Michele Piscitelli

Photo of Michele Piscitelli

Department of Modern Languages
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD Title: ‘An Englishman without techyng can not speake the words of an Ytalyan’: Italian language learning during the reign of Henry VIII
PhD Modern Languages


  • CELTA – University of Cambridge ESOL Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, International House Seville (2016)
  • Certificate CILS (Certification of Italian as a Foreign Language) Examiner,
  • Università per stranieri di Siena (2016)
  • Ditals II (Certification for experienced Italian teacher FL), Università per Stranieri di Siena (2016)
  • Italian Certificate in Language Teaching to Adults (CLTA), International House, London (2014)
  • MA History, Archival Studies and Librarianship, Faculty of Literature and Philosophy, Università degli Studi di Genova, Italy (2011)
  • Thesis title: ‘Utopia e Viaggio’ (Themes: Thomas More’s Utopia and European colonization of the Americas)
  • BA History, Faculty of Literature and Philosophy, Università degli Studi di Genova, Italy (2008) Thesis title: ‘Utopia e Ucronia: tra Letteratura e Storia’ (Themes: an overview of the different meanings of ‘utopia’ from the sixteenth century to George Orwell).


I completed my BA (2008) in History and my MA (2011) in History, Archival Studies and Librarianship at the Università degli Studi di Genova, Italy. From 2012 to 2013 I joined the Italian National Volunteers service with a project aiming to create and manage a public library in Rocca Grimalda, Italy. In 2014, after Italian teacher training at International House, London, I started working as an Italian tutor at ‘Happy Language’, a private language school based in London. In 2015 I moved to Melbourne to work as an Italian assistant at ‘Mill Park Secondary College’ for one school year. Then I taught Italian as a foreign language at the ‘Instituto Dante Alighieri’, a private language school in Tegucigalpa (Honduras) for 6 months. After a short period in Seville as trainee English teacher at International House, I worked for 6 months in Madrid as Italian and English teacher at the ‘Multidiomas’ language academy and for ‘Tus clases de Italiano’, an agency offering private classes. In October 2017 I started my Ph.D. at the University of Birmingham and taught ‘Intermediate Italian Use of Language’ during the academic year 2018/2019. My research is fully funded by a M4C scholarship (fees and maintenance).


By focusing on the presence, teaching and learning of the Italian language in England, my research will offer new insights into Anglo-Italian relations in pre-Elizabethan times. Building on my master’s research into Thomas More and the influence of the Italian Renaissance on English Humanism, I will show how politically and culturally influential people in England spoke and wrote in Italian and translated from and into Italian. And it will be demonstrated how cultural innovations and trends established by Henry VIII at his Court had long-term implications for England and set the pattern for the next hundred years and beyond. Key questions include:

To what extent was Italian widespread in sixteenth-century England? In which contexts were Italian words present (e.g. literature, music, visual arts, fashion, military science, ornamental gardening, gastronomy, medicine)? Was Italian taught informally in different social contexts frequented by Italians (e.g. churches, markets, printing houses, taverns)?
Who could speak Italian? What were the learners’ profiles and motivations? How were their social networks organised? Did they have interactions with Italians? Did they travel to Italy? Did they have a formal or informal education on Italian language?

Which teaching techniques and texts were used? Were these techniques and texts similar to those used for teaching other languages (e.g. Latin, Greek, French)? Were there early modern institutions of learning (schools, universities, Inns of Court) where Italian was formally taught?

Who were the Italian language tutors, masters, teachers, experts? What was their role in society? Did they have any specific technical or pedagogical training? Were they English, Italians or other immigrants? Were they organised in a community of teachers where they shared knowledge and practical experience?

At this time, a lively debate was taking place in Italy, la questione della lingua, aimed at codifying which vernacular Italian would be the most suitable as literary language. Was this debate important for tutors and learners of Italian? Did the tutors participate in the debate? How? Did this debate influence the development of early modern English?

Other Research Interests
Thomas More
Utopian and dystopian literature
Renaissance Explorers
Ideas of progress and globalisation
Renaissance art of memory and emblemata

Other activities


Research papers

  • ‘Tabula Cebetis. A multimodal text for Renaissance linguistic and moral education’ presented at ‘Valorizing Practice-Grounded Histories of Language Learning and Teaching’ HoLLT (History of Language Learning and Teaching) International conference (Delmenhorst Germany, 13-15 November 2019).
  • ‘Learning Italian in Tudor England. The problem with textual sources before 1550’ presented at ‘Early Modern Texts: Challenges, Methods, and Materiality’ UoB English Department and Shakespeare Institute PGR Showcase (16 September 2020).
  • ‘De Mortuorum Resurrectione (1545). A polyglot book for language learning and religion’ at ‘The Renaissance Society of America Virtual Meeting 2021’ in the panel ‘Figures of Polyglossia in British Early Modern Culture I’ (15 April 2021).