Volume 3, Issue 1, 2012
The Disciplines of the Arts and Sciences in Naples
John A. Marino and Carlo Vecce, Editors
Rossella Carbotti, Managing Editor
The Disciplines of the Arts and Sciences in Naples: Medieval, Early Modern, Contemporary. Introduction to Vol. 3 Issue 1
I. Medieval and Renaissance Naples: Forging Neapolitan Identity through History, Literature, Philosophy, and Art
The Neapolitan Virgil (Naples, B.N., ms ex vindob, lat.6) was written and illuminated in Naples about 950 and was part of the library of the Duke John III and his wife Theodora. The manuscript derives from a model of lateantiquity, but the closeness of its drawings to the wall paintings in the church of S. Sophia in Benevento can assume the existence of an intermediate model that was written and illuminated for the wife of duke Arechi II, Adelperga, who was Paul the Deacon’s student.
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Following the methodological perspective of Bruno Migliorini, this paper intends to show the interplay between cultural history ("storia esterna") and linguistic history ("storia interna") during the Neapolitan Angevin period (1266-1442). The paper focus on some words borrowed from French and Provençal that appeared in the most important literary texts of the Angevin period: the Neapolitan Letter of Giovanni Boccaccio and the Libro de la destuctione de Troya. These words demonstrate how deep the linguistic influence of the Angevins was on local language. Through analysis of the type of diffusion of French words, it is evident that these words spread in the local language via everyday spoken comunication. In fact these loan words reflect the phonetic adaptation to Neapolitan and a significant variety of forms. The great proliferation of some French suffixes, such us the suffix -anza, indicates that French loan words were not only read and written but also used in everyday conversation. Therefore, using French words, Boccaccio intended to describe a lexical cliché of the Neapolitan manner of speaking.
In 1279, the Angevin prince, Charles of Salerno, the future Charles II of Naples, discovered the body of Mary Magdalen in Provence. This inextricably linked the Angevins to the Magdalen, whom they adopted as patron saint of their dynasty. A dynasty uniquely aware of the political benefits of personal relationships with saints, the Angevins enthusiastically promoted the Magdalen’s cult. Significantly, it was in Naples, in 1295—the year the Pope authenticated the body discovered by Charles—that the earliest fresco cycle depicting the Magdalen’s life appeared. Over the subsequent half-century, two additional Magdalen cycles were commissioned in Naples. This efflorescence of Magdalen imagery in Angevin territory was directly tied to Angevin promotion of her cult. The Pipino Chapel in San Pietro a Maiella was the final Magdalen cycle painted in late medieval Naples, and presents the most iconographically sophisticated example of the Angevin impact on Neapolitan Magdalen imagery. By closely examining the Pipino Chapel in the context of Angevin promotion of the Magdalen cult, new meanings for the cycle are revealed, illustrating how the chapel’s unknown patron deployed imagery depicting the life of the Angevin patron saint to propagandize for the dynasty and declare allegiance to it.
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This short essay deals with the literary treatment of the site and image of Naples in Giovanni Boccaccio’s early works. The idealized construction of the city as an area where life is peaceful according to the rules of courtesy is part of a cultural strategy the young writer conceives in order to authorize himself. Just as Virgil found in ancient Partenope his tomb, just as the poet Ovid is associated with Sulmona, and Petrarch with Arquà, Boccaccio presents Neapolitan landscape and topography as the framework for his personal (auto-)portrait as a literary author.
