Damiano Benvegnu


  • KY16 9AL

    United Kingdom

  • KY16 9PH

    United Kingdom

Accepting Postgraduate Research Students

Personal profile

Research overview

Dr. Benvegnù joined the University of St Andrews in 2023. Prior to coming to St Andrews, he held academic positions at Dartmouth College and at the University of Virginia. His research and teaching interests are interdisciplinary and engage with comparative literature, critical theory, epistemology and philosophy of language, digital humanities, and the environmental humanities.


Academic/Professional Qualification

Dr Benvegnu owns two doctoral degrees: one in Italian Studies (with specialization in philosophy of language and minority languages) from La Sapienza University in Rome (Italy), and the other in Comparative Literature from the University of Notre Dame (USA). He is also an Associate Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.

Future research

Dr Benvegnu's current book project – The Fascist Forest. Mussolini’s Trees and the Ecological Legacy of Fascism – charts the history of the 20,000 pines planted in the late 1930s to spell the word DUX in trees on an Italian hillside. This controversial arboreal inscription—Benito Mussolini’s Latin title—stood intact until 2017 when a fire incinerated part of it, giving rise to debates about manipulated landscapes, ecosystem adaptation, and political violence. Dr Benvegnu's study of the forest as an ecocultural hybrid artifact reveals how the dictator’s trees not only serve as a prime example of fascist appropriation of nature, but they also provide an opportunity to reflect on the relationships between environmental planning, cultural heritage, and our current socio-ecological crisis.

Dr Benvegnu's future research agenda is twofold. One the one hand, he plans to complete a volume that investigates how modern and contemporary art media address and represent nonhuman soundscapes. With the provisory title of Vernacular Voices, this work engages a wide range of disciplines and artists to explore the endangered ecological connection between nonhuman semiotics, minority languages, and sense of place in the Anthropocene. On the other hand, thanks to an NEH Digital Project for the Public Grant for an Augmented Reality application that Dr Benvegnu started developing for a forest in central New Hampshire in the US, he became intersted in the interaction between public, digital, and environmental humanitiies. Dr Benvegnu's thus welcomes collaborative digital storyrtelling projects capable of helping us understand how past communities engaged with the physical world and thus providing imaginative tools for a more ecological future.

Profile Keywords

environmental humanities; posthumanism; comparative literature; comparative studies; Italian studies; minority languages; critical theory


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