Category Archives: History

A future for Italy’s ‘ghost towns’?

Kristen Sloan   University of Wollongong

Roghudi Vecchio, Calabria (Saverio Barbaro, 2009)

More than 5000 historical hamlets and rural and medieval villages in Italy have been in serious population decline (Serico Gruppo Cresme, 2008). Many were abandoned in the last century and today have become ‘ghost towns’. While long neglected as topics for cultural policy or academic study, a recent wave of political and popular interest in Italy’s borghi, coupled with an increasing number of initiatives to resuscitate them, suggest that their presumed destinies of decline, ruin and oblivion may have to be revised. Concern for Italy’s emptying towns is not an isolated phenomenon but part of a recent explosion of interest and action in abandoned sites throughout the world (De Silvey & Edensor, 2012). Today conversations about abandoned places are characterised by new ways of describing, perceiving and interacting with them: no longer as rubbish but as resources.    Continue reading

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Remembering Primo Levi

As part of the initiative Primo Levi: Writer, Witness, Scientist which commemorates the centenary of Levi’s birth, Paul Forgasz will give a talk on Italia Ebraica: The Jews of Italy. A historical perspective, on Tuesday 19 November 2019, 6.30-8pm, at 199 Faraday Street, Carlton VIC 3053 (free event, RSVP essential here). The Italian Jewish narrative does not fit neatly into the conventional divisions of the Jewish Diaspora: Mizrahi (Middle Eastern/North African), Sephardi (Spanish) and Ashkenazi (Franco-German). Indeed, there are maps of the Jewish world in which Italy is depicted as a distinctive and unusually complex sub-culture. The Jewish community in Rome is one of the oldest surviving diasporas, its antiquity reflected in a distinctive Roman liturgical rite still in use today. Italy has also been home to an Ashkenazi community since the late Middle Ages, and then, in the wake of the expulsion from Spain in 1492, a Sephardi community. Rabbis and scholars thus lived within the boundaries of traditional Jewish communities whilst simultaneously contributing to the cultural and intellectual traditions of the wider society of which they were a part. Paul Forgasz will provide a survey of the very rich and variegated history of the Jews of Italy: from their earliest presence in Roman times, to the highs and lows of the medieval Jewish experience, through to Italian Jewry’’s encounter with modern world.    Continue reading

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Where is Parnassus now?

Dear Muses? Essays in Poetry by Simon West (Puncher & Wattmann, 2019), a book of essays on Australian and Italian poetry, and especially on the presence of Classical and Renaissance literature in Austral­ia today, will be launched on Wed 9 Oct 2019, 6.30-8pm, at CO.AS.IT, 199 Faraday St, Carlton 3053. Does it make sense to invoke the Muses today? Few of us believe our poems will be better for praying to stola-clad women sitting on a mountain in Greece. Simon West asks the reader to consider the Muse as something more – a vehicle for acknowledging cultural legacies that radiate out from the past and into contemporary Australia. In addressing the Muses we talk to that inheritance. He examines our metaphors for reaching back after inspiration, imagining that heritage, rivers that nourish the red gums across floodplains. He ranges widely, bridging Classical and European interests with a celebration of Australian poets, while asking, always, where is Parnassus now? Continue reading

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Celebrating Italian Studies at UWA

The series of public lectures celebrating Italian Studies at UWA (where the first lectureship in Italian in Australia was established in 1929) continues. Following an introduction by John Kinder, the talks, which can be heard by clicking on the title links below, have been given by Robert Hollingworth (‘Shaping the invisible: Images reflected in music‘), Stefano Carboni (‘Venice and the Ottomans: A visual artistic journey between the Serenissima and Istanbul‘) and Susan Broomhall (‘Missing Magnificence: Tracing Catherine de Medici’s hidden cultural legacy‘). The series continues on 13 August, 6pm-7pm, Murdoch Lecture Theatre, UWA Arts Building, with a lecture by Catherine Kovesi on Italy and the Invention of Luxury. Luxury as a concept and practice has a long and often sordid past from which it has never entirely freed itself. Italy is at the heart of luxury throughout its chequered history, from its fifteenth-century definition and first articulations to its broader manifestations in present-day luxury brands and the untrammelled consumption of our age.

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ACIS – Save Venice fellowships for 2019

ACIS is very pleased to announce that Jen McFarland and Emma Barron have been awarded ACIS – Save Venice Fellowships for 2019.

Jen McFarland’s project, Pizzochere and public presence in late fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Venice, is a study of pizzochere (lay religious women), examining their identity, social status, and activities and drawing on material in the Archivio Storico Patriarcale di Venezia and the Archivio di Stato di Venezia, as well as painting cycles in the Gallerie dell’Accademia. Pizzochere groups held a significant social and charitable function in sixteenth-century Venice, offering vital spaces of assistance and agency for women of varied (but mostly vulnerable) social backgrounds.

