but now almost completely absent from anthologies, are discussed with wisdom and balance."

Historians, critics, and philosophers are included, as are Italians who worked abroad, and playwrights. There is an entry for Carlo Collodi, author of the children's story Pinocchio. Booklist reviewers Susan Awe and Barbara Bibel called The Oxford Companion to Italian Literature "the most comprehensive reference tool for Italian literature in English."



Booklist, September 15, 2003, Susan Awe and Barbara Bibel, review of The Oxford Companion to Italian Literature, p. 268.

Choice, January, 1974, review of Structuralism: An Introduction, p. 1732.

Comparative Literature, fall, 1977, Peter Caws, review of Structuralism, pp. 351-353.

Modern Language Review, April, 2002, Pietro G. Beltrami, review of Sound and Structure in the Divine Comedy, pp. 449-450.

Style, spring, 1990, James R. Bennett, review of Modern Literary Theory: A Comparative Introduction (second edition), pp. 126-132.

Times Literary Supplement, August 3, 1973, review of Structuralism, p. 913; January 31, 2003, Masolino D'Amico, review of The Oxford Companion to Italian Literature, pp. 10-11.


Center for Applied Linguistics Online, (June 10, 2004), David Robey, "Sound and Structure in Dante's Divine Comedy" (conference paper).*

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