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Making the Italians

Poetics and Politics of Italian Children’s Fantasy

Lindsay Myers

Italian children’s literature has a diverse and unusual tradition of fantasy. With the exception of Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, however, it has remained almost entirely unknown outside of Italy. Why is it that Italian children’s fantasy has remained such a well-kept secret? How ‘international’ is the term ‘fantasy’, and to what extent has its development been influenced by local as well as global factors? Cross-cultural and cross-linguistic research into this neglected area is essential if we are to enrich our understanding of this important literary genre.
This book charts the history and evolution of Italian children’s fantasy, from its first appearance in the 1870s to the present day. It traces the structural and thematic progression of the genre in Italy and situates this development against the changing backdrop of Italian culture, society and politics. The author argues that ever since the foundation of Italy as a nation-state the Italian people have been actively involved in an ongoing process of identity formation and that the development of children’s fantasy texts has been inextricably intertwined with sociopolitical and cultural imperatives.


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Chapter 1Morphology and Methodology 7


Chapter 1 Morphology and Methodology The nature and characteristics of fantasy have been the subject of much discussion over the last thirty years and, as Brian Attebery has observed, ‘nearly every critical text in the field has proposed its own definitions for fantasy and the fantastic’.1 My intention here is thus not to produce yet another definition, but rather to draw on the works of existing scholars in order to identify the key features of fantasy, and in particular of fantasy for children. The term ‘fantasy’ derives from the Latin word ‘phantasia’ (a combi- nation of the words ‘phantos’ meaning ‘to make visible’ and ‘phainesthai’ meaning, ‘to appear’), and in its broadest sense it describes any form of literature that breaks the laws of verisimilitude. It lies in stark contrast to realism, and is, in its broadest sense, a literary mode rather than a genre, encompassing myths, legends, carnival art, folk tales, fairy tales, horror stories, romance and allegory. When the term ‘fantasy’ is used to describe works of literature today, however, it is rarely applied in this general sense but rather describes works of novel-length dating from the late eighteenth century onwards which are set in a an alternative world and in which ‘the fantastic (departures from consensus reality) occurs in believable ways’.2 This more specific use of fantasy, which is essentially a genre-based one, is sometimes referred to as ‘modern fantasy’ in order to distinguish it from the fantasy mode in general.3 1 Attebery, Strategies of Fantasy, 12....

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