Emma Barron’s project, Popular access to ideas about the modern world through mass culture in post-war Italy, examines social change and media coverage of the Venice Art Biennale and Venice Film Festival in the late 1960s, using materials from the Archivio Storico della Biennale di Venezia, Archivio dello Stato and the Biblioteca della Fondazione Querini Stampalia. She will analyse ideas about Venice as a site of glamour, wealth and film-stars and the events that led to Venice becoming a site of protest during the 1968 student demonstrations at the 34th Venice Art Biennale and the 29th Venice Film Festival.

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ACIS scholarships for postgraduate research in Italy in 2020

ACIS is offering UP TO THREE scholarships worth $6,000 each to provide postgraduate students at an Australian or New Zealand university with the opportunity to work on a research project in Italy in 2020. For one of the awards, the Dino De Poli Scholarship, preference may be given to applications for research on any aspect of the culture, history and society of North East Italy. The scholarships are available to students who are currently enrolled, full-time or part-time, in Master by research or PhD degrees in a university in Australia or New Zealand and who are engaged in research projects in any of the following areas of Italian Studies: archaeology and classical antiquities, language, literature, culture, history, politics and society, including migration studies. Full details of the scholarships, eligibility, and the application process can be found here. The deadline for submission of applications is SUNDAY 13 OCTOBER 2019.

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Silk, Gold, and Renaissance Masculinity

Timothy McCall (Villanova University) will be giving a lecture, ‘Velvet Goldmine: Silk, Gold, and Renaissance Masculinity‘ on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 in the North Theatre (room 149), Old Arts Building, at the University of Melbourne (free but registration required here). The ruling men of Renaissance Italy wrapped themselves in silks and jewels, feathers and pearls. To dazzle the eye, they wore cloth-of-gold and cloth-of-silver, but sometimes the gems were made of paste, intended to deceive observers. All that glittered was not necessarily gold. Building from a study of material extravagance and the symbolic economy of male court fashions, this lecture explores the shining surfaces and things which adorned lords’ bodies and turns a critical eye to material fictions of luxury.  Continue reading

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Looking at the girl with an ermine

Timothy McCall (Villanova University) will give a talk, Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of a Milanese courtesan: new light on Cecilia Gallerani, the Girl with an Ermine, on Monday 29 July 2019, 6.15pm at the Forum Theatre, level 1 – Arts West, The University of Melbourne (registration here). He focuses our attention anew on Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Girl with an Ermine (1489-1490), a depiction of Cecilia Gallerani, mistress of the duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, examining the artistic representation of Cecilia both within conventions surrounding Renaissance mistresses at court and in relation to visual imagery celebrating her and her lord Ludovico’s identities. New evidence from an overlooked letter and technical analysis of the painting reveals that the relationship between the two began earlier than scholars have presumed (Cecilia was barely a teenager) and provides a fresh perspective on her connection with Leonardo da Vinci and her advertisement of that connection throughout her life.  Continue reading

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Romantic adventures; the Free Cinema movement; and an 18th century duel

This week’s TLS (March 29) is a special issue devoted to European culture which includes three very informative pieces on Italian writers. David Robey reviews the first two volumes of the eventual four volumes on Emilio Salgari (1862-1911) by Ann Lawson Lucas. Salgari’s adventure romances, Robey suggests, all contain the defining features of the genre: ‘heroes of exceptional strength and prowess and heroines of remarkable beauty; idealised passionate love; plots made up of travel, chance events and physical conflict or struggle’ (features generated exclusively by Salgari’s imagination and his life in the library stacks since he never left Italy and had to spend all his time writing). Then Anna Coatman reviews the English translation of the lively London diaries of the film director Lorenza Mazzetti (she announced ‘I’m a genius’ when she first arrived at the Slade School of Fine Art from work on a potato farm and the Slade’s director invited her to come back the next day). She became one of the founders of the Free Cinema movement (‘Perfection is not an aim. An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude’) along with Karel Reisz, Lindsay Anderson and Tony Richardson. Finally, Joseph Farrell describes the duel (‘Pistols for two and coffee for one’) fought, or at least performed, in 1766 between Giacomo Casanova and Count Franciszek Branicki. Branicki was the more seriously wounded but the duellists continued to exchange good wishes daily for their respective recoveries.

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Il plotone perduto: il 26 marzo 1944

Il 26 marzo del 1944, settantacinque anni fa, quindici soldati italoamericani furono trucidati dai nazisti ad Ameglia in Liguria dopo il fallimento di una missione di sabotaggio. Un episodio quasi trascurato dagli storici: e i quindici soldati sono ricordati solo da una lapide in un borgo remoto. Il 26 marzo, al Centro Studi Americani di Roma (via Caetani 32), si è tenuto un convegno con dibattito e approfondimento della storia del “plotone perduto” con interventi dello storico Massimo Teodori, il Procuratore generale della Corte militare d’appello, Marco De Paolis, il vicedirettore di Repubblica, Gianluca Di Feo, il vicedirettore di Rai Cultura, Giuseppe Giannotti, e il presidente della Oss Society, Charles Pinck. La Repubblica (Rep) ha raccontato il massacro, con una versione anche in inglese.

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