Category Archives: Publications and reviews

Mona Lisa Covergirl

Emma Barron’s just-published Popular High Culture in Italian Media, 1950-1970 (Palgrave, 2018) is an essential and engaging contribution to the study of Italian mass culture. The book’s subtitle, ‘Mona Lisa Covergirl’, points to the originality of its theme: how Italian high culture was deployed to create a distinctive form of mass culture in the post-1945 expansion of television and popular magazines. Pasolini and Quasimodo providing advice to readers of Tempo (Pasolini: ‘The letters are enjoyable: some of them even give me a profound joy, even if as brief as a flash’),  Mike Bongiorno promoting knowledge of the classics through Lascia o raddoppia? (15 million viewers weekly), Il barbiere di Siviglia as the first opera to be transmitted on Italian tv (1954, conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini), Giacomo Puccini endorsing Odol mouthwash (‘Lodo l’ODOL, LO DOLce licor che LO DOLore del dente scaccia di sovente’), Shakespeare’s lines used to sell pasta (Barilla), liquor (Amaretto di Saronno) and chocolates (Baci Perugina), I promessi sposi drawing mass tv audiences (19 million) and readerships (magazines, fotoromanzi, comics) – this study of the intertwining of the classic and the contemporary provides a fresh and productive account of the development of Italian mass culture.

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Ricordando Maria Bentivoglio

Laura Mecca racconta qui la vita di Maria (poi Marie) Bentivoglio. Italiana, nata a Torino nel 1898, emigrata in Australia ancora in fasce, Maria si laureò a Sydney in chimica e geologia e nel 1921 fu la prima donna australiana a ricevere una borsa di studio all’Università di Oxford dove ottenne un DPhil. Dopo, la sua vita fu dedicata allo studio, all’insegnamento (universitario ma anche corsi di inglese per gli immigrati italiani in New South Wales) e alla ricerca. Teneva corsi di lezioni all’Università di Sydney e in diverse università statunitensi. Nel 1936 si stabilì a New York con il marito appena sposato (di origini nobili da San Remo) dove rimase, lavorando nell’industria chimica, per vent’anni. Tornò prima in Italia e poi, dopo la morte del marito nel 1961, in Australia. Nel 1994, a novantasei anni, in riconoscimento dell’importanza delle sue ricerche le fu conferito un dottorato onorario di ricerca dall’Università di Sydney. Un suo ritratto, opera di Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo, è esposto alla Manly Art Gallery.

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The book, the photo and the stork

Photos move us. They enable us to travel virtually to wherever the scene is captured. They also move us by provoking emotions unleashed by the picture. Travel photography illustrates this double power especially clearly as Giorgia Alù argues in her just-published Journeys Exposed: Women’s Writing, Photography and Mobility (Routledge, 2018). The writers and photographers analysed (Melania Mazzucco, Ornela Vorpsi, Monika Bulaj, Carla Cerati, Elena Gianini Belotti and Anna Maria Riccardi) are variously related to Italy: Italians, Italophones, migrants or expatriates to Italy, or through hyphenated adjectives of nationality, as Italian-American or Italian-Australian. The book begins with an anecdote recounted by Karen Blixen. During a stormy night a man has to go out to fix a leakage in his pond’s dam. He stumbles around, falls over, and takes wrong paths but next morning he sees that the tracks his boots have left in the mud trace the outline of a stork. The stork provides an unsuspected unity for his apparently random movements but one which only becomes visible a posteriori and from a distance. Such traces expose the form of movements, underlying or unintended, in lives, texts and photographs but, like photographs, the form requires the technical processes of exposure to be seen.

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The Italianist 2018: Italian films, Peter Bondanella, Chris Wagstaff

The latest volume of The Italianist ( 2018, vol.38, no.2) is devoted to film. The first part opens with discussions of the relations – real, imagined, intended, inadvertent – between films and their audiences: the Fascist promotion of Italian fiction films in the US in the 1930s, and the creation of the once much-scorned but now revalued ‘casalinga di Voghera‘. A series of diverse analyses follows: the impact of the planned, begun but never completed films on the anni di piombo on the difficulties of representing 1970s Italy; the Dantean resonances in Pasolini’s Salò; Sorrentino’s aesthetic strategy in portraying Giulio Andreotti in Il Divo; and the interplay of aesthetics and politics in authorial interventions in recent documentaries. The second part is a celebration in many voices of the lives and works of Peter Bondanella and Chris Wagstaff, two leading scholars who have left large and enduring contributions to the analysis of Italian cinema.

