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IT6: Modern Italian Culture

This paper is available for the academic year 2018-19.

This paper allows you to study a wide range of different texts and topics from within Italian culture of the modern era, broadly stretching from the unification of Italy to the present day. It focuses on texts of different kinds (novels, poetry, drama, short stories), works in different media (written texts, film, visual arts), and different modes of cultural enquiry (literary criticism and theory, intellectual and cultural history, cultural sociology and philosophy), to give you a rich sense of the variety and complexity of modern Italian culture and history.  There are no compulsory texts or topics: you will select four or five of the topics on offer in any one year and study each in a combination of lectures / seminars and supervision.

 

Topics: 

Topics for 2018-19 are as follows:

Topic 1: Satire in Modern Italy

This topic looks at some of the most important satirical works in 20th century Italy. Serving as both a critique of social norms and oppression of minorities (anti-women, anti-Jews, etc.), satire has been one of the most practiced and effective languages in modern Italian culture. This topic explores theory, functions and limitations of the satirical genre, focusing on the intellectual debate and legal responses (censorship, libel writs, etc.) that have accompanied satirical expressions in modern Italy. Satirical artefacts examined in the topic include poems, novels, magazines, cartoons, films, television programmes and theatrical plays, amongst which:

  • Tommaso Marinetti, Re Baldoria
  • Curzio Malaparte, Don Camaleo, L’Arcitaliano*
  • Giovanni Guareschi, Candido (1946-60) (selected cartoons, letters and stories from Don Camillo)
  • Ennio Flaiano, Un marziano a Roma*
  • Federico Fellini, I Vitelloni*
  • Dario Fo, Mistero Buffo*
  • Andrea Pazienza, Satira 1978-1988Le straordinarie avventure di Pentothal(comic art, graphic novel)
  • Stefano Benni, Prima o poi l’amore arriva*L’ultima lacrimaTeatro(selected poems, stories, short pièces) 
  • Sabina Guzzanti, Viva Zapatero*

For an introduction to the topic, you are invited to examine the works marked with an asterisk (*) and the following secondary literature: Quintero (ed.), A Companion to Satire Ancient and Modern (2007), pp. 400-585; Moliterno (ed.), Encyclopedia of Modern Italian Culture(2000), (relevant entries).

 

Topic 2: Representations of Rome in Post-War Italian Cinema

This topic will examine some of the most important films in Italian cinema from the perspective of the representation of the city, of Rome as the site of cinema, of socio-political protest, of Italian national identity or simply as autobiography. Below is a sample list of films for the topic. You should aim to work with at least six to cover the topic. Some of the most important are highlighted in bold below, but you are not limited to these and should feel free to work with any other films you have seen.

  • R. RosselliniRoma città aperta(1945)
  • V. De Sica, Ladri di biciclette(1948), Umberto D(1951)
  • W. Wyler, Roman Holiday (1953)
  • Steno, Un americano a Roma (1954)
  • F. Fellini, La dolce vita(1960), Roma(1972)
  • C. Lizzani, L’oro di Roma(1961)
  • P. P. Pasolini, Accattone(1961), Mamma Roma(1962), Uccellacci e uccellini(1966)
  • M. Antonioni, L’eclisse(1963)
  • D. Risi, Il soprasso(1963)
  • E Scola, Una giornata particolare (1977)
  • P. Greenaway, Belly of an Architect (1987)
  • N. Moretti, Caro diario(1993), Habemus Papam (2012)
  • A. Minghella, The Talented Mr Ripley(1999)
  • F. Ozpetek, Le fati ignoranti(2001), La finestra di fronte(2003)
  • P. Sorrentino, Il divo(2005), La grande bellezza(2013)
  • M. Placido, Romanzo criminale(2005)
  • A. Ferrente, L’orchestra di Piazza Vittorio(2006)
  • G. Rosi, Sacro GRA(2013)

 

Topic 3: The Great War  in Italian Interwar Literature

This module will examine the Italian experience of the Great War through a range of texts written by veterans between 1918 and 1940. It will analyze both the narrative representation of the war as a mythical event and the role of war literature as a Fascist medium of political and historical self-legitimization.  