Scholastic Schemes in Boccaccio's Neapolitan Works
The aim of this article is to investigate the consistency and meaning of the logical-dialectical processes emerging in the wider context of rhetorical means in the works written by Boccaccio in Naples and immediately after his return to Florence. In these works, dialectical schemes sometimes take the more complex structure of quaestio disputata. By using the disputatio form, a good number of medieval authors show how the disputatio leaves the narrow university milieu, and reaches the literary context. A possible reason for the reception of the quaestio disputata within the literary context can be identified in the rediscovery of the similarities of late medieval dialectic and rhetoric, since both are “sciences of the probable,” and therefore aim at persuading rather than at demonstrating. A second reason can be found in the dramatic nature of philosophical disputatio, a veritable tournament fought with the weapons of the mind. In Boccaccio's works, scholastic language and mental processes are widely diffused, a phenomenon that can be explained by the intermingling of philosophical and literary models. Nevertheless, it should also be noticed that the disputatio adopted by Boccaccio is reinforced by his return to its scholastic sources. Those texts were not unknown to a writer who was in touch with the scholars of the court of King Robert the Wise in Naples, studied canon law, read and loved Dante’s works, and was acquainted with Aristotle, Boethius, the Platonic Tradition, and Thomas Aquinas. The presence of scholastic language and techniques leads us to evaluate their narrative role in Boccaccio’s literary production, their nature of prospective tools allowing the game of viewpoints. In Boccaccio’s writings, sometimes a quaestio opposing two possible positions has the task of seeking the “truth.” Boccaccian use of disputatio hides a subtle literary strategy that both seems to give the reader the option of choice, and/or the author to take his position and direct the reading, and deserves to be analyzed more deeply.
Medieval Influence in Early Modern Neapolitan Historiography: The Fortunes of the Cronaca di Partenope, 1350-1680
This article argues for the foundational role of a fourteenth-century vernacular history of Naples (the Cronaca di Partenope) in the development of Neapolitan historiography through the seventeenth century. Thrice printed, the Cronaca was also frequently mined for source material by later historians; its uses illustrate the blurred boundaries between amateur and erudite printed historiography and between “foreign” and “native” accounts, as well as the evolving concerns and historical methods that informed treatments of the city’s and realm’s past over some two and one- half centuries.
The first part of this essay explores some of the reasons why Neapolitan humanism continued to have a difficult standing throughout the twentieth century, and how scholars of the Neapolitan Renaissance sought to overcome these difficulties. The principal argument will be that modern scholars have circumscribed the character of Neapolitan humanism mainly by adopting paradigms developed in the context of Northern Italian, and especially Florentine humanism. In the second part, a different approach is endorsed. As is argued, the intellectual outlook of Neapolitan humanism was molded rather by conflicts among the humanists than by a stance common to all of them. Therefore, the main question is not the Neapolitan “brand” of humanism, but the role of Neapolitan humanists within the humanist movement as a whole. This point is illustrated by sketches of some of the controversies involving the first generation of humanists at court, namely Antonio Beccadelli, known as Panormita, Bartolomeo Facio, and Lorenzo Valla. Their struggles heavily influenced the intellectual outlook and philosophical style of Giovanni Pontano, the key figure of Neapolitan humanism in the second half of the fifteenth century.
Political Humanism, of which Pontano’s De obedientia (1470) is one of the reference texts, possessed the rational and technical elements to outline the features of the Absolutist State with a refined theoretical apparatus. But it also had a secular and humanistic dimension that is lost in the subsequent developments of political theory, marked by the Reason of State and the return of the great military and ecclesiastical aristocracies. The main doctrinal axis on which hinges political humanism is the concept of organicism, namely the representation of society as an organic body inside which every member performs a specific function and the king is its visible representative, a reflection of the unitas that should be the basis for all social and political structure. In De obedientia’s fourth book, Pontano argues in favor of monarchy as the form of government that most closely meets the needs and issues of an organicist society and he outlines the features of the monarchical state. For this purpose, he uses the classical and medieval doctrine (mostly legal) to define the concept of obedience, and thus building it around the concepts of liberalitas and fides, and then loyalty to the sovereign and to the homeland, which is a real focal point in the construction of the new humanistic state. Finally, it tackles the problem of disobedience and rebellion, especially with reference to the great feudal lords.
