Transitioning from printed novel to novel website:

a case study

By Rita Wilson (Monash University, Australia)

Abstract & Keywords

It could be argued that hypermedia is now the main vehicle for formal innovation and cultural exploration in contemporary writing because it allows an unprecedented interweaving and intermingling of different genres, media, and concepts. This paper discusses some of the implications of moving narrative text from print to a web-based environment and suggests that the formal possibilities of hypermedia provide a unique way of exploring the cultural construction of both place and subjectivity. My discussion will particularly refer to some of Carmen Covito’s recent work. A novelist, professional screenplay writer and translator, she was among the first Italian authors to explore the potential of electronic textuality, launching her own website in 1997. Fifteen years later, the site (, fully maintained by the author herself, could be considered a prime example of ‘cultural translation’. I use this term to refer to the processes of cultural expressions ‘moving’ across language, genre, and other boundaries. Such processes raise questions related to translatability, comprehension and loss of meanings. Through a reading of Covito’s (hyper)texts, the paper shows how her intersemiotic translations (from print to the web) offer multiple possibilities both for communicating with new audiences and redefining the role of the writer and/as translator.

Keywords: contemporary narrative, hypermedia, intersemiotic translation, Carmen Covito, electronic textuality

©inTRAlinea & Rita Wilson (2014).
"Transitioning from printed novel to novel website:"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Across Screens Across Boundaries
Edited by: Rosa Maria Bollettieri Bosinelli, Elena Di Giovanni & Linda Rossato
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
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1. Introduction

The cultural experiences of globalization and the rapid development of hypermedia have contributed to increased critical interest in the poetic and fictional modes emerging in new media.  It could be argued that hypermedia is now the main vehicle for formal innovation and cultural exploration in contemporary writing because it allows an unprecedented intermingling of different genres as well as the interweaving of the verbal, sonic and visual. As a result, writers have a great many choices about how they want to present their work, and more opportunities than ever to shift between different modes at will. Of particular interest to this study is the so-called morphing writing practice (Smith 2005), that is, a writing practice that involves reaching beyond the page into domains of production often viewed as extra-literary, such as performance or new media, and moving seamlessly between these different domains. In “the dynamic media ecology of the twenty-first century”(Hayles, 2003: 263), cross-modal and cross-media work of this type allows for different kinds of signification to speak to each other. Sounds and images reinforce the meanings of words or work antithetically to them, creating several levels of meaning. Alternatively, words become sounds through acoustic ortechnological manipulation, or visual objects through the use of fonts, colours and design. By these means, writers can tap into the aesthetic and cultural histories which permeate sound and image in both art and popular culture;they can also draw on a wide range of unconscious and non-verbal sonic andvisual associations. When literary production is characterized by “cross-cultural inter-lingual inter-semiotic” translation (Wang, 2009: 42), the challenge is to fathom the complex relationship between the text’s physical and signifying structures. N. Katherine Hayles (2003) suggests that one way to investigate this complexity is to regard the transformation of a print document into an electronic text as a form of translation, which is inevitably also an act of interpretation.

The polysemiotic codes used by electronic media force us to redefine the concepts of ‘text’ and ‘meaning’ (Gambier and Gottlieb2001). With a film or a webpage, meaning is derived from the sum of verbal utterances and non-verbal signs. This, in turn, compels us to review the established view on translation, since ‘new’ forms of textuality force us to consider new kinds of translation. Indeed, Maria Tymoczko asserts that an increased focus on electronic media will

move translation interests (…)towards intersemiotic translation, thus integrating Roman Jakobson’s (1959) third category of translation more closely to mainline interests in translation studies and making it more central to translation research. (2005: 1090)

More recently, Ning Wang has argued that intersemiotic translation is a “ubiquitous phenomenon” (2009: 40) integral to the meaning-making process “crossing the boundary of language as well as that of culture: (2009: 41-42), and is a way of identifying how translation performs biliteracy across both linguistic and cultural boundaries.

