Annali d'Italianistica The following excerpt is a chapter from the Il sentiero dei nidi di ragni (The Path to the Spiders' Nests, translated by Archibald Colquhoun, New York: Harper Collins, 1976). The novel, a coming of age story set against the backdrop of World War II, describes the life of Pin, a cobbler's apprentice in a small town on the Ligurian coast. He lives with his sister, a prostitute, and spends as much time as he can at a bar, where he amuses the adult patrons. After a mishap with a Nazi soldier, Pin becomes involved with a band of partisans. In the dark morning, without a glimmer of light, Dritto's men are moving silently around the barn, preparing to leave. They wrap blankets around their shoulders; it will be cold up on the boulders of the crest before dawn. As they do so, they think not of what will happen to themselves but to the blanket that each takes with them. Will they lose it running away, will it be soaked with their blood as they lie dying, or be taken from them by a Fascist and shown around the town as booty? But what does a blanket matter?
Annali d'Italianistica Lucania, the mountainous region wedged between Campania, Calabria and Apulia, comprises a large percentage of the hinterland of Southern Italy. Insular and remote, Lucania has infrequently attracted the interest of historians and anthropologists. The culture of the people who have inhabited this desolate land for millennia has been too neglected in historical accounts, which have focused primarily on the politico-economic forces that have struggled to dominate Southern Italy. For its own part, the indigenous population of Lucania was largely nonliterate and incapable of leaving its own written testimony of its unique culture. Today, as modern society rapidly encroaches upon older cultures throughout the world, evidence of this unknown Lucania is rapidly vanishing and it has become imperative to establish a valid account of this past before it disappears altogether. One of the few written texts offering cultural evidence of Lucania is not an anthropological treatise, but the novel Cristo si e fermato a Eboli by Carlo Levi. Despite the personal nature of Levi's account of his nine-month confinement in Aliano during 1935-36, the narrative focuses attention primarily on the world of the peasants, what the author refers to as "quell'altro mondo" (15) and "la civilta contadina" (121). In the opening two paragraphs which frame the entire work, Levi draws attention to the cultural and historical neglect that the world of the peasants has endured. He poetically renders it as outright negation by emphasizing that their world is
Annali d'Italianistica As a writer, politician, painter, and physician, Carlo Levi was one of the great figures of twentieth-century Italian intellectual life, incarnating, as Simone de Beauvoir once wrote, the humanistic ideal of "l'uomo di cultura" (276). His ambitious program amounted to no less than the construction of "un nuovo umanesimo" founded upon "una riscoperta dell'uomo come unita e come rapporto" ("Sul nuovo umanesimo" 80). Levi uses the term umanesimo with keen awareness of its relevance in the philosophical and political debate of his time. He consciously refuses, however, to attempt a definition or philosophical discussion of the meaning and theoretical value of neo-humanist tendencies (79). Levi's unwillingness to give a clear definition of umanesimo is characteristic of his critical writing, which is fraught with gaps and contradictions and lacks the rigor of systematic philosophical thinking. Rather, his ideas are forged within a constant intellectual "conversation" with the most important figures of European cultural life, a dialogue in which he engaged since his university years, when he began to feel the urgent need to move beyond the stifling provinciality of the Italian cultural landscape. His frequent Parisian stays before the outbreak of WWII, and later his active engagement in leftist politics, allowed him to become acquainted with some of the most influential intellectuals and artists of his time. Thus, rather than fitting into one philosophical system, Levi's thinking can best be understood in dialogic terms, in the Bakhtinian sense of the word. In his theoretical writings, he privileges inclusion rather than systematization and exclusion, seeking to establish forms of coexistence, rather than coherence, among contradictory elements. It is in light of these considerations that we should approach Levi's umanesimo. As a firm believer in man as the center and subject of history in the search for freedom from sacred bonds and fears (Marcovecchio 100), Levi's outlook is closer to Jean-Paul Sartre's idea of humanism than Heidegger's. (1) Sartre himself recognized in Levi's work the same engagement with human existence he proposed as the essence of Existentialism as a form of humanism. According to Sartre, Levi's curiosity for human experience emerged from a passion for life that allowed him to recognize the value of each and every lived experience. His multifaceted activity as a doctor, writer, and artist was motivated by the same respect for life that gave unity to his work as an intellectual and as a politician (Sartre, "L'universale singolare" 258). Sartre's words about Levi parallel the French philosopher's argument in defense of Existentialism against its (mainly Catholic and Marxist) detractors. Far from encouraging a withdrawal from social reality, Sartre wrote, existentialist philosophy demanded of man a full engagement with the world, since "man will be what he makes of himself" (Existentialism is a Humanism 22). Man bears full responsibility for his own destiny and for the destiny of all humanity. It is the burden of this responsibility that generates the angst that Existentialism recognizes as profoundly human (27). Rather than freezing man into inaction, however, this existential anguish pushes him towards a full engagement with life (34).