Primary texts

Some of the primary texts are hard to find and will be provided during the course. Others are available to purchase or in libraries (singly or within collected works):

  • Ardengo Soffici,Kobilek(1919)
  • Giuseppe Prezzolini, Tutta la guerra (1921)
  • F.T. Marinetti, L’alcova d’acciaio (1921)
  • Paolo Monelli, Scarpe al sole (1921)
  • Curzio Malaparte, La rivolta dei santi maledetti(1921)
  • Benito Mussolini, Il mio diario di guerra (1923)
  • Attilio Frescura,Non vogliamo encomi(1929)
  • Riccardo Bacchelli, Oggi, domani e mai (1932)
  • Emilio Lussu, Un anno sull’Altopiano (1938)

Topic 4: Migration and Modern Italy

Strong migratory movements in and out of Italy have been a defining feature of Italian history since unification. Through a selection of cinematic and literary texts, this topic explores notions of (national) identity and otherness to understand the complexities of contemporary Italy’s multicultural dimensions and the country’s history of emigration. Drawing on the recent intellectual debate on Italian post-colonial studies, cultural representations of Italy’s colonial past will also be examined. Texts studied include poems, novels, short stories and films amongst which:

Novels 

  • L. Pariani, Quando Dio ballava il tango, 2002
  • M. Mazzucco, Vita, 2003*
  • A. Lakhous, Scontro di civiltà per un ascensore a Piazza Vittorio, Rome 2006
  • I. Scego, La mia casa è dove sono, Turin 2010

Stories

  • C. de Caldas Brito, Amanda Olinda Azzurra e le altre, Rome, 1998
  • G. Kuruvilla, I. Mubiayi, I. Scego, L. Wadia, Pecore Nere, Rome, 2005
  • M. Masri, I. Mubiayi, Z. Qifeng, I. Scego, Amori bicolori, Rome, 2008
  • K. Komla Ebri, Imbarazzismi. Quotidiani imbarazzi in bianco e nero
  • L. Sciascia, ‘Il lungo viaggio’, 1973*

Poetry

  • R. Sibhatu, Aulò: canto-poesia dall’Eritrea, Rome, 1993*
  • L. Bonaffini, Poets of the Italian Diaspora. A Bilingual Anthology, New York, 2014

Films

  • Nuovomondo, dir. E. Crialese, 2006*
  • Mimi metallurgico ferito nell’onore, dir. L. Wertmüller, 1972
  • Pane e cioccolata, dir. F. Brusati, 1973*
  • Lamerica, dir. G. Amelio (1991)*
  • L’assedio, dir. B. Bertolucci (1998)
  • Lezioni di cioccolata, dir. C. Cupellini, 2007 
  • Bianco e nero, dir. C. Comencini2007*

For an introduction to the topic, you are invited to examine the works marked with an asterisk (*) and the following secondary literature: G. Parati and M. Orton, Multicultural Literature in Contemporary Italy, Cranbury (NJ), 2007, Introductionand selected stories of your choice; E. Bond, G. Bonsaver, F. Faloppa, Destination Italy: Representing Migration in Contemporary Media and Literature, New York, 2015, Part 2 (Literature) and Part 3 (Cinema). 


Topic 5: The Holocaust in Italian Culture

This topic examines a series of texts, films and other material which have marked Italy's response to and memorialization of the Holocaust. It examines in particular the unresolved and contradictory sense of Italy's own role as both co-perpetrator and victim of Nazi violence and racial ideology.

Texts and Films

  • Giacomo Debenedetti, 16 ottobre 1943 (1944)
  • Primo Levi, Se questo è un uomo (1947); La tregua (1963); I sommersi e i salvati (1986)
  • Giorgio Bassani, "Una lapide in via Mazzini', in Dentro le mura (1954); Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini (1962)
  • Rosetta Loy, La parola ebreo (1997)
  • Kapò (dir. G. Pontecorvo, 1959)
  • L'oro di Roma (dir. C. Lizzani, 1961)
  • Pasqualino Settebellezze (dir. L. Wertmüller, 1974)
  • La vita è bella (dir. R. Benigni, 1997)
  • Concorrenza sleale (dir. E. Scola, 2001)
  • La finestra di fronte (dir. F. Ozpetek, 2002)

You can start your secondary reading by looking at Robert Gordon, The Holocaust in Italian Culture, 1944-2010 (Stanford, 2012) 


 

Preparatory reading: 

In addition to familiarising yourself with the primary texts listed above for each topic you are interested in, you should consult the following:

  • P Brand and L. Pertile, eds, Cambridge History of Italian Literature
  • D. Forgacs and R. Lumley eds, Italian Cultural Studies
  • R. Gordon, Introduction to 20th-Century Italian Literature. A Difficult Modernity
  • P. Hainsworth and D. Robey eds, Oxford Companion to Italian Literature
  • G. Moliterno ed, Encyclopedia of Contemporary Italian Cutlure
  • Oxford Illustrated History of Italy
Teaching and learning: 

Each topic will be taught in a series of 4 lectures / seminars and 2 supervisions during MT and LT. You are expected to study at least four topics. There will be revision teaching in ET.

For the It.6 Moodle site, please see here

Assessment: 

The paper will be assessed by a three-hour written exam. There will be at least four questions on each topic and you will be required to answer three questions on three different topics.

The exam paper may be substituted by an Optional Dissertation.

Course Contacts: 
Professor Robert Gordon