19-20 IT1950: Building the Italian Nation: Heroes and anti-Heroes from Pinocchio to The Leopard

The course focuses on some of the symbolic passages in the process of nation-building in Italy in the 19th and 20th centuries, as Italy reached its unity only in 1861.

Four key moments will exemplify the development of Italy’s national identity: two in the 19th century, pre-Risorgimento (the making of Italy), and post-Risorgimento (the making of the Italians); and two in the 20th century; the Resistenza (the making of the Republic), and the post-war (the crisis of nationhood).

The authors selected to represent these four moments in the history of Italy will be Ugo Foscolo (1778-1827), Carlo Collodi (1826-90), Italo Calvino (1923-85), and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1896-1957). The works to be read will be Foscolo’s Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis (1798), Collodi’s Pinocchio (1880), Calvino’s The Path to the Nest of Spiders (1947), and Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard (1958). Special attention will be paid to the problem of the absence of a national hero in the Italian literary tradition, such as Wilhelm Tell for Switzerland or D’Artagnan for France or Robin Hood for Britain.