Built between 1490 and 1492, the chapel of the humanist Giovanni Pontano is one of the most interesting and controversial cases of fifteenth-century Neapolitan architecture. The chapel has been attributed to different architects including Fra Giocondo, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, and Baccio Pontelli; however, none of these attributions can be considered conclusive. Pontano himself discourages us from trying to propose a new name in addition to those which have already been suggested, by repeatedly signing the pavement of the chapel with an unequivocal Pontanus fecit. This feature has never been remarked upon by historians, yet Pontano’s inscription should be seen as a true signature of the work and represents a central element for our understanding of the building and above all of Pontano’s relationship with the artistic culture of his time. Wishing to inform posterity about who was responsible for the chapel, he proposes himself as its only true auctor. This matches perfectly what the humanist would shortly afterwards express in his treatise De magnificentia, in which he describes the patron as the auctor of the work of art who through his knowledge of architecture and sculpture is thereby able to show the architect and sculptor the means how they might achieve magnificence in the artistic work which they are going to carry out on his behalf. Pontano’s use of such signatures reflects a precise humanistic interest in artists’ signatures which emerged at the end of the fifteenth century and which led to the resumption of this practice in antiquarian terms. While the graphic form of the inscription in capital letters and its arrangement within a scroll show a careful observation of ancient monuments, the wording of the sentence with the name in the nominative and the verb facere, employed in the perfect tense (fecit), reveals a precise ancient literary source. Pontano’s signature is an accurate quotation from Pliny’s preface to the first book of the Naturalis Historia. With his choice of the inscription Pontanus fecit, Pontano is consciously making a precise statement: he not only communicates his role as the author of the chapel, as well as its patron, but also expresses his conviction that he has perfected the work of art to his full satisfaction and does not have to fear the judgment of posterity.
The study of all the portraits of Giovanni Pontano and Jacopo Sannazaro aims to enlighten the process of iconographical creation in Naples in the Renaissance (fifteenth and sixteenth century). These famous humanists, very close to the Aragonese dynasty, used the same patterns but in a different way than the kings. The "right to portrait" at the royal court had precise codifications. The portraits of Pontano and Sannazaro are at the same time inside and outside this frame of codes. That's why their study allows a wider analysis of the question of the portrait in Aragonese Naples, the unique monarchy of the peninsula and great example for the other Italian and European courts.
Abigail Brundin has recently speculated that Vittoria Colonna, who was one of the most important poets of the Italian Renaissance, has received relatively little attention from women who study early modern women because of her unappealing image as a “secular nun.” If that is the case, Kenneth Gouwens’ first English translation and edition of Paolo Giovio’s Latin dialogue De viris ac foeminis aetate nostra florentibus with its panegyrical but at times prurient portrait of Vittoria Colonna should pump new life into Colonna studies.
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Il colore della statualità. Leggi suntuarie, codici estetici e modelli culturali delle élites nella Napoli della prima Età moderna
Il percorso euristico che s’intende sviluppare ha un duplice obiettivo. Da un lato intende mettere in luce attraverso un’analisi giuridico e politico-istituzionale della legislazione suntuaria in che modo essa fosse funzionale agl’interessi della classe dirigente; dall’altro – passando dalla prospettiva teoretica all’analisi della pratique du systéme e delle mentalità sociali – il saggio intende ricostruire, servendosi degli inventari e delle cronache coeve, i modelli di consumo mettendoli in relazione con le gerarchie di valori delle élites della società napoletana della prima età moderna. Questa seconda parte del lavoro si giova non solo dell’analisi archivistica ma anche di quella iconografica. I ritratti, le sculture e alcuni rari, e per questo preziosissimi, materiali vestimentari del XVI secolo appartenenti al patrimonio artistico napoletano consentono di visualizzare con immediatezza quanto emerge dalla letteratura. Sul piano metodologico, si è ritenuto di affrontare questo tema in una prospettiva di comparazione con altre esterienze storiche europee. La scelta è dovuta a due specificità: la prima è relativa alla presenza del Regno di Napoli nel complesso sistema imperiale di Carlo V e al fondamentale ruolo geo-politico svolto dal Regno e dalle sue élites all’epoca delle guerre d’Italia; la seconda è invece legata all’evidenza che l’analisi della dinamica socio-istituzionale del Regno di Napoli può essere compresa appieno solo attraverso la comparazione con la Francia che, com’è noto, ha rappresentato il cuore propulsore del processo di civilizzazione socio-istituzionale.
