Spotlight: Simone Puleo

Simone Maria Puleo is a PhD candidate in the Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies section of LCL. He is a native of Palermo, Sicily and moved to the United States when his parents decided to relocate their pastry business, living briefly in New York and Connecticut before settling in South Florida. Before coming to UConn Simone obtained a BA and an MA in English at Florida Atlantic University. After the bustle of Boca Raton, Simone loved the tranquility at the University of Connecticut.


Growing up in the United States, Simone was exposed to English novels, such as Lord of the Flies, while in the American school system. At home he had access to many classics of Italian literature, such as Dante’s Divina Commedia. When he applied to CLCS at UConn, Simone decided to build on the interdisciplinary approach acquired during his undergraduate degree to bring together his interests in English Literature and in his Italian roots. He has found a real home in CLCS because it has provided him with the freedom to pursue work across disciplines: he is working under Wayne Franklin in English, Sarah Winter in CLCS, and with Norma Bouchard, an Italian professor previously in LCL who is now Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at San Diego State University.


Reflecting on his hybrid of cultural background, Simone developed an interest in works at the intersection of Italian and American literatures and cultures. He decided to explore an unusual vein of nineteenth-century travel writing—Americans traveling to Italy during the Risorgimento (the Italian Unification Movement). These visitors to Italy arrived during a moment when liberal and anti-clerical political sentiments were on the rise. The Americans travelers, mostly of Protestant background, tended to fall into two categories: those that saw Italy as an “open-air museum” that fetishized Italian artworks and the legend of the Renaissance, and the travelers who enjoyed art and history, but who were more invested in its people, in contemporary Italian politics, and in what was happening in Italian society. This latter group of travelers, including the famed transcendentalist author Margaret Fuller, became active in the political debates of the Risorgimento instead of contenting themselves with a more superficial cultural engagement.


Simone brings his personal interests and bi-cultural background into the classes he teaches and to his music. He’s played music his whole life, experimenting with genres ranging from Brazilian percussion to punk rock. While he says that he sees his music as a “respite from academic work,” the two nonetheless inform each other. He uses the poetry and the poetics he has internalized while studying literature to help him write lyrics for his songs. His tendency to merge disciplines has not only been beneficial to his music, it has also shaped his approach to teaching. In a twentieth-century Italian literature class he taught recently, Simone had his students look for visual representations of the cityscapes in Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities. From this vantage point, students could reflect on the connections between modes of storytelling whether oral written, or visual. Simone believes that the merging of fields is essential to cultivating geopolitical and critical awareness in the students.