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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 4The Microcosmic Fantasy: 1908–1915 65

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Chapter 4 The Microcosmic Fantasy: 1908–1915 The period between 1908 and 1915 was an extremely turbulent one in Italian history for it was during these years that political opposition to the liberal government reached unparalleled heights, that the domestic stability that the country had enjoyed for over three decades began to dissolve and that the forces which would lead to the rise of fascism were set in motion. The parliamentary system of trasformismo had worked well in the early years of the twentieth century, but once the economy began to go into decline in 1907 the level of civic unrest escalated,1 and it soon became apparent that concessions and favours could no longer contain the rising tide of discontent. The socialists, the radicals, the republicans, the Catholics and the newly emerging nationalists all had very clear ideas about how the country should be led, and to placate one of these groups was to alienate the others. The Italian government’s decision to invade Libya in 1911 was taken, in part, to mollify the Catholics and the nationalists. Rather than dif fuse the threat posed by these groups, however, it only served to bring the two groups closer together, polarising the nation into right and left and unleashing a wave of left-wing sentiment that would pave the way for the rise of fascism. The elections of 1913, the first to be held since the introduction of universal male suf frage,2 saw the socialist vote rise considerably, and the liberals...

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