Category Archives: Culture and Society

Language Variation in Renaissance Italy

Josh Brown   Stockholm University

Renaissance Italy saw the creation of the Italian language and of most major European standard languages. In Italy itself, no political centre dominated the entire peninsular, so no standard language was immediately obvious. The dialect chosen for the standard had the most prestigious literary tradition – Florentine. The existing literature has shown how Florentine emerged as a dominant variety in Lombardy – a wealthy region particularly interesting for its mix of political centralisation and persisting local traditions – but it has focussed on literary texts, leaving an entire period of language evolution and variation unexplored in the belief that models of language variation and changes of literary standards will suffice to explain linguistic phenomena in non-literary texts. This bias has recently been discussed by Adam Ledgeway from the University of Cambridge in a lecture at NYU Florence. In my earlier research I looked at the spread of Tuscan in a corpus of non-literary merchant texts sent from Milan in the late 14th century. I am now extending this project to the analysis of the letters of a Milanese nun, Margherita Lambertenghi (?-1454), to produce an innovative conceptualisation of processes of language change in late medieval Lombardy. Continue reading

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La ballata delle balàte in Australia

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Vincenzo Pirrotta will shortly return to Australia to present his play La ballata delle balàte at the Street Theatre in Canberra on 5 April (7.30pm, registration here) and on 7-8 April at the Italian Forum in Leichhardt, Sydney  (7.30pm, registration here). On 6 April at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Sydney (6.00-9.00pm, registration here) Pirrotta will introduce and discuss the play.  La ballata delle balàte is a one-hour monologue in Sicilian dialect (English surtitles), written, interpreted and directed by Pirrotta accompanied by music by Giovanni Parrinello performed by Dario Sulis. The protagonist is a mafioso fugitive who in his hideout proclaims his faith in God while at the same time following the cruel logic of the mafia. The play offers a profound reflection on the relation between mafia and religious devotion with its staging marking the duality between sacred and profane (the blood of Christ and of mafia victims cohabit in the mafioso’s mind) and culminating in the adoration of a monstrance containing a characteristic form of mafia instruction (pizzzini).  The hideout becomes for the mafioso a kind of place of worship, made out of church candles, a table and two chairs, where he prays wearing a crown of thorns and a noose around his neck.  Continue reading

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Italian women in Australian science

212b490a-cd51-472c-b505-0d0674ee04ddIn Italy and Australia women comprise a significant percentage of PhD graduates and early career researchers in science. However the presence of women in senior positions in universities and research institutes is low: less than 20% in Australia and less than 10% in Italy despite the fact that approximately 30% of researchers there are women. Clearly gender equality in the sciences, especially among its senior managers, is a considerable way off. On Thursday March 9 at 6.00 pm the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Sydney, Level 4, 125 York St.  will host a free event, Italian Women of Science,  at which Australian scientists of Italian origin will share their research interests and offer some insights into the career paths that they have pursued from Italy to Australia. Continue reading

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‘A sort of Roman saint’

250px-giuseppe_gioachino_belli‘The greatest poet of the 19th century’ (1976) …. ‘one of the three major revelations of my later life’ (1990) … ‘to read the entire corpus is to be overwhelmed. One dares to speak about greatness’ (1992). Who can this poet be? Aha .. ‘aromatic Roman speech haloed by a sonnet’ (1977). That’s a clue – except that the poet himself corrected anyone who described his language as ‘Roman’ – ‘no, it’s romanesco’. This isn’t a competition so the cast can be revealed. The poet is Giuseppe Gioachino Belli (1791-1863) and the writer praising him is Anthony Burgess (1917-1993). The novelist is quoted by Paul Howard in this week’s TLS  (22 Feb, p.15) in a long introduction to an apparently unpublished essay by Burgess entitled ‘Belli into English’ (ibid., p.16). Overcoming his initial shock at Belli’s obscenity and blasphemy, Burgess had made translations of a selection from GGB’s s 2279 sonnets for his novel Abba Abba. But, acknowledging that the poet was ‘a sort of Roman saint’, Burgess found the work of translating him very hard: ‘Belli remains as one of the proofs that poetry is fundamentally untranslatable’.