2. A web of connections

In line with Tymoczko’s view that the result of an increased focus on electronic media “will be yet another expansion of the concept translation, necessitating the retheorization of various aspects of the entire field of translation studies” (2005: 1090), in this essay, I take writing and translation to form part of a superordinate category of text production, which has adaptation as a third member. In particular, I focus on how the process of moving text from print to a web-based environment forces readers (and translators) to address the way print privileges stasis over dynamism, words over images and sound, and durability over evanescence. It also draws attention to the interconnectedness of writing –notably through the concept of nodes joined by links in an electronic web. Thus when a text is presented in cyberspace, it undergoes a transformational process that turns the text into a kind of palimpsest which brings to light potential, alternate views (Joyce 1995) and makes evident the process described by Argentinean writer, Jorge Luis Borges (1999) who famously thought of all writing as translation drafts in progress, imperfect instantiations never fully up to the task. Such a view, firstly, draws into question the very idea of an ‘original,’ for temporal priority does not signify ontological priority when the original is regarded as simply one draft among many. For Borges, the chronological precedence of a source text with respect to a translation does not guarantee its literary primacy. In fact, according to Borges (1999: 69) a translation may realize more fully possibilities only nascent in the ‘original’:

To assume that every recombination of elements is necessarily inferior to its original form is to assume that draft nine is necessarily inferior to draft H - for there can be only drafts. The concept of a ‘definitive text’ corresponds only to religion or exhaustion.

Second, texts are, in this view, provocations to go in search of meaning; when they become instantiated in a given set of words and a given medium, they necessarily miss some possibilities even as they realize others – a concept that resonates with a notion inextricably linked to the advent of the Web, namely that of “Work as Assemblage”. The latter is“a cluster of related texts that quote, comment upon, amplify, and remediate one another” (Hayles,2003: 278). In her research on new forms of textuality, Hayles notes that the Web establishes communication pathways through which texts dynamically interact with one another, and that“texts in an Assemblage become translations without necessarily granting any one the status of the ‘original’. Everything is simultaneously a translation of everything else, each united to the others in a rhizomatic network without a clear beginning or end”(Hayles,2003. 279).

Taken together with the notion of texts as provocations to go in search of meanings,  the notion of the dynamic cycling of texts in an assemblage resonates powerfully with Carmen Covito’s poetics and the transformations undergone by her texts, which, following Hayles, I argue are forms of translation.

3. Morphing characters: from urban single to Lady of the Computer

Covito’s  first book, La bruttina stagionata[1] (1992) became a best seller; was translated into German, Spanish, French, Dutch, Greek, Romanian; adapted into theatrical monologue and released as a film in 1996. The main character Marilina Labruna, an ante-diem Bridget Jones, became a trend setter. Yet, despite the evident success of the book, Covito’s ‘urban single’ has not achieved the international notoriety of her English counterpart:

Unfortunately for my bank balance, I write in Italian and Fielding writes in English, so she’s the one who achieved box office success and made the best seller list in bookshops all over the world. Not that I’m complaining… Actually, yes, I am complaining! Because, the bottom line (worth millions!) is that the story of Bridget Jones is a romantic fiction in which the ultimate goal is to catch a man, keep him, and live in contented (cashed up?) bliss, while Marilina Labruna’s story is much bolder.[2]

To overcome the limitations of writing in a relatively minor world language, Covito set out to research other worlds, and the possibilities offered by the “contamination of different media” to make something new.  However, as she discovered, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ‘make it new’ on the page as so many norms have already been subverted. New technologies, on the other hand, open up novel opportunities for experimentation.  They “facilitate the production of new and perhaps unknown, unthought discursive spaces - new styles, modes of analysis and argument, new genres and forms - that contest the limits and constraints currently at work in the regulation of textual production and reception” (Grosz 1995, 23).

