(Re)membering the past WWII-the years of lead in contemporary Italian literature, theater, and cinema




Mabrey, Beatrice Giuseppina

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A cursory investigation of contemporary Italian literary, cinematic, and theatrical works produced since the 1990s reveals a marked interest in revisiting the dominant events of the twentieth century. Among the many episodes discussed, World War II, the postwar period, the 1968 protests, and the terrorist movements of the 1970s emerge as topics of particular interest for writers, playwrights, and cinematographers. Like the lieux de memoire described in Pierre Nora’s groundbreaking historiography, these “sites of memory” work through the “reciprocal overdetermination” of history and collective memory to act as bastions of national identity. This study examines a variety of works that draw upon Italy’s rich tradition of the historical novel and its most recent incarnation as the romanzo neostorico. Specifically, it shows how these works approach these sites of memory to unveil and explore the intricate web of memories and traumas underpinning the often-silencing narratives promoted by social and political institutions. Building on recent scholarship that advances the notion of a return to an engaged postmodernism, the author argues that these texts encourage their readers or spectators to engage with the formative sites of Italian national identity and to renegotiate their place within their own experiences. She claims that works such as Ascanio Celestini’s Radio Clandestina, Cristina Comencini’s Due Partite, and Francesca Melandri’s Più alto del mare engender a critical rereading of history by creating new myths. For the author, this rereading takes place predominantly through an encounter with memory. Consistent with Toni Morrison’s conception of “rememory,” these innovative works use individual and collective recollections of the events cited above (experienced or “inherited” by many of the authors and readers themselves) to reassemble a “dismembered” past and open a space for the development and expression of nascent and marginalized subjectivities. This, in turn, creates spaces for confronting pressing sociopolitical issues in contemporary Italy.


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