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Event Details

Fri, June 16, 2023

18:00 – 19:30

Villa La Pietra
via Bolognese, 120
50139 Firenze, Italy


Prof. Patricia Lennox, NYU Florence Lecturer, will discuss her research on fairy tale culture at Villa la Pietra.

This illustrated talk on editions of fairy tales in the Acton family library explores how their stories and artwork are woven into the lives of the Acton family. In his memoirs Harold Acton talks of how he loved these fairy tales and how they influenced him. His childhood at La Pietra coincided with the Golden Age of illustrated children’s books and these make up much of the collection. They were acquired by Harold and his younger brother William as birthday and Christmas gifts, often chosen by their mother, Hortense Mitchell Acton. Books saved from her own American girlhood are a part of this collection and tell their own revealing stories.


Lisa Cesarani (Researcher, NYU Florence): Growing up at the Villa
Perri Klass (Co-Director, NYU Florence): Are Fairy Tales Good For Children: A Century of Expert Advice
Nicoletta Peluffo (Assistant Director for Academic Services, NYU Florence): Italo Calvino and Italian Folk Tales
Larry Wolff (Co-Director, NYU Florence): Modern Fairy Tale Culture in European History

Followed by a Round Table.

On display a selection of children’s books belonging to the Acton family from the La Pietra Library, curated by Francesca Baldry, Acton Collection Manager and Cristina Bellini, Academics Services Manager, NYU Florence.


(Illustration: William Acton’s ex-libris designed by Umberto Brunelleschi)

Featured Biographies

Patricia Lennox


Dr Patricia Lennox taught a research methodology course focused on myths, fables, and fairy tales for many years at New York University’s Gallatin School of Independent Study in New York City. She also developed and taught courses on the culture of clothing and fashion there and NYU Global campuses in London and Florence (‘A History of Italian Fashion’). While teaching her fashion course at La Pietra, she became involved with, and catalogued, the impressive collection of fairy tale books in the Acton Library. Her current publications include costume-related articles and reviews that appear regularly in the academic journal Studies in Costume and Performance, where she is also a member of the advisory board. Her Shakespeare-related articles and reviews are published in numerous journals and books, including Shakespeare and Costume, which she co-edited, and The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Screen, (2021). Currently she lectures on costume at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon and is writing a book exploring the influences of social and theatrical conventions on visible pregnancy in productions of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, a play with deep roots in fairy tales.

Lisa Cesarani


Lisa Cesarani received her PhD in American and British Literature from New York University in 2000. She is a former affiliated faculty member of NYU Global Liberal Studies and the former Assistant Director of Academic Affairs at NYU Florence. During her 22 years at NYU Florence, Lisa taught a variety of courses. These included such topics as travel literature, expository writing, arts and culture in a global context, and experiential learning. Her research focusses on mid 19th to mid 20th century culture and literature with a specific interest in antebellum and gilded age American literature and American and transatlantic children’s literature.

Nicoletta Peluffo


Nicoletta Peluffo received her Ph.D. in Literature and Media from IULM university where her research and final dissertation focused on transmediality and parody in the novel The Adventures of Pinocchio. She currently serves as Assistant Director for Academic Affairs at New York University, where she teaches an experiential learning seminar. She holds a Master Degree in language teaching and a Master Degree in modern languages and literatures. She has served as academic coordinator and language and literature faculty member for Kent State University, cooperating with the Wick Poetry center for a project based on poetry, language and translation with children from elementary and middle schools. Her publications and research interest area is on comparative literature with a focus on language, transmediality and remediations.

Larry Wolff


Larry Wolff is Julius Silver Professor of History at NYU and co-director of NYU Florence. His most recent book is The Shadow of the Empress: Fairy-Tale Opera and the End of the Habsburg Monarchy (2023), and his other books include Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment (1994), Paolina’s Innocence: Child Abuse in Casanova’s Venice (2012), and The Singing Turk: Ottoman Power and Operatic Emotions on the European Stage from the Siege of Vienna to the Age of Napoleon (2016). He writes frequently about opera, and he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.