An additional attraction of the new technologies for Covito is that they enable the production of the posthuman body (Hayles 1999), a combination of human and machine/system that can, therefore, project or transform gender artificially or not at all. Covito finds it “annoying that there is no neuter form in Italian”. She feels she is simply a ‘writer’, i.e., not a ‘woman writer’, and that the task of all writers is to get inside the head of someone other than themselves:

you write to live other lives, in order not to be always constrained by a single, dull identity. You want to take on other identities. By inventing characters you multiply yourself and there is a piece of you even in the character that is the furthest removed from your biographical self.[3]

I would argue that morphing from one writing practice to another is fundamental to Covito’s identity as a writer. It is a way of negotiating her shifting position as a novelist who “rejects the notion of writing as an engendered act and claims ‘neutrality’ as a writer” (Wood,1995:257), and her role(s) as social activist, translator, and cultural mediator.

Her third novel, Benvenuti in questo ambiente[4] (1997) is the outcome of her initial attempts to explore the possibilities offered by the ‘contamination’ between genres, modes of writing  and multiple aesthetic and cultural linkages that were provided by the new technologies and the Internet. Published in 1997, the novel appeared just two years after the year Yves Gambier (2008) pinpoints as a turning point for audio-visual translation. According to Gambier, the year 1995 can be considered a watershed for three reasons: the centennial of cinema, which was marked by various publications and conferences; activism by linguistic minority groups in Europe, who recognized the role of audiovisual media in promoting identity; and technological changes, particularly the transition from analog to digital media coinciding with the release of the phenomenally successful Windows 95 by Microsoft. It is no coincidence that the title of Covito’s novel merges the wording of Microsoft Windows box art and the ‘welcome’ message on the opening screen of the Windows Operating System.[5]

The style used in the novel (which Covito dubs ‘integrated Italian’) was inspired by the hybrid language used in the ‘computer world’: a language which is a “mixture of Italian and English, containing words that at times are not even translated but are directly mediated into Italian”(Covito1998). Covito acknowledges that, like other Italian writers in the 1990s, her writing style has also been influenced by the style prevalent in emails: a style that reflects both the current, spoken language and the classic epistolary style. There is both immediacy and syntax; there is a tendency to use a colloquial register (the informal ‘tu’, short phrases, lack of traditional civilities) but the gap between the formulation of an idea and the time taken to type it out on the keyboard ensures that the repetition typical of spoken language is avoided and helps to structure the discourse. In Benvenuti in questoambiente, the Damadel Computer (Lady of the Computer), a talkative and opinionated on-line help program that writes in the conversational style of email, adds an expressive dimension through the use of emoticons. A more significant innovation, however, is the introduction of computer logic into the macrostructure of the novel. Covito comes up with the idea of using ‘windows’ in the text:

The existence of windows introduced the possibility of a variety of intertextual and extratextual games (using ‘cascaded’ windows to narrate episodes that occur simultaneously, windows that don’t close, or that only close partially, advertising windows, windows featuring an Easter egg.[6]

Covito’s ‘windows’ replace the more traditional literary structure of the chapter, drawing attention to the impact of the computer on writing and narrative strategies. So, the writing of this novel is also an act of intersemiotic translation, both because one sign system is inserted into another (the visual sign of the ‘window’ is inserted into the verbal text), and because the intervention on the text – the creation of a hypertext in print– is an attempt at a direct interaction with the reader: the reader is drawn into the virtual reality of the Damadel Computer’s domain, and the ‘window’ represents a liminal zone,  not only revealing the contamination of languages and genres, but also providing a clear instance of a morphing writing practice, which takes the reader beyond the printed page.

