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Cover Caption: Sandro Botticelli, Calumny of Apelles, ca. 1495, Uffizi, Florence. Image via Wikicommons.

Deanna Shemek and Arielle Saiber, Editors

Rossella Carbotti and Aria Dal Molin, Managing Editors

Vol. 4: Italian Sound

Galiziella’s Escape: Interconfessional Erotics and Love Between Knights in the Aspremont Tradition

This essay traces a theme of eroticism between knights as it crosses lines of gender, genre, religion, culture, period, and language, beginning with the twelfth-century Old French Chanson d'Aspremont and continuing through late medieval Italian versions of the Aspremont story, including the anonymous Cantari d'Aspramonte and Andrea da Barberino's Aspramonte in prose. Following the kinetic medieval narrative as it reproduces itself in new contexts rather than looking backward from later texts in search of sources, the essay proposes alternatives to the models of textual filiation and literary history generally recognized by traditional philology.

“Vox Populi”: Machiavelli, Opinione, and the Popolo, from the Principe to the Istorie Fiorentine

In a famous passage from the dedicatory letter to the Principe, Machiavelli paradoxically authorizes himself as an expert concerning the high and the mighty by claiming to speak with “the voice of the people”. On the face of it the Principe contains one lesson after another in how a “virtuous” leader can manipulate and control the populace to his own ends. On the other hand, from shortly after the composition of the treatise, readers have asserted that Machiavelli is secretly, ironically, allegorically, expressing opinions that place him on the side of the “popolo” against the repressive regimes of such as Cesare Borgia and Julius II. Rather than taking sides in this still unresolved, and perhaps unresolvable, debate, I argue that the Principe, in the letter to Lorenzo and throughout, delineates the problematic nature of Machiavelli’s relationship to the “people”—and with it the unstable contours of his “subject position” as opinionated commentator on politics and history—posing questions which will continue to haunt his writings from the near contemporary Discorsi, particularly in the remarkable chapter 59 of book 1, up through his final masterpiece, the Istorie fiorentine.  Indeed I will claim that Machiavelli’s treatment of the categories of the “popolo” and “opinione” in relation to his own discursive stance may be said to anticipate, mutatis mutandis, features later associated with what Habermass has called “the public sphere” in which private citizens express opinions about public matters.

If So In Adversity: Mastering Fortune in Lorenzo Leonbruno’s Calumny of Apelles

Allegories of Fortune proliferated in 16th century Italy as a means for cultural producers to confront their personal vulnerability in the face of pervasive political change. These works were overwhelmingly literary, but I argue that they have a counterpart in a ca. 1525 painting by the Mantuan court painter Lorenzo Leonbruno. Leonbruno, who was himself a victim of political intrigue at the court of Federico Gonzaga, painted a Calumny of Apelles within an allegory of Fortune that makes use of specifically north Italian literary and visual sources. In this work, Leonbruno claims a spatial and temporal self-mastery that reflects ideas, developed in the works of Boiardo, Machiavelli, and Fregoso, of the necessity of linking time and experience in the struggle with Fortune. Ultimately, he seizes on not only the imagery but the allegorical structure of Antonio Fregoso's 1519 Dialogo di Fortuna to allow himself the one subject position immune to Fortune -- that of the goddess herself.

“How to Succeed at Court: Annibal Guasco’s Advice to his Daughter Lavinia and Renaissance Manuals of Conduct”

In spite of the scant scholarly attention it has received, Annibal Guasco’s Discourse to Lady Lavinia, His Daughter (1586) is an unicum of Renaissance literature and, in particular, on the subject of women’s education. The present article shows how Guasco’s manual, while following the lead of the international best-seller of the period, Baldassar Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier (1528), also, and more importantly, ‘fills-in’ where the canonical text falls short of its promise. In order to gage the full extent of its originality, seminal passages in Guasco’s meticulously organized, detailed, astute, and often progressive ragionamento will constitute the focus of the present article. In addition, the text will be discussed alongside two other cinquecento manuals: the first of its kind in the genre, Anne de France’s Enseignements (ca. 1505), and another contemporary Italian publication, Lodovico Domenichi’s La donna di corte (1564).