II. Early Modern Naples: Image/Realities from Scientific Academies and the Baroque to Enlightenment and the Grand Tour
One of the lifelong concerns of Giambattista Della Porta (1535-1615) was the description and the production of seemingly extraordinary and hence inexplicable experiments that would testify to his amazing abilities as a natural magician. But this Neapolitan nobleman was not only one of the most renowned "professors of secrets“ in his time, he was also the author of highly influential books on physiognomy and exercised his literary gifts in more than a dozen successful works for the theater. This paper looks into several instances where Della Porta managed the contemporary political and religious situation in order to stage his natural philosophy, thus pointing to specific examples where both the realms of theater and early modern science interacted on a literary as well as on a conceptual level. The paper relates Della Porta's writings to his ideal of a silent audience that watched mirabilia with amazement and delight.
Neapolitan dialect literature made its official entrance onto Mount Parnassus in 1621. In Giulio Cesare Cortese’s Viaggio di Parnaso (Voyage to Parnassus), a narrative poem published that year, the autobiographical protagonist journeys to the home of Apollo and the Muses bearing news about the latest literary developments in Naples, which the god of poetry receives with the greatest enthusiasm.
The Viaggio came at a culminating moment in Cortese’s own career as a founding father of the Neapolitan tradition, a career that showcased the innovative mock heroic poems La Vaiasseide (The Epic of the Servant Girls, 1612) and Micco Passaro ‘nnammorato (Micco Passaro in Love, 1619). Although the language—Neapolitan dialect—in which these works were written had been adopted by earlier authors, only in the seventeenth century did it establish itself as a rich literary idiom, primarily in the works of Cortese and his friend and colleague Giambattista Basile. These authors forged new linguistic territory, but also experimented with fresh generic paradigms (the mock heroic and the fairy tale) and promoted a poetics dedicated to excavating and representing, with proto-anthropological curiosity and critical acumen, the Kingdom of Naples in its everyday life and rituals, popular culture, and folklore. This essay investigates Cortese’s place in Parnassus through an analysis of these two poems.
Early seventeenth-century Naples was a fragmented society where individual communities had their own religious and secular rulers. Locally deployed confraternities, saints and political representatives granted special protection to single groups, thus becoming symbols of the various districts, corporations, and nationalities settled in the city. The delicate task of managing the spiritual and the political dimension of Neapolitan life favored forms of power interaction between politics and religion that often served a wider need for propaganda. Within this context, academies were commissioned to produce art and choreographed spectacles that provided an idealized and exportable image of Naples, emphasizing symbols of civic unity, political strength and economic stability. In a world where the relationship between people and rulers was far from being peaceful. Contemporary historiography has looked at Italian academies in different ways, though with little attention to those in Naples. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the publication of pioneering works by Carlo Minieri Riccio, Lorenzo Giustiniani, and later on Michele Maylender discovered valuable material on the world of southern Italian academies. By adopting a methodology aimed at collecting data on the number of academies and their members these works became reference tools for scholars. Benedetto Croce’s criticism of seventeenth-century Neapolitan academies as being aspects of the cultural decline that affected Baroque Italy played an important role in cementing a negative perception of this period. These dismissive positions, however, have been cautiously reassessed in view of an increasing scholarly interest in exploring the importance of academies in early modern Italy. Recent scholarship, for example, such as Simone Testa’s work on the transnational impact of Italian academies, has convincingly shown how they were a cultural phenomenon intrinsically linked with the development of a European Republique des Lettres. Moreover, the new Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project - ‘Italian academies 1525-1700: the first intellectual networks of early modern Europe’- has led to a major reassessment of how traditional historiography has looked at early modern Italian academies. By bringing to light hitherto unknown material concerning academies that flourished in Naples and other major Italian centers throughout the Italian peninsula this project has demonstrated that academies were major platforms which, on the one hand, promoted an intellectual debate on science, literature, and visual arts, and on the other, often functioned as institutions promoting political and religious propaganda.