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Italians in Australia: past and present

Few recent historians or social scientists have written extended studies of Italians in Australia. Several collections – different authors analysing particular aspects of Italian lifeworlds – have appeared but Gianfranco Cresciani’s The Italians in Australia (CUP, 2003, updating his 1985 original) is the only example of an overall treatment. Now Francesco Ricatti’s Italians in Australia. History, Memory, Identity (Palgrave, 2018) aims to incorporate the demographic, social and cultural evidence gathered over the past twenty years (notably Loretta Baldassar on international caring, Antonia Rubino on language use, Catherine Dewhirst on the press, Simone Battiston and Bruno Mascitelli on politics) and integrate it into an overall portrayal of the Italian communities past and present. Work, family, language, religion, and politics are the organising topics, treated to emphasize – unlike many of the older discussions of such communities – the ways in which immigrants actively shape their own lives within well-known  institutional, social and cultural constraints. The outcome is valuable on two levels: as an introduction to the current literature for students and as a survey of issues for future scholarly research.

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Migrants and asylum seekers in Italy

Was Italy the desired destination in the minds of migrants and asylum seekers who are now settled there? What image, if any, of Europe did they have before they arrived? What picture do migrants from many different places have of the smugglers who help them move? Are Facebook and social media important channels of communication and decision-making for migrants? How should the false and incomplete information which migrants rely on be corrected? These and other issues are the topic of a recent report, based on interviews and fieldwork, prepared for the European Commission by Gabriella Sanchez and her co-authors, A study of the communication channels used by migrants and asylum seekers in Italy, with a particular focus on online and social media (2018).

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Conversazione con Donatella Di Pietrantonio

Patrizia Sambuco

I suoi romanzi in breve tempo hanno portato Donatella Di Pietrantonio al centro del panorama letterario italiano. Il primo, Mia madre è un fiume (2011), ha ricevuto diversi premi; il secondo, Bella mia, candidato al Premio Strega, ottiene il Premio Brancati 2014; e nel 2017 L’Arminuta ha vinto il Premio Campiello. Nonostante questa progressiva visibilità e l’evidente successo di pubblico, Di Pietrantonio ha spesso affermato di fare fatica a considerarsi una scrittrice. La sua abitudine alla scrittura si è sempre svolta parallelamente alla sua professione di dentista; infatti la scrittura è stata per lei un hobby coltivato sin da bambina piuttosto che l’attuazione di una professione ricercata. Nella primavera 2018 ho parlato con lei dei suoi tre romanzi e della sua scrittura….. Continue reading

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Work and culture among sessional staff in language departments

Although not specifically concerned with Italian, a recent article in the Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice (2018, 6, 1, 19-27), ‘Managing Expectations: A Case Study of Sessional Staff in Languages and Cultures Education in Australian Universities‘ by Josh Brown and Federica Verdina, provides valuable insights into the largely unresearched work patterns and culture of casual/sessional staff. The survey they conducted across language departments indicates that although most staff appear to be satisfied with the work itself, the further issues in short-term contracts – academic recognition, opportunities to engage in course innovation, possibilities for promotion –  are largely ignored by universities despite the high academic qualifications and intellectual commitment of most sessionals.

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Spunti e Ricerche vol.32 (2017)

Volume 32 (2017) of Spunti e Ricerche has just been published, edited by Gregoria Manzin, Annamaria Pagliaro and Antonio Pagliaro. It includes articles by Cristiano Bedin, Gianluca Cinelli, Giulia Guarneri, Stefania Lucamante, Marilyn Migiel, Christian Moretti, Emanuele Occhipinti, Patrizia Piredda, Daniela Shalom Vagata and Anita Virga, as well as book reviews. The Table of Contents can be viewed here.  Print and/or electronic copy of the whole volume, or electronic copies of individual articles, can be purchased via the website.

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Iris Origo remembered

In the latest issue  (8 February 2018) of the London Review of Books there’s a long review of Iris Origo’s The Merchant of Prato. Daily Life in a Medieval Italian City, first published in English in 1957, translated into Italian with an introduction by Luigi Einaudi in 1958 and now republished in English as a Penguin Classic. Its republication accompanies the reappearance of several of Origo’s books in 2017 thanks to the Pushkin Press: her well-known War in Val d’Orcia (1947; translated into Italian in 1968 with a preface by Piero Calamandrei), the previously unpublished A Chill in the Air dealing with the years 1939-1940, and her autobiography Images and Shadows: Part of a Life (1970).  Those three books convey brilliantly not only her family ancestry in Ireland and the USA but also her life in Italy; she grew up in Fiesole and moved to La Foce in southern Tuscany when she married Antonio Origo in 1924. La Foce was an unpromising half-ruined estate in the Val d’Orcia, 3500 hectares cultivated by mezzadri in 57 poor farms, which she and her husband determined, successfully,  to revive. Her books on Bernardino da Siena, Byron and Leopardi may have slipped from sight; but the accounts she left of her wartime years in La Foce are a lasting testimony to survival and solidarity in conditions of capricious power, lawlessness and extreme danger.

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