The Politics of Pasta: La cucina futurista and the Italian Cookbook in History

In 1932 the Italian Futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti published La cucina futurista, provoking the public with his "crusade against pasta" and promise to expand minds and publics with his wildly unusual recipes. Though Marinetti's debt to past cookbooks has been acknowledged, most modern readers have characterized the text as a successful but minor example of a late Futurist avant-garde foray into the sober and codified world of nineteenth century cooking. Yet from its inception, the Italian cookbok has in fact figured itself as a nuanced and potent political tool, used first in the early modern Italian court to instigate movement up the hierarchy, and later as the peninsula tried to become a cohesive whole after the Risorgimento. This article explores Marinetti's cookbook in light of the more complex historical tradition and political valences of the genre, demonstrating the serious intentions of the apparently insubstantial text.

Impegno nero: Italian Intellectuals and the African-American Struggle

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Italian intellectuals participated in Italy’s reconstruction with an ideological commitment inspired by the African-American struggle for equal rights in the United States. Drawing on the work of many of the leading figures in postwar Italian culture, including Italo Calvino, Giorgio Caproni, Cesare Pavese, and Elio Vittorini, this essay argues that Italian intellectual impegno—defined as the effort to remake Italian culture and to guide Italian social reform—was united with a significant investment in the African-American cause. The author terms this tendency impegno nero and traces its development in the critical reception of African-American writers including W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, and Richard Wright. Postwar impegno nero is then contrasted with the treatment of African-American themes under Fascism, when commentators had likewise condemned American racism, but had paradoxically linked their laments for the plight of African Americans with defenses of the racial policies of the Fascist regime. Indeed, Fascist colonialism and anti-Semitism were both justified through references to what Fascist intellectuals believed to be America’s greater injustices. After 1945, in contrast, Italian intellectuals advocated an international, interdependent campaign for justice, symbolizing national reforms by projecting them onto an emblematic America. In this way, impegno nero revived and revised the celebrated "myth of America" that had developed in Italy between the world wars. Advancing a new, postwar myth, Italian intellectuals adopted the African-American struggle in order to reinforce their own efforts in the ongoing struggle for justice in Italy.

Myths of the Resistance and Bernardo Bertolucci’s La strategia del ragno (The Spider’s Strategy, 1970)

In this article I consider Bernardo Bertolucci's 1970 film, The Spider's Strategy in the context of debates over the antifascist paradigm in 1970s Italy. Although such debates are referenced in the relevant critical literature, this context has not to my knowledge supplied a focus point for sustained consideration of the ways in which the film reprises elements of the criticism of so-called 'state antifascism' in the 1960s and 1970s. Developing these issues allows me to reflect on the way in which Bertolucci's film anticipates later academic interest in the construction of public memory. Key features of the film in this respect are the treatment of the figure of the antifascist martyr and the monument to the 'fallen' heroes. Making use of the work of scholars such as Cristina Cenci, Alessandro Portelli and James Young, I attempt to apply some of the insights of recent work on history and memory to the 1970 film.

Il mancato incontro con l’attore-poeta: Carmelo Bene secondo Ruggero Jacobbi

This study is an exploration of Carmelo Bene through the critical writings of Ruggero Jacobbi. An analysis of Jacobbi’s writings reveals that the poetic production of Vittorio Bodini has been the main inspiration and propeller for Bene’s theatrical work. Bodini’s Baroque visions of his native Salento, his engagement with San Giuseppe Desa da Cupertino, and the ironic portrayal of the South as provincial microcosm are more influential for Bene than the theories of Deridda and Deleuze. Thanks to his theatrical and literary background, Jacobbi provides an original analysis of Bene’s work. In the end, however, his point of view remains grounded in that of the generation of the 1920s, whose achievement was the creation of the institution of the regia critica; while Bene is representative of the phenomenon of the actor-poet that characterized the latter thirty years of the last century. In this sense, my study also offers a chance to think in retrospect about the complex relationship between these two generations of Italian artists.

