The twelve essays gathered in this volume represent (with one exception) a selection of the papers given at a conference on Orality and literacy in Italian culture, organized by the editors and held at the Institute of Romance Studies, University of London, under the auspices of the Society for Italian Studies, on 10 and 11 May 2002. The conference covered a wide range of topics; among those omitted from the volume were sessions ranging from 'Voice and performance in Dante' and Orality, literacy and performativity in early modern Italian women authors' to 'Dialect, tradition and the oral'.The decision to limit the present publication to contributions focussing on the second halt of the twentieth century — the 'modern' of our title — was made partly on pragmatic grounds (the high proportion of contributions dealing with earlier periods which were already destined for publication elsewhere), but principally in view of the particular chronological cohesion of the large number of papers which chose to concentrate on the most recent decades of Italian culture. A full list of the papers given (other than those included here) and their subsequent publication details are included in About the Contributors.