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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 5The Quest Fantasy: 1915–1918 85

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Chapter 5 The Quest Fantasy: 1915–1918 On 24 May 1915, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary, entering a war that would put an end to over forty years of liberal rule and pave the way for the emergence of fascism. Italy’s decision to join the conf lict came about as a result of the Treaty of London, an agreement which pledged the lands of Trentino, the Isonzo, Trieste, South Tyrol, Istria and the Dalmatian Coast to Italy in return for her support, and it was the source of much celebration for the nationalists who had been loudly campaigning in favour of inter- vention for some time. For the socialists, the Catholics and the majority of industrialists however, the government’s decision to relinquish Italian neutrality was highly unpopular. The country was in no shape to enter the conf lict; not only did it not have adequate military or economic resources to sustain heavy warfare, it did not even have a unified Italian citizenship on which to build a popular pro-war consensus. One of the greatest challenges to the state following Italy’s declaration of war was thus how to rally mass support for the war ef fort, and the intel- lectual and philosophical battle that took place on the home front initially took precedence over that being fought on enemy lines.1 The futurists, the nationalists and the revolutionary socialists all had their own take on the merits of intervention. For the futurists the war was ‘una grande occa- sione’ [a great opportunity...

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