“Guido” Culture: The Destabilization of Italian-American Identity on Jersey Shore

In this article, I explore the stereotypical representation of Italian-American identity on the MTV Networks reality television series Jersey Shore. Leaders of Italian-American organizations have voiced strong opposition to the show over concerns that the “guido” and “guidette” subculture it depicts will become synonymous, for viewers, with Italian-American identity at large. Drawing on feminist theories about gender performance as well as Italian cultural and media studies, I argue that the admittedly pejorative portrayal of Italian-American culture on Jersey Shore may nevertheless be read productively. The characterization of Guidos and Guidettes in the series suggests that the definition of Italian-American identity depends upon practices and variables that are available for appropriation. Consequently, Jersey Shore may be interpreted as challenging the possibility of a real—as opposed to constructed—Italian-American culture.

Contemporary Italian Novels on Chinese Immigration to Italy

In this essay, I survey for the first time some of the most meaningful novels concerned with Chinese immigration to Italy. My primary focus is to examine the ways in which authors of various socio-cultural backgrounds address the interconnections of narrativity, social concerns, and cultural identities. I show that these novels reinforce or contest the meanings of specific issues as well as the rhetorical strategies in media and cinematic representations of Chinese immigrants in Italy following the protest in Milan’s Chinatown in 2007. Ultimately, I contend that by engaging with specific literary genres in which the nexuses of historical narrative, social critique, and ethics are featured (e.g., “New Italian Epic” and crime novel), these novels rehearse and reshape received social perceptions regarding Chinese immigrants in contemporary Italy.

Disciplining Narratives and Damaged Identities in Rossana Campo’s Lezioni di arabo

Rossana Campo’s novel Lezioni di arabo imagines a relationship between two outcasts, Betti and Suleiman, an Italian woman and an Algerian man living in a post-9/11 Paris. This article explores the different ways Betti and Suleiman respond to the social and ideological imperatives to conform to normative notions of gendered existence. Suleiman must contend with the narratives of otherness that, since 9/11, have made the Arab male body hyper visible, and have rewritten him as threatening, potential terrorist. Betti, on the other hand, is faced with the restrictive myths of femininity that mark the sexually desiring woman as deviant because of her pleasure. Neither Betti nor Suleiman recognize themselves in the narrative of the suspicious Other: damaged woman, and dangerous Arab man. In response to these othering stereoptypes the outcast subject must either render themselves legible and thus “harmless” by offering up alternate narratives that excessively explain and combat assumptions of deviance; or else, the outcast subject may choose to inhabit that space of otherness without transparency, without volunteering “safe” explanations for non-normative behavior.  This article considers the consequences and challenges that accompany these decisions to participate in or abstain from the pervasive logic of self-narrativization and individual transparency.

The New Stakes for National Cinemas, a Word on the Case of Italy, and an Interview with Ivan Cotroneo

This is an article on the state of Italian national cinema and an interview with scriptwriter/director Ivan Cotroneo on his directorial debut film and the history of Italian cinema. Cotroneo is a well know scriptwriter who directed and released his first film as a director in 2011, La kryptonite nella borsa. The film was screened at the Toronto Film Festival Lightbox centre and subsequenlty the director meet with a University of Toronto scholar for an interview.

Il mondo visto da sud e La prima volta. Una conversazione con Franco Cassano





Il 13 aprile 2013 presso l'Università dell' Oregon in Eugene si è svolto il trentatresimo convegno annuale dell'American Association of Italian Studies. Franco Cassano era in quell'occasione uno degli oratori delle sessioni plenarie ed è stato al centro di una tavola rotonda attorno al suo pensiero che ha avuto come protagonisti alcuni studiosi particolarmente impegnati nelle problematiche storiche, filosofiche e politiche del pensiero Mediterraneo: gli italianisti Norma Bouchard, Alessandro Carrera, Roberto Dainotto, Valerio Ferme, Claudio Fogu e il filosofo latino-americano Alejandro Vallega. I due eventi, considerati insieme, costituiscono un'interessante e produttiva conversazione con Franco Cassano, un'efficace messa a punto della sua visione del Sud d'Italia e dei Sud del mondo, in rapporto ai temi e valori fondamentali della cultura Mediterranea. In questa breve introduzione Lollini presenta i protagonisti di questo dialogo e i principali temi emersi nel dibattito, sottolineando al tempo stesso quelli che  a suo giudizio sono gli elementi più proficui e passibili di auspicabili sviluppi positivi del pensiero meridiano sul piano culturale e politico.


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