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Cover Caption: Rosso Fiorentino, Pietà (detail), 1530-1540 ca., image via,_piet%C3%A0,_1530-40_ca._08.jpg

Jon R. Snyder, Simonetta Falasca Zamponi, and Laura Wittman, Editors

Cindy Stanphill and Aria Dal Molin, Managing Editors


Introduction to Volume 5, Issue 2

Open Theme Issue

Dress as Civic Celebration in Late Sixteenth-Century Venice: The Woodcuts of Cesare Vecellio’s Habiti antichi et moderni and the Paintings of Paolo Veronese

In this essay, we discuss words and images in sixteenth-century Venice in two forms: the prose commentary and woodcuts in Cesare Vecellio's Degli habiti antichi et moderni di diverse parti del mondo (Venice, 1590), and the paintings of Paulo Veronese from 1550 to 1578. Our theoretical framework is the analysis of ideology as it is materialized in the making, wearing and representation of clothing. We study three kinds of dress in Venice: the red silks worn by wealthy merchants, the black wool and velvet worn by patrician men, and the white and gold brocades worn by noblewomen. Differences in medium, technique and scale separate Vecellio and Veronese, but they both invoke ancient history and present-day mercantilism to affirm the myth of Venice as a paragon of political order and man-made beauty. That is, the printmaker-writer and the painter share a common rhetorical purpose: through clothing, to celebrate their city as a center of textile wealth and social harmony. In spite of the contrasts between a costume book combining small woodcuts with textual commentary and a range of large portraits and allegories commissioned by patrons at the top of the social hierarchy, both men's work communicates the same matrix of beliefs, condensed into their representations of the dress worn in contemporary Venice.

Enif Robert, F.T. Marinetti e il romanzo Un ventre di donna: bisessualità, trauma e mito dell'isteria

This article provides the first in-depth and contextual study of the experimental futurist novel Un ventre di donna, written during the First World War by the Italian author and stage actress Enif Robert in collaboration with F.T. Marinetti, who allowed some of his wartime letters from the front to be included in the novel. Un ventre di donna also incorporates letters by the famous actress Eleonora Duse, who was a close friend of Robert’s. The article explores in particular the theme of bisexuality and female homosexuality in the novel in the context of the ideology of gender in Italy and in Europe in the early 20th century, and in particular with reference to the influential work of Otto Weininger and concurrent theories of hysteria and bisexuality, as well as the so-called “gender inversion” generated by the war.


Carlo Emilio Gadda’s Junk and Other Vibrant Matter in Milan and Maradagàl

This article considers the figure of the tangle (be it a garbuglio, gomitolo, gnommero, or guazzabuglio), emblematic of Carlo Emilio Gadda’s narrative architecture and philosophy. The garbuglio and its variations, like the “vibrant matter” recently theorized by Jane Bennett, enmesh human and nonhuman matter in a fabric of relations so dense that no element can be subtracted from the global whole. Understanding uselessness not as a quality intrinsic to matter, but as a relationship of exteriority, this article examines iterations of uselessness—and accordingly, forms of subtraction—in Gadda: of human and nonhuman matter from larger tangles (whether linguistic, narrative, economic, or social). The stakes of these forms of subtraction, I argue, come into focus in La cognizione del dolore in a tension between “ethics” and “charity” that demonstrates Gadda’s disillusionment with fascism—and particularly with fascist mothers who, like Volumnia of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, would sacrifice their sons to the “ethical” imperatives of the state.



Italians Do It Differently: Giorgio Scerbanenco’s Appropriation of the American Hard-Boiled Novel

Prolific Italian crime writer Giorgio Scerbanenco appropriated the conventions of the American hard-boiled novel to put forward a critique of Italian society of the 1960s. Far from imitating a foreign formula, however, this author was able to formulate an all-Italian approach to crime fiction that continues to inspire contemporary crime writers in Italy.

Reflections of Isabella: Hermaphroditic Mirroring in Mirtilla and Giovan Battista Andreini’s Amor nello specchio

This essay explores the artistic influence of Isabella Andreini, (1562-1604), arguably the greatest actress of her age, on her son, Giovan Battista Andreini (1576-1654), the leading Italian playwright of the seventeenth century. I begin by examining Isabella Andreini’s androgynous persona and the dramaturgical innovations in her pastoral play Mirtilla (1588) that humorously foreground the subversion of gender norms, contextualizing Isabella’s “hermaphroditic” art as not only performative and protofeminist, but as part of the Baroque problematization of a mimetic aesthetic. The dynamic female performances Isabella features in Mirtilla showcase her trans-gender and “trans-genre” virtuosity, which, as I argue, inflects Giovan Battista’s sexually ambiguous representation of female subjectivity in his Baroque comedy Amor nello specchio (Love in the Mirror, 1622), specifically as reflected through the androgynous mirroring embodied by the play’s feminized transfigurations of Narcissus and the Hermaphrodite. In both Mirtilla and Amor nello specchio, the virtuosic art of simulation epitomized in the performances of these re-figured and reconfigured female characters, written for and played by women, allows them to re-inhabit the master plots to which they refer, and through modes of mimicry and extended fetishistic play, transform the “mirror” of comedy by elevating theatre’s capacity for illusionistic metamorphosis.

The "Betrayed Resistance" in Valentino Orsini’s Corbari (1970) and Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 (1976)


Italian public discourse over national memory and identity often turns on the issue of ‘divided memories.’ Here I focus on a subset of this problematic issue, the contestation over the legacy of the Resistance in the 1970s. Within this context, the films Corbari (Valentino Orsini, 1970) and 1900 (Novecento, Bernardo Bertolucci, 1976) offer differing responses to challenges posed to the Resistance myth by the post-1968 social movements. Comparison of these two films highlights some of the difficulties facing filmmakers and the left in general in the 1970s in addressing the Resistance’s achievements, or limited outcomes. Some of the topics dealt with in this article include antifascism as a figure of national identity (reflected in the attempt of these filmmakers to provide popular epics of the partisan war) and the troubled connections between the memory of the Resistance and terrorism in the 1970s. Making use of recent work on Italian cinema and terrorism, as well as public memory and antifascism, I consider how these films address the problematic status of Resistance memory in their own time, as well as what they reveal for longer-term commemoration or memory of the partisan war.