This article suggests a new interpretation of the novel Successi di Eumolpione (Naples, 1678) previously considered a simple translation of the Satyricon of Petronius. Instead, the Successi di Eumolpione is a sophisticated roman à clé which hides several references to the Neapolitan society of the 1670s. In particular, the Successi di Eumolpione must be read in the frame of the dispute between its dedicatee, Giovan Giacomo Lavagna, and the group of the Investiganti (namely, Leonardo Di Capua). Moreover, the novel seems to be not only a satire against the Investiganti but also a satire of the Satyricon itself.
This paper is a consideration of problems encountered in attempting an art historical analysis of the complex baroque forms of architecture in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Naples, specifically when confronted on the one hand by the rather bald, roughly contemporaneous accounts thereof and, on the other and more especially, by the thrilling experience of entering these buildings today -- experiences that leave one overwhelmed and at a loss, at a loss for words sufficient to them and at a loss in their regard. To look at these buildings today in terms of their affective material productivity, even if they can only be articulated incompletely, is to ask historians to undertake the kind of visual work that they are seldom accustomed to. It means staying the customary hastiness that sees architecture as mere instantiation of idea, and instead – while resisting the temptation to interpret architecture as merely the sum of its parts -- requires a willingness to inquire into the materiality of aspects of architecture and objects which yield ‘nothing’ to see (such as dark areas within sculpture, non-figurative passages within architecture, the shine of silver, illegible letters of unknowable alphabets). Simultaneously we need also to widen our usual scope of vision to restore to architecture its affective elements that make it work. This is to require the mobility of architecture’s affect to engage us fully and temporally, rather than to dissect architecture into a “document”of a “social,” “political,” “cultural,” or “material” history, supposedly capable of embracing it fully, but to which it is, in fact, subordinated.
The present article explores the theme of trust, as conceived by Paolo Mattia Doria, with reference to the professional relationships forged between artists and patrons at the Carthusian monastery in Naples, the Certosa di San Martino, during the seventeenth century. This specific case study is of particular relevance for several reasons. First, it falls within the chronological scope of Spanish viceregal rule observed by Doria. Second, the Carthusian monks at San Martino employed a large number of painters, sculptors, architects, embroiderers, and silversmiths in redecorating their monastery, and they kept careful records of their payments to these artists. The payments, conserved in the Archivio di Stato in Naples, provide a body of recorded transactions that can rarely be reconstructed in any other industry in the city during this period. Third, the amount of money spent by the Carthusians on refurbishing and redecorating their monastery assumes macro-economic proportions. The Carthusian monks paid the premier sculptor-architect in Naples, Cosimo Fanzago, a total of 57,000 ducats over the course of 33 years of work at San Martino, thereby producing an average of 1,900 ducats worth of architectural sculpture at the monastery per year.
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The Business Organization of the Bourbon Factories. Mastercraftsmen, Crafts and Families in the Capodimonte Porcelain Works and the Royal Factory at San Leucio
The case studies presented here, the porcelain factory at Capodimonte (1740-1759) and the textile factory at San Leucio (1789-1860), though relatively distant in time, and promoted by different governments, should be considered sequential, precisely because of their ability to impose systemic innovations. Both cases represent organizational structures using up-to-date production technologies and innovative management, with the work organized and divided according to a precise apportionment of roles, dominated by a top-down hierarchy of the different production units with a high level of interaction between the different workshops, coordinated by a director for each sector. The two royal companies had a carefully designed layout with distribution facilities positioned near the production areas. Anticipating the utopias of the Enlightenment, the two factories were equipped with buildings capable of allowing workers to live with their families in the same place as the factory by adopting a small-scale phalanstery-style solution at Capodimonte (73 units) and a larger one in San Leucio (a thousand workers at the beginning of the nineteenth century with a total of about 200 families by the mid nineteenth century). The Royal Silk Factory of San Leucio diversified its production over seventy years through the development of new technologies and new materials, extending centers to locations close to the village of San Leucio, Vaccheria, Briano, and Puccianello, thus creating a real textile production district.
