Category Archives: Modern

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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ACIS Research Group: History and Social Sciences

The first 3-year plan for the ACIS History and Social Sciences Research Group is available here. As its title, Trade, Textiles and Meaning in Italy: 1400-2018, suggests, the focus is on the nature and consequences of the high-end textile trade in Italy from the Renaissance onwards. The project begins with a specific object – the portrait of Isabella D’Este (1474-1539) by Titian – and explores the production and meaning of all the items of clothing, seen and not seen, that Isabella is wearing. The exploration is conducted in tandem with the IDEA (Isabella D’Este Archive) website, in relation where possible to the references to clothing and textiles in Isabella’s correspondence. The second part of the project examines similar themes in the contemporary world of ‘Made in Italy’, where many major producers using that descriptor are not Italian. Information on the activities and people involved in the project can be found in the plan and from the Research Group’s convenor, Catherine Kovesi.

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Sustainable Lina: the architecture of adaptive reuse

Lina Bo Bardi220px-masp_at_paulista_av_in_sa%cc%83o_paulo (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.

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Living like nomads

0283393_living-like-nomads_300Despite the considerable research on Italian anarchism conducted over the last forty years little is known about the history of the anarchists and anarchism in Milan. To fill this gap, Fausto Buttà’s Living Like Nomads: The Milanese Anarchist Movement Before Fascism (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015) examines the political and ideological debates and the lifestyles of anarchist militants in Milan during the two decades before the rise of Fascism. In addition to its historical value, this study of the history of anarchism contributes to an understanding of the modern Left and the values of freedom, justice and equality. The table of contents and the introduction are available here.

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Sicily and Scotland: an odd couple?

TullochCoverR2-RGB-SMLBrought together for the first time in the recent Sicily and Scotland: Where Extremes Meet, edited by Graham Tulloch, Karen Agutter and Luciana d’Arcangeli (Troubadour, 2014), Sicily and Scotland prove to have some surprising similarities as well as predictable differences. Both once independent nations, they are now part of larger nation-states, but each retains a deep sense of independent cultural and political identity rooted in a distinctive history and language. Both are favoured destinations of tourists and travel writers – an attraction illustrated here by studies of Scottish travellers writing about Sicily. And both have been significant sources of emigration, their peoples moving far across the world towards very different experiences as settlers in their new nations.

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Mothers and daughters in four novels

Aureliana Di Rollo   WAAPA/Monash University

mother and daughterAt this time a year ago I was about to submit my Ph.D. thesis with the title ‘Literary representations of mothers and daughters in contemporary Italian women writers’. It was a relief. Not only had I completed my degree but I would finally be able to read and talk about something else. But it didn’t happen that way. Yes, I have been awarded my degree, but when I speak at seminars, I am still the extravagant lady who digs out and deals with matricidal daughters, eccentric and dysfunctional mothers and tries to write a reasonable paper variously combining these ingredients. In my thesis I engaged with the tradition of writing about the mother in the works of Italian women writers. Within that tradition, I decided to investigate the literary representation of the mother-daughter relationship, a recurring trope in women’s narratives during the 1980s as illustrated by the novels of Francesca Sanvitale, Fabrizia Ramondino and others.

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Eighteenth-Century Venetian Drawings in New York

Sally Grant   New York

tiepolo_1997_27_2The recent post on Angelo Cattaneo’s upcoming paper got me thinking about Venice. Having recently completed my PhD at the University of Sydney on eighteenth-century Venetian gardens and villa culture, the city and its territory are never far from my thoughts. Recently, however, I was lucky enough to see a wonderful exhibition, ‘Tiepolo, Guardi, and Their World: Eighteenth-Century Venetian Drawings’, at the Pierpont Morgan Library in NYC, where I now live.

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The Pike e la rete di d’Annunzio predatore

Stefano Bragato   University of Reading

D'Annunzio_4L’ultimo colpo di coda delle celebrazioni per il 150° anniversario della nascita di Gabriele d’Annunzio (non scevre, purtroppo, del tipico tangenziale pasticcio all’italiana) è arrivato poche settimane fa, quando la discussa biografia di Lucy Hughes-Hallet (The Pike, London: Fourth Estate, 2013) ha vinto il prestigioso “Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction”. Tra le ragioni dell’assegnazione, informano i giudici, lo stile ricco e l’insolita organizzazione narrativa (che balza avanti e indietro nel tempo), elementi questi che riuscirebbero a rendere sopportabile un “repellente egoista” come d’Annunzio. Una biografia sicuramente interessante e soprattutto molto godibile, che forse non getta una luce particolarmente nuova sul poeta-soldato, ma che senza dubbio ne sfaccetta abilmente la figura.

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Quaderno poetico #6: Going behind the scenes (II) – Archives

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

220px-Stipula_fountain_penThis is the first of two posts about working in archives, where so many of us spend so much our time, in Italy and elsewhere. My work concentrates on the Florentine poet Piero Bigongiari and I will have more to say about working on his archival materials later, as well as talking about the technical questions involved – transcribing handwriting, handling old paper and so on. First, though, I have found myself reflecting on archival work in general, the fascination, frustrations, fun and fanaticism that surround it. I’m interested to hear other people’s archival stories and philosophies, particularly if they disagree with mine. Archival work often makes you feel that you’re the only one in the world doing what you’re doing (a chosen one, even!) but of course we’re never alone. The Renaissance scholar Gene Brucker has called himself an ‘archive junkie.’ There must be more out there. Be proud of it.

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Vale, Giorgio Orelli (1921-2013)

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

orelligiorgioItalian literature has lost a unique and much loved voice, with the death this morning of Swiss poet Giorgio Orelli, at the age of 92. Orelli was born in 1921 in Airolo, in the Canton of Ticino, and made his debut as a poet with the collection Né bianco né viola in 1944. He studied at Freiburg im Breisgau under Gianfranco Contini and made a career teaching literature in Switzerland and Italy. He published fiction (Un giorno della vita, 1960) and criticism (most recently La qualità del senso, in 2012), but it was in the domain of poetry that he produced his most inspired work, in collections that displayed his gift for rich, concentrated and emotional descriptions of nature: L’ora del tempo (1962), Sinopie (1977), Spiracoli (1989), Il collo dell’anitra (2001) and most recently L’orlo della vita.

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