Monica Jansen

Monica Jansen (Utrecht University)

Monica Jansen is an Assistant Professor of Italian Literature in the Department of Languages, Literature and Communication (TLC) – Italian language and culture at Utrecht University. Her research interests include modernism and postmodernism studies, and more specifically new forms of cultural engagement. She investigates cultural representations of socially relevant topics such as religion, precarity, youth and migration, from an interdisciplinary, transmedial, and transnational perspective. She is co-editor-in-chief of Annali d’italianistica and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies.



“Vuotare il mare col secchiello”: Adriano Sofri’s writings on Captivity in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Prison director Luigi Pagano once said that to clear the San Vittore prison is like “emptying the sea with a bucket”. The problem of prison overcrowding is one of the recurrent themes in Adriano Sofri’s critical prison writings and lies at the origin of the related topics of life imprisonment, amnesty and suicide on which he continuously reflects as a journalist and a writer, during and after his 22 years of captivity in Pisa’s Don Bosco Prison.

The unresolved emergency of overcrowded prisons in Italy recently became world news with the Coronavirus outbreak which sparked prison riots in early March 2020 all over the country. In his column “Piccola posta” (Il Foglio) Sofri commented on the events pointing out that the Covid-19 pandemic has been the spark that inflamed the “Caporetto” of Italy’s agonizing penitentiary system. Starting from these recent public statements, it is possible to consider Sofri’s prison writing as a way of continuously re-contextualising his own prison experience in relation to the “prisons of the others” (cf. his Le prigioni degli altri, 1993). This contribution aims to show how Sofri’s opinions of the prison riots in March 2020 can be read backwards, in light of his previous statements on imprisonment and the living conditions of inmates in Italy.