4. From windows in the text to the text in windows

The genesis of Covito’s website ( can be found in Benvenuti in questo ambiente: the site is both an introduction to and the natural extension of her third novel. In the novel the protagonist designs and sets up a personal web page, and Covito declares that having written this fictional event, she (the author) felt like imitating her fictional character, and constructing her own web site: “this could be called an autobiographical novel ‘in reverse’, where instead of a character imitating the author, we have the author who imitates the character”.[7]

As many contemporary cultural critics have pointed out, we employ media as both ‘technical analogs and social expressions’ for defining both present personal identity and cultural roots: “Whenever our identity is mediated in this way, it is also remediated, because we always understand a particular medium in relation to other past and present media” (Bolter and Grusin, 1999: 231-232). By presenting a version of the contemporary mediated self that corresponds to the logic of hypermediacy, Covito constructs (new) textual identities in a networked environment. Her site’s original homepage provided a link to Six Characters in Search of Websites[8], an instantly recognizable example of Work as Assemblage, in which each character, in turn, provides links to websites that “best suit their character and their role in the novel”[9]. The reader, by clicking on the links, can visit the sites and gain deeper insights into the characters, discovering their individual tastes and preferences. For example, one of the characters likes the erotic robots by the Japanese artist Sorayama while another is addicted to online role games, yet another craves the Moroccan cuisine of his homeland.  Further, when the reader follows the links leading to the non-Italian sites for her Italian characters, it becomes evident that Covito’s construction of the self is one that has multiple (translated) identities.

5. Translating the self

Fifteen years on, the site, fully maintained by the author herself, is also an act of (self-)translation that is part of a larger project of cultural expression and self-representation. Now entitled Un sito romanzesco / a Novel Site - a pun which works well both in Italian and in English[10] - the site exhibits all the qualities of electronic textuality described by Hayles (1997; 2003). The links to internal or external resources showcasing Covito’s literary and social contributions help promote a multivocal textuality: that is, a textuality built upon multiple authorities addressing Covito’s work across multiple perspectives and from multiple directions (not to mention the bilingual perspective provided by the inclusion of an English version of some of the pages on the site).

The exchange and connectivity typical of globalization is embraced by Covito, who, in the text under the banner of her Italian homepage, expresses the need for contemporary authors to engage actively with readers and encourage the ‘contamination’ of languages and genres. In addition to her ‘novel website’, Covito currently manages three other sites:; Il sito italiano sulla calligrafia sino-giapponese; and ichiban. Il meglio della cultura giapponese in Italia (Figure 1).[11]All three of the links provided by the author are designed to lead the reader/viewer out of the Italian cultural context: the asia teatro site hosts an online journal that aims to give Italian readers deeper insights into the history and characteristics of Asia’s celebrated performing arts. The opening section is dedicated to comparative, transnational studies, while the other sections focus on particular countries or geographical regions, including India, China, Japan and South East Asia. is a blog dedicated to Japanese cultural events in Italy, from film festivals to conferences, and to reviews of Italian publications related to Japanese language and culture.

Figure1. Ichiban

The longest-standing of these links ( connects to a cultural association whose purpose is to contribute to a more in-depth, mutual, intercultural understanding between Europe and the Far East, in particular between Italy and Japan, through exhibitions, workshops, lectures on Oriental arts and, most of all, through the spreading and practice of calligraphy. The shodo and ichiban sites are also associated with Covito’s personal life (she was married to a Japanese man for sixteen years, has lived in Japan and continues to maintain close personal and professional ties with that country); her fiction (the character who likes Sorayama robots) and her interest in intercultural communication (writing for new audiences).

Covito’s website highlights the increased connectivity prevalent in a globalized culture that, Michael Cronin argues, is a feature of all forms of translation: “translation is all about making connections, linking one culture and language to another, setting up the conditions for an open-ended exchange of goods, technologies and ideas” (Cronin,2003:41). In this context, let’s consider Covito’s English version of her home page. Entitled Forewords, it was translated by the author herself. Visitors are invited “to explore a ‘novel site’ with many windows open on the Italy of today” and are asked:

As you are here, I guess, because I’m Italian, why don’t you go straight to the Italian Version? There, many changes are happening. Change the language and come to browse original short stories, ‘author’s readings’, reviews and many many other stuffs, all in Italian! ... h’m, the real truth is... Well, I am sorry for those who can’t manage Italian language, but I just felt I couldn’t handle a complete bilingual frequent update, so, please, go to the Italian Version and see. The English part of the site is only an abstract.
( e,mphasis added)

