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Modern Italian Literature

ISBN: 978-0-7456-2799-1
248 pages
September 2007, Polity
Modern Italian Literature (0745627994) cover image
This authoritative and vividly written book brings readers into the heart of Italian literary culture from the 1690s to the present. It probes the work of major authors in their broad cultural context, traces the history of audiences and publishers, explores the shifting relationship between public and private, assesses the impact of significant historical trends and events on creative processes, and establishes the continuities as well as the discontinuities of the Italian literary tradition.

A synoptic overview at the beginning of the volume is designed to help the reader get her or his bearings in the detail of the nine chapters which follow. Using an essentially chronological framework, the book is divided into three major cultural time-spans: the long eighteenth century, the decades of national identity formation and the creation of modern', industrial Italy between 1816 and 1900, and the twentieth century with its constant renegotiation of national cultural identity. A final epilogue provides a snapshot of Italian literary culture in the near-present.

This is a book which will be readily accessible to students and all those interested in Italian culture, and at the same time is based on the most up-to-date scholarship. New readings of the canonical authors rub shoulders with a refreshing attention to standard and popular writing, gender issues, and the interaction between written and oral forms, producing a history of modern Italian literature which is new in its conception and its scope.

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  • Preface and Acknowledgements
  • INTRODUCTION: An Overview of Modern Italian Literature
  • PART I: The Long Eighteenth Century (1690-1815)
  • Chapter One: Cross-currents of modernity
  • §1.1. This is Arcadia
  • §1.2. New states, new thinkers
  • Chapter Two: Enlightenment and the public arena
  • §2.1. Journalism, theatre and the book trade in Venice
  • §2.2. Enlightenment and reform from Naples to Milan
  • Chapter Three: Literature and revolution
  • §3.1. Italy and France
  • §3.2. Alfieri: life and drama
  • §3.3. Foscolo: between classicism and romanticism
  • PART II: Literature and Unification (1816-1900)
  • Chapter Four: Romantic Italy
  • §4.1. Milan 1816
  • §4.2. Florence 1827
  • §4.3. Leopardi: the challenge of poetry
  • Chapter Five: Inventing the nation
  • §5.1. Manzoni: the responsibility of the writer
  • §5.2. History and fiction
  • §5.3. Literature and the people
  • §5.4. Memory, monuments and the national past
  • Chapter Six: Making the nation
  • §6.1. The literary culture of Unificaton
  • §6.2. The artist as observer: verismo and the social
  • §6.3. Looking in: domesticity and the literary market
  • PART III: From modernism to the market (1900 to the present)
  • Chapter Seven: Modernism and the crisis of the literary subject
  • §7. 1. The search for identity
  • §7.2. War, technology and the arts
  • §7.3. Narratives of selfhood: the subjective turn in fiction
  • Chapter Eight: Literature, Fascism and Anti-Fascism
  • §8.1. Writing and the regime
  • §8.2. The social condition of intellectuals
  • §8.3. Testing the limits of the novel
  • §8.4. Resistance, Reconstruction and Neo-realism
  • Chapter Nine: From the avant-garde to the market-place
  • §9.1. The last avant-garde?
  • §9.2. The widening of culture
  • §9.3. A minimalist postmodernism: the poetics of attention
  • §9.4. Epilogue: a weekend in April
  • Primary References
  • Secondary References
  • General Bibliography
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Ann Hallamore Caesar is Professor of Italian at the University of Warwick.

Michael Caesar is Serena Professor of Italian at the University of Birmingham.

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  • Authoritative guide to Italian literature and culture from the eighteenth century to the present day
  • Written by two of the leading critics of Italian culture
  • Beautifully and accessibly written to appeal to an audience of undergraduate students as well as scholars
  • Places literary texts in context alongside journalism and popular texts
  • Each chapter begins with a section introducing the historical background of the period to orientate the reader
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“An intelligent and engaging blend of cultural and literary history, this volume provides a highly readable overview of modern Italian literature, which ranges from the eighteenth century to today. A most valuable study for both experts and students.”


Rebecca West, University of Chicago


“A brilliant book that moves with agility through the centuries, authors, and historical events. It is a cultural and literary guide that any student of Italian should rely on.”


Graziella Parati, Dartmouth College


“This is a superb, stimulating and lucid work of synthesis, tracing the evolution of Italian literature from the late seventeenth century to the present day. As well as revisiting major figures and others lost in the archive, the book uses the literary field to explore a fascinating series of subterranean patterns in Italy’s modern cultural history.”


Robert Gordon, University of Cambridge

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