On Friday, March 17, 2018, Dr. JoAnne Ruvoli lost her battle with leukemia, leaving behind many loved ones, and leaving the English department poorer from her loss.
I was a new professor at Ball State the same year as JoAnne. We became fast friends; both of us enjoying deep conversation, good books and films, Chicago and Chicago food, and good jokes. Her compassion during my times of need made her irreplaceable when she gently prodded me to come over so she could order what passes for pizza in Muncie. Her kindness, understanding, and good company will be greatly missed.
JoAnne was an accomplished scholar whose contributions to the field of Italian-American literature reach beyond adding to the body of scholarly writing. As a doctoral student at UIC, she diligently navigated a legal maze to bring the late Italian-American writer Tina De Rosa’s papers to the library archives—a feat unheard of for a student. This preserved the unpublished writing of a woman whose body of work explored the neighborhood that once existed where UIC campus rests today. Continue reading
In the fall of 2012, the Ball State English Department began a short series to celebrate and profile our newest faculty members. This week, the department continues the series of new faculty profiles by featuring Professor JoAnne Ruvoli, who joined our department this year. Continue reading below to read the interview conducted by English department intern Liz Palmer.
*Photo provided by JoAnne Ruvoli
A great deal of your experience has bridged the gap between English studies and Italian-American studies. How did you get interested in Italian-American studies? Tell us a bit about your interdepartmental teaching and education.
I discovered Italian American literature while teaching Multi-Ethnic American literature as a high school teacher. My students were reading writers like Sandra Cisneros, Maya Angelou, Richard Wright, Richard Rodriquez, Maxine Hong Kingston, Sherman Alexie, Rudolfo Anaya, and Dee Brown. I would tell the students that they had to go out of their way to find their family’s stories if they weren’t reading them in school. One class in particular was very sharp and reflective. Those students turned that challenge back to me, and asked me where I had found my stories. My family migrated from Sicily to the United States in the early 1900s, but I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago in the 1970s and 80s after the old Italian neighborhoods had been dispersed. Most of my traditional undergraduate education had focused on British literature as an English major, and I had never even thought about the possibility of Italian-American literature before that moment. When I started my Masters degree a year or two later, I found a rich body of scholarship on Italian-American writers, which paved the way for my work and that of my colleagues. I research Italian-American literature, which is a specialization in the field of American literature. Italian-American texts are written in the English language with some Italian dialect phrases included. My study and training includes a range of literatures from the British, American, and Anglophone literary traditions, but I write about Italian-American texts in the context of Multi-Ethnic American literature.