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Dante, Petrarch, Machiavelli, Pirandello: Remo Bodei in Melbourne and Sydney

imagesThe philosopher Remo Bodei will be giving talks in Melbourne and Sydney in March. Time, eternity, history: Dante, Petrarch, Machiavelli is the title of his talk (in English) at the Italian Cultural Institute, 233 Domain Rd, South Yarra, on Thursday 9 March at 6.30pm (free, booking essential). On Friday March 10, at Co.As.It. – Museo Italiano, 199 Faraday Street, Carlton, he will be talking (in Italian) on Pirandello e la dissoluzione della personalità (free, booking essential), a lecture to mark the 150th anniversary of Pirandello’s birth. He will also be giving this talk in Sydney on 13 March, 4 – 5.30pm, in the Dept of Italian at the University of Sydney (registration here). On March 15, 6 – 7.30pm, he will talk on Memory and Forgetting: A Conflicting Complicity at the State Library of New South Wales (Metcalfe Auditorium, Macquarie Building: information for registration here) . For details of the contents of the talks Continue reading

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La storia intorno alle foibe

giorno-del-ricordo-febbraio-2017-600x412Istituito nel 2004 il Giorno del ricordo del 10 febbraio, data del trattato di pace del 1947 che assegnò all’allora Jugoslavia l’Istria e la maggior parte della Venezia Giulia,  vuole conservare ‘la memoria della tragedia degli italiani e di tutte le vittime delle foibe, dell’esodo dalle loro terre degli istriani, fiumani e dalmati nel secondo dopoguerra e della più complessa vicenda del confine orientale’. In cosa consiste la ‘più complessa vicenda’? Per la rivista Internazionale il collettivo Nicoletta Bourbaki ha chiesto a sette storici di rispondere alla domanda; le loro risposte, affrontando gli aspetti storici, sociali e politici dei conflitti e delle loro memorializzazioni, si trovano qui.

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Terra nostra

terra_nostra_cover_web_1024x1024In Terra Nostra the Palermo-born photographer Mimi Mollica explores the effects of the mafia on Sicily, documenting the damage it has inflicted on the physical and social landscape of the island and painting a dark picture of extortion, corruption and claustrophobia. The view is bleak, seedy and haunting, the violence itself mostly off-stage but its consequences, direct and indirect, all too visible. Mollica’s photo-essay is introduced by one of the island’s most active anti-mafia magistrates, Roberto Scarpinato.

 

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War in the Sunshine: the British in Italy 1917-1918

estorick-collection-1024x858This is the title of the current exhibition at the newly renovated Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art in Highbury, London. The Collection, opened in 1998, concentrates on Futurist paintings (Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà) and works by Giorgio De Chirico, Amedeo Modigliani, Giorgio Morandi and Mario Sironi. ‘War in the Sunshine‘ (13 Jan – 19 March) covers the largely forgotten British participation in the final stages of the war on one of its most difficult and dangerous fronts – North East Italy – depicted by official war artists (Sidney Carline, himself a pilot) and photographers (Ernest Brooks and William Brunell).

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‘Almost spectral in their otherness’

410martin_bogren_italia_special_edition_with_printThat’s a reviewer’s comment on the way the people captured in Martin Bogren’s recent Italia (Max Ström 2016) look.  The Swedish photographer spent three years in Naples, Palermo, Bologna and Turin to produce a black-and-white portrayal of streets and subjects which seem suspended in time. ‘Been wandering around for days now. Street after street. With a heavy heart and loneliness as a constant companion. I’ve forgotten why I’m here and what I’m doing. A camera clutched in my hand, increasingly fearful, with a cowardly posture’.  You can see the striking results of this apparently forlorn enterprise here.

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Shirley Hazzard (Sydney 1931 – New York 2016)

Brigitta Olubas   University of New South Wales

220px-shirley_hazzard_australian_writer_mercantile_library_for_fiction_benefit_awards_dinner_october_29_2007_photo_by_christopher_petersonShirley Hazzard was an author admired for the self-reflectiveness, delicacy of phrasing, wit and irony, intensely personal resonance and finely realised sense of place which characterised both her fictional and non-fictional writings. Italy played a fundamental part in her life and work. Her first year there, 1956, was spent in Tuscany where she established a close friendship with the Vivante family, artists, philosophers and writers, and developed the penetrating eye into social relationships of love and loss analysed in her novels set in Italy and elsewhere. She returned regularly to Naples and to Capri for the rest of her life and was made an honorary citizen of Capri in 2000. She often underlined her debt to Italy: “From the first day (in Naples), everything changed. I was restored to life and power and thought.” The point was never simply personal but rather bound to the persistence of humanist art and thought there: “In Italy, the mysteries remain important: the accidental quality of existence, the poetry of memory, the impassioned life that is animated by awareness of eventual death. There is still synthesis, rather than formula. There is still expressive language.”   Continue reading

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