In this episode of The Italian American Podcast, we talk with Robert Orsi, who is the first holder of the Grace Craddock Nagle Chair in Catholic Studies at Northwestern University. Robert discusses what inspired him to write his book, The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem. He expands on the experiences of immigration and community formation, Italian-American Catholicism, as well as traditional Italian feasts.
In our Stories Segment, Dolores sits around the table with several women in her family to talk about dreams, dream interpretation, and how Southern-Italian women have used both to strengthen, guide, and nourish their lives and the lives of their families.
“Every year, people came from Paterson, New Jersey, they would come every time, they would sleep in our house, and eat and drink for four days, five days, going on. And everybody in the neighborhood had to clean their house that week, and the week before, new curtains, and everything; it was the feast of Mount Carmel.” – from The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem.
- “Italian immigration is an important aspect of our history that we should be aware of.” – Anthony Fasano
- “Reading is a relationship between you and the book you are reading.” – Robert Orsi
- “I have access to a living reality that I work on being connected to.” – Dolores Alfieri
- “Eating together is fundamental to Italian American Life.” – Robert Orsi
- “Success in the modern world generally means that you have to abandon some things.” – Robert Orsi
About our guest…Robert Orsi
Robert Orsi is the first holder of the Grace Craddock Nagle Chair in Catholic Studies. Professor Orsi studies American religious history and contemporary practice; American Catholicism in both historical and ethnographic perspective; and he is widely recognized also for his work on theory and method for the study of religion. In 2002-2003, he was president of the American Academy of Religion. Professor Orsi has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Fulbright Foundation. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2010 he received the E. Leroy Hall Award for Teaching Excellence, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University, the highest recognition for teaching offered by WCAS.
The Madonna of 115th Street
History and Presence
IAP 35: Anthony Tamburri on supporting Italian-American art and culture
IAP 17: Tony Reali on being true to yourself and your family, Part 1 of 2.
IAP 15: Gay Talese on growing up Italian American in Mid-20th Century America
Professor Orsi’s website
Anthony Fasano and Dolores Alfieri
Co-Hosts, The Italian American Podcast