As we can see from the above quote, Covito is conscious of the paradoxical nature of translation in the circulation of global information flows which “brings Anglophone messages and images from all over the globe in minutes and seconds, leading to a reticular cosmopolitanism of near-instantaneity” (Cronin, 2003: 49) but which also ignores “the effort, the difficulty and, above all else, the time required to maintain linguistic (and by definition, cultural) connections” (Cronin 2003: 49).The English translation of her site thus has a very specific function: that of giving English-speaking readers a ‘taste’ of her overall writing project and a glimpse of her ‘sense of self’. To this end, Covito exploits the possibility provided by the electronic medium which brings “texts (...) instantly into the same psychic framework” (Heim 1987, 160-161).  For example, by clicking on the link io e voi / you and I, we are taken to Covito’s ‘identity card’: chi è ‘io’? /who is ‘me’? (Figure 2 and Figure 3). The overlay of subject and object creates a fragmented and multiple subjectivity suited to the virtual environment in which she writes. The presentation of self mixes autobiography and meta-narrative: for instance, the annotated photos distinguish between the moment of biological birth and that of ‘literary birth’, the latter coinciding with the publication of her first novel, La Bruttina Stagionata.

Figure 2. Carmen Covito, “io” chi è?


Figure 3. Carmen Covito, who is “me”?

In the Italian version, on the same screen, we are given a quirky summary of her errant identities to date: her travels, her creative ‘experimentations’, including the establishment of the website in 1997 and the foundation of the shodo cultural association in 2007 (with a link provided to on this page as well).  Further down the screen, in both the Italian and the English version, there are two main sections; the first is la narrativa / my books, the second is le traduzioni / my translations which connects to her intralingual and interlingual translations.[12] It is clear that the broad spectrum of activity associated with interlingual, intralingual and intersemiotic translation (Jakobson 1959/2004)is part of Covito’s overall writing project, or to put it another way, is integral to her whole corpus of text production. From the works listed on the website, it can be seen that the choice of texts for translation resonate both with her life choices and the themes privileged in her writing and, thus, form an integral part of her cultural identity.

In the early 1990s, Covito collaborated with well-known writer Aldo Busi on two intralingual translations of Italian literary classics from the medieval and Renaissance periods into contemporary Italian.[13] This activity profoundly influenced Covito’s own writing style, as she notes with particular reference to her co-translation of Castiglione(1993) and his use of sprezzatura:

It seems to me that the Web is the ideal medium to understand how useful and necessary it is to include a dose of sprezzatura in our work. Thus pages that are apparently carefree but actually rich in meaning could become, by association, the norm for all literary writing, which in Italy is still rather ‘heavy’, due to a fundamental misunderstanding: ‘heavy’ is thought to be equivalent to ‘complex’ and ‘interesting’, while often it is only equivalent to ‘pretentious’ and boring’.[14]

It could be argued that for Covito translation (as part of her overall writing project) is considered a form of text production (not re-production) – a collaboration between translator(s) and author – resulting in a translatum offering insightful (alternative) interpretations. When browsing through the list of her interlingual translations from English and Japanese (available at, it is interesting to note that most of these are also collaborations, possibly also reflecting the need for reciprocity felt by Covito and articulated in much of her work.

6. Multiple textualities

Covito’s work makes it clear that there are significant parallels between linguistic and media translation. In particular, both interlingual and intersemiotic translation studies share a theoretical interest in relating higher-level meanings to the constituent units of the text. In both cases, there is a comprehensive appreciation of the synesthesia of the visual and acoustic properties of letters: in other words, a simultaneous awareness of letters as components within larger systems of language and as expressive objects in their own right. This awareness, in turn, points toward the larger issues involved in the translation process, including

the ability of the audience to participate in the reconstruction of meaning. The different shifts of paradigm brought about by new media involve the interpretive process, the authority of a written text, the role of functional equivalence, and the addressing of an audience (Gambier and Gottlieb, 2001:xviii-xix)