Annali d'Italianistica Introduction It is difficult to overestimate Petrarch's influence on the modern lyric. Beyond his direct influence--his popularization of the sonnet and the lyric sequence; the dozen tropes and conceits we take for granted today (the cataloguing of physical traits of the beloved, the use of the environment as symbolic of an internal state, etc.); his use of a unified persona throughout the collection--even his indirect influence as progenitor of the modern lyric cannot be avoided. But most important for his presence in the work of Osip Mandelstam, Petrarch is the primary exemplar of Humanism, a movement Mandelstam would increasingly turn to after the Bolshevik Revolution. Two aspects of Humanism will be important here: the archaeological ability of a poem to revive not only the words of another poet, but that poet's historical and ethical values, a central textual methodology of Petrarchism; (2) and the focus on and concern for the individual human being that we date from the Renaissance and goes by the term "humanism" with a lower-case h. Both of these sets of values are central to Mandelstam's work, especially in the Soviet period, when these values, as well as Mandelstam himself, were under harsh attack. All such values can especially be observed in his translations of Petrarch.
Annali d'Italianistica The waning of the Renaissance brought about a drastic shift in Italy's prestige. Just as Italy lost its envied position at the forefront of European culture, Italian urban centers became the favored destinations of rapidly spreading aristocratic tourism. In this new era of codified travel, Italians had to adapt both to the peninsula's relegation to the geographical, political, and economic edges of the continent and to their new role in the European imaginary as the designated hosts to travelers from the north. (1) Those Italians who chose to leave the peninsula inevitably went countercurrent to throngs of southbound European aristocrats and found themselves in an ambiguous position: they were unquestionably European in their heritage but, because there existed no cohesive form of "Italian" travel, excluded as a group from general European travel patterns. The lack of an "Italian" culture of travel had significant repercussions in this period because mobility had become a key element in burgeoning notions of national and even European identity. New models of cultural belonging and prominence now involved larger geo-political territories having one principal cultural center and defined in part by the international mobility and influence of their inhabitants and institutions. As Gerard Delanty points out,
Annali d'Italianistica Roman society and Italy more generally have failed to address some of the most basic of women's concerns and rights, such as the right to bodily integrity and freedom from physical violence. By investigating the dynamics leading to domestic abuse and murder, Melania Mazzucco, in her novel Un giorno perfetto (2005), promotes a critical reading of literal rather than metaphorical violence against women; this author intentionally rescues non-voyeuristic images of physical violence against women from the abstract and literary metaphors that have traditionally framed such topics in patriarchal discourse. Furthermore, Mazzucco depicts the very real exercise of violence against women in contemporary Rome by exposing media and patriarchal discursive practices in all their revealing verbal cliches. The novel also contextualizes women's issues within the frame of globalization, multiculturalism, and society's response to women's needs. Against the disappearance of second-wave feminism, this study defends the movement's legacy as exemplified in Mazzucco's compelling inquiry into domestic crime and socially constructed gender roles. The New and the Old
Annali d'Italianistica In his 1975 essay "Delusione di Roma" ("The Disappointment of Rome"), Alberto Moravia reflected on his native city and its role in Italian intellectual life. Unlike London and Paris, which were indisputably their nations' cultural epicenters, Rome was in his view un elemento frenante e mortificante per la cultura italiana [...] una slabbrata e sgangherata cittadona mediterranea, sede di uno Stato che non e uno Stato, capitale di una nazione che non e una nazione. In altri termini, Roma e l'espressione, purtroppo perfetta, del fallimento dell'Unita Italiana.