Public Happiness as the Wealth of Nations: The Rise of Political Economy in Naples in a Comparative Perspective
The paper surveys the rise of political economy in eighteenth-century Naples in a comparative perspective. It presents several arguments: first, that far from being a passive receptor, Naples was a producer of ideas about political economy that complemented other currents of thought in Europe; that the contribution of Antonio Genovesi was at the core of the intellectual development in Naples; that the progress of science and arts in Naples did not constitute a sharp break with the past; and, finally, that thinkers like Genovesi created a credible alternative to both the Hobbesian view of human nature and the Scottish model of political economy associated with Adam Smith. Genovesi’s attention to how cooperation can be created to overcome collective-action dilemmas adds to our knowledge of the archeology of modern rational choice theory, while his emphasis on public happiness has been given renewed significance in light of recent recognition that increases in wealth do not necessarily produce individual happiness or life satisfaction.
This paper examines J. W. Goethe's morphological description of Naples from a spatial perspective involving the intersection of phenomenology, geology, geography, and culture. This analysis is based on Goethe's legendary travelogue Journey to Italy [1786-1788] and aims at extricating problems inherent in the description of a complex space, such as a city. This study takes as its point of departure Goethe's theorization of the Primal Plant and his reflections on Homer, which inform his morphology in significant ways. Naples is the concrete object of this analysis of the urban space, but the observation included in this essay can be applied to other cities, particularly in the context of the Mediterranean.
III. Modern and Contemporary Naples: Blurring Fiction and Non-Fiction on Stage and in Print
In this essay, which serves as an introduction to the set of six new translations included in this same volume of the journal, the author examines briefly the life and works of Matilde Serao, one of Italy's leading women writers of the post-Unification period, with particular attention to her early writings on Naples. The essay explores Serao's essentially hybrid prose writing in these texts, which blend together traits of narrative and essay, literary and oral traditions, and concludes with some remarks on the particular problems posed by Serao's style for an English-language translator.
This set of new English-language translations of some of Matilde Serao's early writings on Naples (1878-1884) includes the following: "What They Eat," "The Lottery," "More on the Lottery," and "Farewell" (all from Il ventre di Napoli); "To the Tenth Muse"; and "The Legend of the Future." The translations are fully annotated, and a bibliography is supplied in the translator's accompanying essay.
Francesco Cangiullo e il suo “Teatro della Sorpresa” (1921)
This article deals with Italian Futurist theater, and in particular with “Teatro della Sorpresa”, created in august 1921 by the Neapolitan poet Francesco Cangiullo (even though the final Manifesto was later signed also by Marinetti, in January 1922). It was Cangiullo's last contribution to his personal artistic research for Futurism, which he eventually abandoned in 1924, at the end of a long theatrical tour throughout Italy. The “Teatro della Sorpresa” is the ultimate peak reached by the Futurist theater research in general. This new theater is based on the incredible explosion of “Surprise” on stage, with the consequence of a revolutionary involvement of the audience. Such involvement was guaranteed by the contagious effect of laughter. This pattern of results is achieved by very short, synthetic and always unsettling texts. Not only: Cangiullo decided to use other strange and unexpected stratagems. For example: “Voice Orchestra” (musicians without instruments: the sounds of the different instruments were instead imitated by their voices), fake brawls in the hall, chairs covered with strong glue, selling of the same ticket to different spectators (to provoke chaos), etc.; all this to evoke the spontaneous laughter in audience. So the “Teatro della Sorpresa” can be considered a development and a joyful overrun of the previous “Teatro Futurista Sintetico” (1915). Moreover: for the first time in Futurist theater history, with this new experience Marinetti and Cangiullo were able to provide their “discovery” of a management structure and organizational order, creating a true theater company that was first called “Compagnia del Teatro della Sorpresa” (until 1923) and then “Nuovo Teatro Futurista” (in 1924). The company toured Italy (with fluctuating success) for more than 3 years. Its first tour begun very soon, in 1921, only a few days after the company's birth. Marinetti just decided to start this new theatrical “adventure” from Naples, as a tribute to its “inventor” Cangiullo. In fact the tour started September 30th, 1921, at the “Mercadante” theater in Naples. The last part of this article is devoted to a precise and detailed reconstruction of this unknown event, with many quotations taken by personal memories of the protagonists and by the still unknown testimony and comments of the newspapers and magazines reviewers who witnessed this event.