Well-known theorists (Gambier and Gottlieb, 2001; Díaz Cintas 2009) working in the area of multimedia translation have commented on how this activity reveals the complexities and challenges of all types of communication and highlights the necessary functions of any translation. In particular, it establishes certain ways of viewing language, of dealing with verbal code, of considering the relationship between verbal and other semiotic systems in order to focus more on cultural and communicative aspects rather than solely on language and text. Coherence is established through the context: visual and sound elements are not cosmetic features of embellishment but constitutive parts of the meaning. The organization of data, information, sentences, in relation to users’ assumed knowledge, and to other parts of the site, compels the reader to question the role of language in the media, and urges the translator to wonder about translating strategies (expansion, substitution, omission, explication, etc.)

Through her morphing writing practices, Covito brings to light the ways in which media communication alters a number of representations, a number of well-established norms, most of them coming from the literary tradition. First, with Benvenuti in questo ambiente, she introduces the new medium (windows) into her print text but this does not break down the barriers between genres sufficiently nor does it bring her the new audience and the interactivity with readers that she desires. So, next, with the creation of her website, she translates her work from print to electronic text with all the change of modalities that implies. She is able to use her experience of intralingual translation (Castiglione 1993) to develop what she believes is an appropriate style of writing for the web as is evident in her remodeled website: now a sito romanzesco (novel site). Finally, by creating an English version of her website, she moves into sustained interlingual translation to communicate with new English-speaking (rather than only Italian-speaking) readers. Nowadays, her presence on the web offers multiple possibilities for communicating with new audiences, promoting intercultural dialogue and redefining the role of the writer and/as translator. Covito’s site has continued to evolve as a media-rich, multisensory site that takes into account the transformative nature of language and textual uncertainty, a site built on and requiring from the reader a sustained engagement with the text, while appealing to multiple senses required in the interpretative act of the multiple ‘signifying components’ (sound animation, kinesthetic involvement). Not only are the multiple texts on the website cross-linked and cross-referenced in ways that would not be possible using print technologies, they are also augmented and elaborated with sound and images.

In the section of her website entitled ‘Senti una cosa’ (Listen to this), she publishes a selection of previously printed stories in a new version, with text and sound. On the same screen, we are given a link to, an external site which offers what Covito, exploiting the graphic and phonic similarities between ‘letteratura’  (literature) and ‘lettura’ (reading),  calls letturatura: “that is, narrated literature, in other words, stories and poems recited by human voices and accompanied by suitable music”.[15] Such an aural-textual/visual production has a revolutionary potential, as itprovides a multimodal reading experience and opens up a synaesthetic literary experience where readers encounter a text in (at least) two modes. Here the use of technology alters the mode of reception of literature - unlike the traditional mode of bilingual reading where the reader shuttles between source text and target text but cannot receive both at once because they are carried in same medium. The two texts exist simultaneously on different semiotic planes, therefore the reader is simultaneously able to use more than one sense. The synthesis of written word, spoken word and musical elements creates a unique literary interface – further blurring the boundaries between original (in this case, the ‘traditional’ printed stories) and translation (the multimodal versions of the stories) as readers negotiate their way through the interweaving of languages and media.

Looking at the trajectory of Covito’s writing project over the last two decades, it seems clear that there is something gained in morphing from print to web. In the case of Covito’s novel site, the ‘something gained’ is the richness of information, connected and synthesized; the empowering of readers as active participants in the knowledge-making process; and the appeal to senses, not generally affected by print texts(like hearing, as in the case of letturatura, and kinesthesia, through the reader’s use of the mouse or the keyboard to adjust the view or follow links to external pages). In other words, rather than merely encountering data, readers engage with the text through vision, hearing, and motion. Covito’s morphing writing practices privilege multivocality, textual fragmentation, and non-standard formats with a view to inspiring enough disorientation to force us out of passive reading habits wherein texts are consumed without much conscious consideration of the multilayered framing(s) that structure them. Digital and web-based publishing technologies have made possible a new method of writing and representation that might capture the ‘collage’ or ‘pastiche’ effect of postmodernity. A reader who perseveres beyond the initial nuisance of having the narrative she is reading interrupted by other competing narratives might find that the constant starts and stops raise questions of authority, motivation, dominance, and voice. In experimenting with multiple textualities, Covito seeks to place different voices and different narratives near to each other. The reader is required to move in and out of different frames, opening up different perspectives, necessarily fragmented, on the same subject. Creating such a multivalent and fluid text necessarily decentres the author(s) in any attempt to write culture and to represent identities as it encourages the coexistence of multiple voices in ways that are not necessarily filtered through the author’s frame(s) of reference.

