Late nineteenth and early twentieth century illustrated fiction in Italy : southernness and the aesthetic of the picturesque, the case of Giovanni Verga’s “Vita dei Campi” (1897)



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This dissertation embarks on a compelling exploration of the intersection of text and image in the context of Verismo literature and the picturesque visual elements that accompanied these works. While prior scholarly investigations of Giovanni Verga, the Veristi, and their literary contributions have predominantly focused on textual analysis and thematic exploration, this study highlights the visual dimension that was integral to their works. During the late nineteenth century, an era marked by a proliferation of illustrated publications, these visual elements played a transformative role, captivating readers' imaginations and shaping their perceptions. The primary objective of this research is to bridge the gap in our understanding of how illustrations influenced the reception and interpretation of Verismo literature. By shedding light on the tension between Veristi's commitment to providing a social commentary on reality and the picturesque aesthetic, this dissertation unveils new layers of meaning within these literary classics. It introduces a fresh perspective that reconsiders the interplay between text and image, emphasizing the dynamic relationships between the two. The research takes readers on a journey through southern Italy as depicted by Giovanni Verga and the illustrators who brought his work to life. It delves into the complexities of the picturesque aesthetic, demonstrating how it both harmonized with and diverged from the realities presented in the literature. The exploration of letters exchanged between the author, publishers, and illustrators provides invaluable insights into the creative processes behind these collaborations. Rather than viewing illustrations as mere adornments, the study presents them as influential companions to the written word, embodying an artistic tension that adds depth and complexity to the Verismo movement. Among the various works discussed in this research, particular emphasis is placed on Verga's illustrated edition of "Vita dei Campi" (1897), chosen as an exemplary case study of the intricate interplay between text and image. Through this in-depth examination, this dissertation strives to offer a comprehensive understanding of the role of illustrations in shaping the reception and interpretation of Verismo literature, providing fresh insights into the intersection of southernness and the aesthetic of the picturesque in Italian literary history.


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