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Giorgio Scerbanenco

Urban Space, Violence and Gender Identity in Post-War Italian Crime Fiction


Marco Paoli

The works of Giorgio Scerbanenco repeatedly articulate and explore the implications of new forms of criminality that emerged in Italy’s post-war transformation towards its «economic miracle». An indepth analysis of Scerbanenco’s Duca Lamberti series constitutes the critical focus of this study, and in particular the psychological resonances of the role played by the author’s controversial representation of the urban space, its violence, (in)justice and gender roles. In what way do these elements heighten and/or exaggerate the nature of the criminal acts and the reader’s experience? This study therefore investigates a reader’s potential response to the content, the settings, and, above all, the characters Scerbanenco portrays in these four novels.


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Giorgio Scerbanenco is one of Italy’s most prolific twentieth- century writers, but he has rarely attracted the degree of critical attention that has been afforded to his contemporaries, despite a stylistically rich and generically diverse exploration of popular literature, including crime fiction (giallo), science fiction (fantas- cienza) and romantic fiction (romanzi rosa). In fact, it is arguably Scerbanenco’s versatility as a popular fiction writer that has mar- ginalized him from mainstream critical analysis which, especially in the Italian academic context, has focused almost exclusively on literary and stylistics themes and ignored any connection between literature and its socio-historical context. In addition, by denying the literary status to popular fiction, based on the gap between letteratura (highbrow literature) and paraletteratura (lowbrow litera- ture), the Italian academic and literary establishment have ignored and marginalized popular fiction writers, including Scerbanenco. As Giuliana Pieri puts it, “this attitude changed very little in the following decades [from the 1970s on] when Italian critics still seemed to view the giallo in terms of literature versus popular lit- erature binary, with the implicit denial of proper literary status to the latter” (Pieri, 2011: 2). In this respect, Gian Paolo Giudicetti has argued that: […] articoli e convegni sul poliziesco italiano si succedono, sufficiente- mente da tramutare in assurdo il topos, ancora ripetuto in interventi sul tema, nel quale i saggisti, a inizio del loro discorso, lamentano la vetusta resistenza della critica italiana al poliziesco, una critica che si ostinerebbe a considerare la letteratura di genere come una lettera-...

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