Covito’s approach to writing – both for print and for electronic media - is one that resists the linearity of reading, hence resists cohesion and a sense of closure, of containable knowledge, of singular meaning. Moving between writing practices is a form ofrenewal, a way of obtaining multiple perspectives on ideas, and a way of drawing attention to the “increasing circulation of subjects in intercultural environments” (Richter 2006, 38-39). Reading Covito in translation gives English-speaking readers new images of Italian life and literature, while the fluid discourse of the hypertext provides Italian readers with multiple/alternative images of their own culture.In short, her web site is that “diversified space with a plurality of identities” that sociologist Melita Richther argues has become “the normal context of our existence” (2006: 39).

Reading, viewing or, indeed, listening to Covito’s work, her audience might take a certain pleasure in the recognition that knowledge is indeed constitutive, made between and among voices and narratives and interpretations. Multivocality and multimodality are especially important modes of writing for Covito as she challenges the reader to discern meaning not just among the different narratives but also beyond; not least in the palimpsest of self-translation (Wilson, 2009: 2012) in which layers of the author’s first-hand experience create the layers of text, as is evident in my earlier discussion of her ‘identity card’ and her morphing characters. Further, her print and electronic texts dialogue with and extend each other; by recoding language and relocating culture(s) Covito calls attention to the interface between creative writing and translation. In fact, the transition from print to screen has enabled Covito to produce all her texts in an Assemblage (Hayes 2003) thereby providing a concrete example of the rhizomatic network, theorized by Hayles, in which each text is simultaneously a translation of another text (2003: 279). To sum up, on a fundamental level, the translation from print to electronic text recaptures that process’s “root sense of movement through language (...) of language that moves” (Hayles, 1997: 804).


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[1] (Plain and of a certain age). This and other translations of the titles Covito’s works are provided by the author herself in her website

[2] “Purtroppo per le mie tasche, io scrivo in italiano e la Fielding scrive in inglese, quindi a sbancare i botteghini e le casse delle librerie di mezzo mondo ci è arrivata lei. Non che io mi lamenti... Cioè sì, certo che mi lamento! Perché in fin dei conti (miliardi!) la storia di Bridget Jones è una storiellina rosa, dove l'obiettivo finale è conquistare un uomo e tenerselo per vivere finalmente felice e contenta (in contanti?) mentre la storia di Marilina Labruna è un po', anzi un bel po', più tosta”.  (in interview with Monia di Biagio, 2005). All translations from Italian are mine unless otherwise indicated.

[3] “si scrive per vivere delle altre esistenze, per non essere sempre costretti dentro questa tua noiosa e unica pelle e identità. Si vuole assumerne altre. Ti moltiplichi inventando dei personaggi e un pezzetto di te c'è anche nel personaggio più lontano possibile dal tuo io biografico”. (Laddor, 2002)

[4]  Welcome to this environment

[5]  The box art for Windows 1.0 when it was first released in 1985 introduced the “Microsoft Windows Operating Environment 1.0, For IBM and Compaq Personal Computers.”  See (accessed on 25 September 2014).