Annali d'Italianistica 1. Across Two Centuries In his seminal book Roma contemporanea, historian Vittorio Vidotto reminds us that "Roma e sempre stata una citta capitale. Capitale della repubblica e poi dell'impero romano; capitale della cristianita, quindi del cattolicesimo, infine anche di uno stato ecclesiastico. Nella memoria dei posteri--e in qualche misura fino ad oggi--non ha mai perso interamente questo carattere" ("Rome has always been a capital city. Capital of the Roman Republic and then of the Roman Empire; capital first of Christianity, later of Catholicism, and, finally, also of an ecclesiastical state. In the memory of posterity--and, to a certain extent, up until today--it has never entirely lost this character," 4). Rome's contemporary identity as a modern capital, however, was not easily won; indeed, one could argue that this identity is still fluid--a work in progress, as it were, burdened with multiple pagan, Christian, and secular layers. The process of Rome's modernization began with the Breach of Porta Pia on September 20, 1870, when the city was freed from the political authority of the pope: Pius IX locked himself inside the Vatican, declared himself its prisoner, and never came out again. The majority of the population welcomed enthusiastically the Savoy troops: culturally isolated and economically weakened, particularly in the course of the preceding decade, most Romans no longer supported the current pope's rule (Bartolini 17). What had been for centuries a sacred city began the process of officially becoming a secular capital--although Rome's religious hold on Catholics, it can be argued, continues to influence politics to this day.
Annali d'Italianistica In a city with as rich a heritage as Rome, cultural artifacts ought to be accessible to residents and visitors alike in a way that is systematic, univocal, and understandable. Rome's historical, artistic, and intellectual traditions, that is, should not be reserved for the chosen few. As Pierre Bourdieu and Alain Darbel argue in The Love of Art, a taste for culture--or "cultivated taste"--is not innate but rather socially produced and unevenly distributed (109). In the light of this claim, the question of equal educational opportunities, as much as that of economic advancement, is an important challenge for contemporary cities, and especially for a twenty-first-century metropolis like Rome--a capital city "afflicted" with a glorious past. The situation of Rome's museums is emblematic of Italy's principal difference with respect to other countries: the indissoluble bond between each museum and its territory. In the words of Christian Whitehead,
Annali d'Italianistica In her highly illuminating article entitled, "La letteratura costruisce luoghi inediti" ("Literature constructs new locations," 2009), Giuliana Benvenuti summarizes the debates around an interpretation of space. Following Michel Foucault, Benvenuti stresses the importance of critical work on the "interrelazione tra spazio e potere" ("inter-relation between space and power"). Citing Henri Lefevre, Benvenuti reminds us of both the repressive impact that space has had as a marginalizing force in urban planning and of the relation between body and space, which postcolonial and gender studies have highlighted. For Benvenuti, space is intended as that which "condensa la complessita dei rapporti tra i luoghi" ("contains the complexity of the relationship between locations"). Space is an ever-growing complexity that she reads within the context of global transformations. In order to develop a complex discussion of the relations between urban space and migration literature, it is necessary to begin with Benvenuti's concept of "perceived" space and apply it to a narrative structure in which proximities--which she terms "zone di contatto" ("contact zones")--create the context in which change can be enacted. In Benvenuti's words, these innovative spaces "consentono di riarticolare la segregazione e di costruire nuove identita ibride e nuovi spazi trasgressivi" ("allow for a re-articulation of segregation and the construction of new hybrid identities and new transgressive spaces"). The "zone di contatto" are border areas, that is, locations where cultural exchanges are enacted. They are spaces in which new communities, identities, and transgressions can be performed. In my book, Migration Italy: The Art of Talking Back in a Destination Culture, I focused on literature as the space where change can be imagined. In a more recent article in Italian entitled "Comunita, diritti umani e testi multiculturali" ("Community, human rights, and multicultural texts"), I have used the articulations of the concept of proximity in the work of both Giorgio Agamben and Lisa Lowe in order to consider literature as a context in which the space of proximity can be verbalized and where contact among communities can be narrated. Benvenuti focuses in particular on how fiction can inflect perceptions of the "real," and therefore on the impact that imagined spaces can have on the construction of the urban space that we encounter in our daily experiences. She adds:
Annali d'Italianistica What does it mean to be the author of a city? Particularly in the case of Rome, a city that is the emblem of historical and mythical stratification, it is a difficult distinction to earn. Italo Calvino identifies Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana as "il romanzo di Roma scritto da un non-romano" ("the novel of Rome written by a non-Roman," Pinotti 270), whereas Alain Elkann and Dacia Maraini recognize the author of Rome in Alberto Moravia--their close friend and lover, respectively. Elkann, who co-wrote an interview-biography with Moravia himself, declares: "Tu [...] sei lo scrittore di Roma per antonomasia" ("You [...] are the writer of Rome par excellence," 11); Maraini wrote a generous homage to Moravia for the catalogue of a recent exhibit entitled "Moravia e Roma": "La mostra [...] non poteva non avere Roma come tema. Una citta legata alla vita e agli affetti di Moravia, al rapporto--di curiosita amorevole, e nel contempo di critica e insofferenza--di cui testimoniano la sua scrittura e le sue narrazioni" ("The exhibit [...] had to have Rome as its theme, for the city is connected to Moravia's life and his affections. It is a relationship--of loving curiosity and at the same time of criticism and intolerance--to which his writings and narratives testify," 8). Rome is certainly a common denominator in most of Moravia's fiction: he penned more than two hundred literary texts set in that city. The sheer quantity of Moravia's "Roman" production suggests and even encourages his identification as Rome's twentieth-century author; however, the reality of the Rome present in his short stories and novels paints an undeniably more complicated picture. As a city, Rome--a palpable, visual, urban, and architectural entity--seldom appears in Moravia's works. One cannot deny that Rome is present in these texts, nor that Moravia names it; nevertheless, the author only rarely depicts it. As the writer himself states: "Roma e solo un fondale di teatro" ("Rome is simply a backdrop," Moravia and Elkann 30), a convenient and familiar setting where his psychological, rather than physical, dramas unfold. Moravia constructs Rome through a compilation of topical references, without those detailed or specific descriptions that could potentially detract from the characters' existential struggles with conformity, boredom, and indifference. It is as though Moravia could have replaced Rome with any other city, for he does not express an intimate, emotional connection with the locations he selects for his narratives. The reader constantly encounters a tangible distance between the author and his native city, a sort of manifestation of the themes of alienation or indifference that permeate his works. This feeling, perhaps, relates to the particular circumstances of Moravia's youth. Moravia described the isolation he suffered as a child and the limits of his adolescent experiences as they later marked his literary relationship with Rome:
Annali d'Italianistica Fascism and the Second World War received considerable attention in American travel writing about Rome during the late 1940s and the 1950s. The years in question marked the beginning of a truly mass tourism in Rome and saw an unprecedented number of Americans come to Italy, bringing with them a vision of themselves, the world, and of overseas travel influenced by the conflict just ended and by the emerging bi-polar dynamics of the Cold War. The literature produced by and/or for them reveals a not unfamiliar tension between the pull of an iconic Rome and the desire to make the city into a lesson regarding the contemporary world. I say purposefully "not unfamiliar" because for centuries Rome had offered visiting writers and visual artists a remarkably fluid metaphor upon which to map the anxieties of their age (Black 142-65; Chard 40-74; Buzard, The Beaten Track 217-27, 285-330; Melton 206-10; Luzzi 49-58; Edwards 1-17). Among these, Americans had a particularly complex relationship with the Eternal City, both as idea and as physical place. According to William Vance, they had been drawn to Rome since the mid-18th century because it offered them "the greatest challenge and some of the most precious gifts" for contemplating their own national identity (xvi). Like their northern European counterparts, Americans considered Rome the birthplace of their cultural and political traditions. They likewise shared a tendency to view the Roman Empire's decline as the great cautionary tale of history: the perceived decadence of contemporary Roman society offered them a titillating and satisfying confirmation of their own superiority, and thus of their rightful place as heirs of the Roman Republic. However, Americans' relationship with the city was long complicated by their simultaneous need to distance themselves from the old world and desire for direct contact with the culture and antiquity so abundantly tangible in Rome, and so lacking in their own country (Vance 1: xx, 2-10 ; Melton 208-20; Amfitheatrof 3-10). Post-war American visitors to Rome, of course, shared some of these characteristics with their forbears, and their writing and touring were demonstrably shaped by the vast library of travel literature that preceded them. Nonetheless, their receptions of the Eternal City were also bound up with what were essentially new ways of conceiving of themselves and their relationship with Europe as a whole. Fascism, the war, and reconstruction had each contributed to narratives about an American "rescue" of the Old World, while the Cold War added urgency to the idea that the rebuilding of Western Europe should be done in
Annali d'Italianistica L'unita italiana e fatta nei cuori, e quando e fatta la, si fa presto a tradurla nelle leggi, nelle abitudini, nelle convinzioni, nella vita. (Italian unification is made in one's heart, and once it is made there, it becomes easy to translate it into laws, habits, beliefs, life.) (Doctor Veritas) (1)