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Italian American Cultural Fictions: From Diaspora to Globalization

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Francesca de Lucia

This book focuses on the development of Italian American cultural identity throughout the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Italy is becoming a destination, rather than a starting point for immigrants. Immigration remains a source of tension and debate both in the United States and in Europe. Analyzing the evolution of Italian American identity, from diaspora to globalization, from emblematic to latent ethnicity, can thus prove insightful.

Disparate works, including novels, films and newspaper articles, both by Italian and non-Italian American authors illustrate this paradigm. The catalyst for this transformation is the Second World War, which allowed Italian Americans to take part in the struggle to liberate Italy from Fascism, establishing in this way a connection with their roots while adhering more closely to mainstream American society through participation in the conflict. Post-war expressions of Italian American culture include the development of women’s writing, cinematic interactions with American Jews and African Americans, and the works of two novelists, Don DeLillo and Anthony Giardina, who embody different aspects of latent ethnicity.

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Latent Ethnicity: Metamorphoses of Italian American Identity

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Don DeLillo, Anthony Giardina and Kym Ragusa are significant representatives of the modern metamorphoses of Italian American literature.

Born in two different moments of Italian American history, and separated by the key experiences of the Second World War and the second diaspora, DeLillo and Giardina display diverging attitudes towards their heritage: DeLillo looks back at the immigrant enclaves that were established in the pre-war era, whereas Giardina depicts suburban communities that have developed a more confident version of Italian American identity. Hence these two novelists embody “[the] resolutions of contemporary ethnicity [that] tend toward a pluralistic universalism, a textured sense of being American” (Fischer, 1986, p. 230). Their works present a series of cultural interferences; in Giardina’s case these are drawn not only from the tradition of the old country but also from European and American classics, as well as from post-war American cinema. In this fashion, his ethnic perspective broadens into a manifold representation of modern American society. In DeLillo’s case, the Southern Italian Catholic patrimony casts a light, whether in mediated or explicit terms, on his view of America as part of a globalized world. Don DeLillo’s work combines different strands in his depiction of late twentieth and early twenty-first century American society, refracting US culture through Italian American modes. Unlike Giardina, who writes about a geographically and socially circumscribed world, DeLillo imbues his oeuvre with a sprawling and cosmic dimension.

Kym Ragusa represents a different facet of the Italian American literary...

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