This article reconsiders Curzio Malaparte’s polemical novel La pelle , which either has been condemned as a false historical account of post-Liberation Naples or defended as true “art.” Focusing on La pelle’s representations of translation between the Allies and the Italians, I draw on contemporary translation theory to analyze how the text constructs these claims of “fidelity,” and to ask why they require the bodies of marginalized figures (the soldato negro, the Moroccan goumier and the “virgin”). While La pelle “erases” these bodies, converting them into metaphors for art and war, my reading insists on their metaphorical and literal significance.
Critical discussion of Anna Maria Ortese's controversial 1953 book on Naples, focused especially on the first story "Un paio di occhiali" and Ortese's parodoxical poetics of myopia. The article looks at the book in the context of the Neapolitan modern narrative tradition, seeking to explain its ambivalent reception by Neapolitan intellectuals, and why Italo Calvino was instead one of Ortese's earliest supporters and admirers.
Il “Regno del Quasi”. Icone cinesi nelle rappresentazioni partenopee di Ermanno Rea e Roberto Saviano
The present article analyzes the use of Chinese icons as a frame for representing Naples in two recent non-fiction novels, "La dismissione" (2002) by Ermanno Rea and "Gomorra" (2006) by Roberto Saviano. Avoiding the pitfalls of identification (as it was trivialized in the 1970s by the political slogan “La Cina è vicina”), the space between China and Naples becomes a geographic metaphor for the many transformations re-shaping the reality of global trade.
On the one hand, the reference to China endows Naples with the typical features of post-modern space consumption (Urry 2002), be it in the form of an increasingly immaterial trade or in the more traditional form of tourism. On the other hand, the advent of Chinese firms is at odds with the crisis of steel industry in Naples. Rea describes the whole industrialization of Southern Italy as a fragile utopia, whose failure involves both political and criminal responsibilities: on the contrary, present-day China seems to accomplish the historical processes missed by Naples. However, while the Neapolitan-based heavy industry collapses, the criminal economy of camorra appears to be perfectly “wired” and “on-the-spot”, being connected to the Chinese garment industry and to the global counterfeit market, as both authors highlight in their accounts.
By no means an original invention, this spatial metaphor lays its roots in the travel journals from Communist China, such as Franco Fortini's "Asia Maggiore" [“Asia Maior”] (1956) and Carlo Bernari's "Il gigante Cina" [“China, the giant”] (1957), two examples of what Paul Hollander has named “political pilgrimages”(1992). Through this metaphor, Fortini emphasizes the misery still affecting both lands in the 1950s, whereas according to Bernari the Chinese “Land of Approximation” is strikingly similar to Naples, a city where power always depends on a series of negotiations. Despite the many continuities with the present, the meaning of this icon is totally reverted in the works by Rea and Saviano, where China embodies a rampant economic power and its morally questionable rules. Finally, the use of this spatial reference represents an implicit statement of “foreignness” and exoticism, since an Orientalist pattern is adopted to place the inner otherness of Naples within the boundaries of a blurred national identity.