Julia Conrad, who will receive an M.F.A. in literary translation from the University of Iowa in May 2021, is the winner of a Fulbright Arts/Creative Writing award to Italy for 2021-22
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Award: 2021-22 Fulbright Arts/Creative Writing award to Italy
Degree: MFA in nonfiction (May 2020) / MFA in literary translation (May 2021)
Could you give me a brief synopsis of what you'll be doing with your Fulbright?
I'll be researching and writing a travelogue-meets-literary-biography of eight understudied Sicilian women writers. While I'm in Palermo, I'll be working in archives, collaborating with literary scholars and feminist translators at Università di Palermo and Università di Catania, and teaching writing/translation workshops at both universities. Sicily is an island known for its paradoxes, and Sicilian women are often known of in Italy either as strong matriarchs or subjects of social conservatism and gender violence. Many of the authors I'll be writing about complicate both narratives. The list includes activists, literary icons, and libertines who critique and celebrate their roots in a variety of ways.
What drew you to this field of study?
I'm excited for the opportunity to merge what have been separate literary practices for me until now--nonfiction writing and Italian translation. Translators create a conversation between cultures on the page, thinking through questions of perspective and audience that I plan to explore here in profiles and travel writing. I grew up in a mostly Southern Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn and in part for that reason am especially interested in Southern Italian culture, as well as the ways it has been stereotyped both in and outside Italy. There's a long tradition of Anglophone travel writing about Italy, and a recent book that described Southern Italy in a kind of cringey way inspired me to think about alternative approaches. I'm hoping that a literary tour of the island will create a nuanced portrait of Sicily through women's perspectives--expanding international impressions that come from The Godfather II, or widely-translated Sicilian writers like Leonardo Sciascia or Andrea Camilleri.
How do you envision this will influence your life/future career?
There are several scholars, activists, and writers whom I really admire and will be able to meet through this project. In the future, I'm hoping to connect fellow Italian translators with the authors I meet and write about, and to publish this work as a book. Even just the experience of applying has led to valuable conversations and friendships, so I can't wait to see where things go from here.
What advice do you have for future students interested in applying for a Fulbright?
I had actually applied for a Fulbright once before coming to Iowa, and so my advice would be to see rejection in general as an opportunity for growth (or at least dogged reapplying).
Are there individuals you'd like to thank for their investment in this process?
Many professors here transformed my writing practice through their own work and teaching and helped with this process both directly and by example: Inara Verzemnieks for nonfiction (and creative research), Aron Aji for translation, Natasa Durovicova for translation and literary advocacy, Cinzia Blum for Italian literature, and Lisa Cohen (Wesleyan University) for getting me hooked on biography and being an incredible mentor. And of course, Karen Wachsmuth and Kathleen Newman for teaching me so much about grant-writing, a genre unto itself.
Students are encouraged to begin their funding searches and applications at least six months to one year in advance. Schedule an advising appointment with Karen Wachsmuth to discuss your interest in an international fellowship or begin an application (as a UI undergraduate student, graduate student, or alumna/us).