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Beyond the Piazza

Public and Private Spaces in Modern Italian Culture


Edited By Simona Storchi

The volume is a collection of essays focussing on the cultural construction, perception and representation of public and private spaces in 20th and 21st century Italian culture. Through the study of a variety of spaces, this book provides an exploration of the notions of private self and public sphere and considers their interaction. It focuses on areas where the spheres of public and private merge, meet or clash, and assesses the role played by spatial practices and representations in the complex coexistence, mutual definition and constant negotiation of public and private. It offers a variety of approaches, ranging from literature to history, art history, film and cultural studies. It brings to the fore issues relating to the production of space, such as perceptions and definitions of the self and privacy, the politics of the private and public, gender representations, the construction of collective and cultural memory, and the relationship between the individual and the urban environmnent.


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PART I HOMES AND THE PUBLIC SPHERE 23 CHAPTER 1 Italian Writers’ Houses and the Shift from Private to Public Harald HENDRIX University of Utrecht From the time of its building in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Cur- zio Malaparte’s spectacular house on Capri (fig. 1) has been widely hailed as one of the most exquisite products of Italian modernist culture, thus attracting the attention of film directors – in 1963 Godard used it extensively for his Le Mépris – and of fashion designers like Karl Lagerfeld whose 1998 book on Casa Malaparte pays tribute to the overwhelming sense of creativity the building inspires. Figure 1. Casa Malaparte, Capri (photo: Author’s own) Located on an almost inaccessible cliff overlooking the deep blue sea, it certainly is one of those spaces that suggest meaning – what Beyond the Piazza 24 Gaston Bachelard has coined an “espace saisi par l’imagination” (17), and is as such typical of the architectural species of the writer’s house that by its nature entails the production and expression of meaning (Hendrix, Writers’ Houses). In fact, Malaparte did not hesitate to pro- grammatically baptise his self-designed home “casa come me”, while provocatively stating that in none of his books he had shown his inner self better than in this building: The day I decided to build a house I didn’t know I would draw a portrait of myself. It is better than all my literary ones. From all the autobiographical elements in every writer’s work it is easy to...

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