[6] “dall’esistenza delle finestre si è affaciata tutta la varietà possibile di giochi intertestuali ed extratestuali (finestre ‘a cascata’ per raccontare episodi che avvengono simultaneamente, finestre che non si chiudono o si chiudono male finestre pubblicitarie, la finestra che contiene un Easter egg.” (Interview with Capozzi 1999, 269)

[7] “Si potrebbe dire quindi che è un romanzo ‘autobiografico al contrario’, dove invece di avere un personaggio che mima l’autore abbiamo un autore che mima il personaggio” (Interview with Capozzi, 1999: 268).

[8] This webpage is no longer available, but Carmen Covito refers to it in her new website: “Another page, called ‘Six Characters in Search of Websites’, is a Pirandello-style game in which every character in my novel can be given one or more sites according to character, or where the character and role in the novel can be guessed from those sites.” (accessed on 25 September 2014).

[9] (accessed on 25 September 2014).

[10] While it is not exactly the same pun, both versions play on the meaning of “romanzo/novel”, with the Italian version emphasising the fictional connotation and the English version the innovative connotation.

[11] (the Italian site about Sino-Japanese calligraphy); (the best of Japanese culture in Italy)

[12]  Generally speaking, Translation Studies uses the term intralingual translation in accordance with Jakobson (1959/2004). It is defined as the translation from one code to another within the same language (Zethsen 2009: 808). In this sense, it can be assumed to have overlaps with what in other areas is known as adaptation.

[13] The now archived Italian version of the website lists the new edition of Il Novellino as “Le cento novelle antiche tradotte nell'italiano di oggi”, while Il Cortigiano is presented as “Carmen Covito e Aldo Busi traduconoIl Cortigiano di Baldassar Castiglione”(, accessed on 25 September 2014)The English version of the website describes the work done by Covito and Busi on Il Novellino as “one hundred ancient tales translated into contemporary Italian”, carried out as“a heartfelt tribute for the grandfather of all Italian fiction: a queer ancestor, uninhibited and bold for its own times and maybe even for ours. (A.B. and C.C.)” and the edition of Il Cortigiano is presented as  “Carmen Covito and Aldo Busi translate The Courtier” (, accessed on 25 September 2014. Emphasis added).

On the recently updated copyright page of the Italian site, Covito has expanded her “Bibliografia” and subdivided it into 9 categories ( The most notable changes are the subdivision of the section previously listed simply as “Traduzioni” into two sub-sections: “Trasposizioni dall”italiano antico” and “Traduzioni”, which effectively means that the two works she had previously listed as “translations” have been re-labeled as “transpositions”. She has also added “Adattamenti cinematografici” (Film adaptations) and “Adattamenti teatrali” (Theatrical adaptations) to the list. These changes suggest that a greater degree of self-reflection by Covito on her role as both linguistic mediator and text producer.

[14] “E a me sembra che il Web sia il mezzo ideale per farci capire quanto sia necessario e utile applicare alle nostre fatiche un bel tocco di sprezzatura. Pagine apparentemente spensierate ma ricche di significati potrebbero proporsi, poi, per contagio, come un felice esempio per tutta la scrittura letteraria, che in Italia è spesso ancora molto ‘pesante’ a causa di un equivoco di fondo: si pensa che ‘pesante’ equivalga a ‘denso’ e ‘interessante’, mentre spesso equivale solo a ‘pretenzioso’ e ‘noioso’” (, accessed on 25 September 2014).

[15] “cioè una letteratura raccontata, cioè narrazioni e poesie interpretate da una voce umana e commentate da musiche adatte” (, accessed on 25 September 2014).

About the author(s)

Rita Wilson is Associate Professor and Head of the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University (Melbourne). She has long-standing research interests in contemporary Italian literature and culture with a particular focus on women writers and representations of space and place. Her current areas of interest are translingual writers, and the relationship between migration, translation and identity. Recent publications include two co-edited volumes: Words, Images and Performances in Translation (2012), Creative Constraints. Translation and Authorship (2012), as well as several articles on the correlation between language, subjectivity and identity construction in transnational narratives.

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©inTRAlinea & Rita Wilson (2014).
"Transitioning from printed novel to novel website:"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Across Screens Across Boundaries
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