Welcome to ACIS, the Australasian Centre for Italian Studies – a connection-point for the specialised communities of Italianist scholars in Australasia and beyond.
Sally Grant New York
Dario Fo died last Thursday, 13 October, at the age of 90. Rather than fumbling to find the right words to honour this great anarchic jester, we thought we’d let the masterful teller of yarns do it for us by linking to his acceptance speech for the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature. In “Contra Jogulatores Obloquentes” (“Against Jesters Who Defame and Insult”) Fo records his debt to earlier clowns and storytellers, particularly the actor-playwrights Ruzzante and Molière. Fo’s description of these men and the fear their art evoked could well describe his own theatrical skills and how he, along with his wife and frequent co-performer Franca Rame, were received by the political establishment:
“Above all, they were despised for bringing onto the stage the everyday life, joys and desperation of the common people; the hypocrisy and the arrogance of the high and mighty; and the incessant injustice. And their major, unforgivable fault was this: in telling these things, they made people laugh. Laughter does not please the mighty.”
But it pleases, and emboldens, the not-so-mighty. For those gifts, and as you take your last bow, Jester Fo, we give a standing ovation.
‘Il gran duello di Orlando e Rinaldo per amore della bella Angelica‘, narrated by Mimmo Cuticchio, master in the art of the Teatro dei Pupi Siciliani (Sicilian puppet theatre) and of the cuntu (oral tale), will be presented for the first time in Australia at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, 1 Powerhouse Road (entry via Shepherd Street) in Sydney on Sunday 23 October at 11am and 5pm (bookings here). The show, the great duel between Orlando and Rinaldo to win Angelica’s heart, is an example of modification of the narrative structure of the Opra de’ Pupi, born out of the need to adapt the performance to a new audience. The language of the show is condensed in order to give more prominence to the staging quality than to a thorough development of the traditional story. Continue reading
Sally Grant New York
Aside from the news a few days ago that two stolen Van Gogh paintings were recovered near Naples, the New York press has covered Italy’s art and political worlds in a number of recent articles. After Virginia Raggi became the first female mayor of Rome earlier this year, Katie Parla reported on women’s status in the city in “There’s Never Been a Better Time to be a Woman in Rome” for New York Magazine. Though she notes that there are still plenty of sexist obstacles to overcome, the article emphasises a new optimism in Rome, where women are influencing city life in ever-increasing ways. Meanwhile, over at the New York Times, Rachel Donadio wrote of the tricky manoeuvring called for when art and politics collide in her account of the bureaucratic obstacles faced by—another first—the new, non-Italian, director of the Uffizi.
Gino Moliterno Australian National University
For anyone interested in gauging the present state of Italian cinema, the real must-see film programmed in this year’s Lavazza Italian Film Festival (alongside the impeccably-restored version of Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers) was undoubtedly Quo vado. The fourth in a series of successful vehicles hand-stitched for thirty-something TV comic and musician, Checco Zalone (Luca Medici), and directed, as were the previous three, by an otherwise unknown Gennaro Nunziante, Quo vado was released in January 2016 and immediately began to rewrite the Italian box-office record books, almost equaling in its first weekend the box-office take of the first three weeks run on Italian screens of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Having already earned upwards of an estimated €65 million worldwide, it has effectively become the highest-grossing Italian film of all time, almost effortlessly overtaking the previous record-holder, Roberto Benigni’s Oscar-winning Life is Beautiful (1997).
The School of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics (Monash) and ACIS are organising a seminar Translating the self: story-telling, language and identity with presentations by the Somali-Italian writers Ubax Cristina Ali Farah and Kaha Mohamed Aden on Thursday 17 Nov from 1.00 pm – 5.00 pm at Monash’s Caulfield Campus Building S, 2nd floor, Room 230 (participation free but registration required). Ubax Cristina Ali Farah will discuss the role played by bilingual vision in her writing practice, especially in her novel Madre piccola. Kaha Mohamed Aden’s talk draws on her own experience and the complexities of understanding and misunderstanding that writing between two cultures generates. The abstracts of the two presentations, with the draft programme, map of the location and the short registration form, can be found here.
Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992) was an Italian-born designer of buildings, furniture and jewelry. She trained in Milan with Carlo Pagani and Giò Ponti, working also for Domus and Milano Sera directed by Elio Vittorini. In 1946 she moved to Brazil where she became well-known for her modernist buildings, notably the São Paulo Museum of Art and the Glass House where she lived in the remains of the rainforest surrounding São Paulo. An analysis and appreciation of her work has recently been published under the title Sustainable Lina (Springer, 2016) edited by Annette Condello and Steffen Lehmann. It concentrates on the social dimensions of her adaptive reuse projects from the 1960s to the early 1990s, interpreting her themes, technical sources and design strategies for the creation of luxury as sustainability and pointing to the Italian influences on her approach.
In her contribution to the recent volume edited by Patrizia Sambuco Italian Women Writers 1800-2000: Boundaries, Borders and Transgression (2015) Rita Wilson explores topographies of identity along frontiers (borders mark clear divisions; frontiers, the unstable meeting-place of differences). She considers the novels (I cristalli di Vienna (1978), Caffè specchi (1983), Angelo a Berlino (1987)) by Giuliana Morandini, in particular how and why her protagonists feel themselves to be outsiders present in but distanced from the Central European capitals where they live. She pursues the theme of partly alienated observers, disenchanted flâneuses in their city’s streets, in the novel Amiche per la pelle (2007) by Laila Waida, born in India but living in Trieste. In the same volume Patrizia Sambuco examines how in Nel paese di Gesù. Ricordi di un viaggio in Palestina (1899) and Lettere di una viaggiatrice (1908) Matilde Serao handles two further kinds of boundary-crossings: journeys into unfamiliar societies and the then unconventional role of women as travellers.
‘Dopo 115 anni è arrivato il tempo di onorare la memoria di uomini, donne, madri, padri, figli e figlie che hanno perso la vita in uno dei più tragici incidenti della storia degli Stati Uniti’. Queste sono le parole del sindaco che accompagnono un Memorial Service per commemorare almeno cento immigrati italiani morti in un devastante incidente ferroviario a Seneca (Michigan) la sera del 27 novembre 1901. La notizia della tragedia fece subito il giro del mondo ma le vittime, sconosciute e di un numero imprecisabile per l’intensità dell’impatto e delle fiamme, finirono nell’oblio, i pochi resti sepolti in cinque bare in un angolo anonimo del cimitero locale. Ieri, il 24 settembre 2016, il sindaco del paese ha dedicato una scultura-monumento alla loro memoria accanto al posto dove furono sepolte.
The Italian Studies program within the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University seeks to fill a continuing position at Level D or Level C (Associate Professor or Senior Lecturer) to be taken up from July 2017. The appointee will be an established scholar with a significant record of research in one or more of the following areas: contemporary or 20th Century Italian cultural, literary or film studies; medieval and/or renaissance Italian cultural or literary studies; applied linguistics; translation and intercultural studies. Interdisciplinary approaches are particularly welcome. The full position description and information on how to apply (closing date: Sunday 30 October 2016) is available here.