The Italian novel since national unification and the relationship between narration and the concept of race are among the research interests of Virginia Tech's Melissa Coburn, assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures and director of the university's Italian program.

Coburn has written several articles on Italian culture and literature. Her first book, “Race and Narrative in Italian Women’s Writings Since Unification,” was published recently by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.

Coburn will discuss her book on Wednesday, Dec. 3, at 1 p.m. on the second floor of Newman Library in the this semester's final Visible Scholarship Initiative lecture.

The book “explores racist ideas and critiques of racism in four long narratives by female authors,” the publisher writes. “Starting from the premise that race is a political and socio-historical construction, Melissa Coburn makes the argument that race is also a narrative construction.”

Coburn reveals specifics of the changing idea of race in Italy, in context with historical developments such as the formation of the Italian nation state, the development of scientific racism, regional identifications, anti-Semitism, and the Italian colonial effort.

Coburn holds a Ph.D. and a master's degree from Purdue University and a bachelor's degree from Indiana University.

The Visible Scholarship Initiative is a collaboration between the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and the University Libraries. Illustrating how faculty address key questions, employ varied methods, and produce significant results makes it possible to acknowledge and encourage research and creative activities that engage challenging questions and demonstrate sophisticated understanding.