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Re-Making the Italians

Collective Identities in the Contemporary Italian Historical Novel

Gala Rebane

Can the unprecedented rise of the historical genre in Italy after 1980 be explained out of the «Umberto Eco effect» alone, as many critics believe? Why are so many Italians nowadays inclined to believe in their Celtic origins? How many middle Ages were there and do we actually live in a high-tech version of them? Has Italy ever been unified? This book discusses the ongoing literary quest for new collective identities in the present-day Italian nation challenged by European integration, globalisation and the burgeoning regionalism, and shows the intricate routes of historical revision on which contemporary Italian fiction embarks.

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INTRODUCTION......................................................................................................................................13 I. CASE STUDY ITALY. SPECIFIC TRAITS OF THE NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT........................21 1. ITALY AS AN INVENTED NATION....................................................................................................................21 2. PROBLEM OF ITALIAN IDENTITY....................................................................................................................24 3. ITALIAN REGIONALISMS................................................................................................................................28 4. SOUTHERN QUESTION....................................................................................................................................33 5. ITALY AND THE GLOBAL COMMUNITY...........................................................................................................36 II. IDENTITY, HISTORY, FICTION........................................................................................................43 1. COLLECTIVE IDENTITY..................................................................................................................................44 2. COLLECTIVE MEMORY...................................................................................................................................46 3. MEDIA OF GROUP IDENTITIES: COLLECTIVE MEMORY AND LITERATURE........................................................50 III. THE NEW HISTORICAL NOVEL AND ITS HALLMARKS............................................................55 1. NARRATIVE CONSTRUCTION OF HISTORY......................................................................................................55 2. THE UPPER LIMIT OF THE “PAST”...................................................................................................................57 3. THE EXTENSION OF A NOVEL AS A SOCIOCULTURAL SPECIFIC........................................................................59 4. INTERMEDIALITY...........................................................................................................................................60 5. THE ONTOLOGICAL DOMINANT AND THE FANTASTIC.....................................................................................61 IV. HIERARCHIES OF THE PAST..........................................................................................................65 1. HISTORICAL SETTINGS OF THE NOVELS.........................................................................................................65 2. MAKING AND RE-MAKING THE ITALIANS: THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF THE NATION.......................................68 V. ROMAN EMPIRE AND BEYOND.......................................................................................................71 1. THE INTRICATE LEGACY OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE..........................................................................................71 1.1. Ancient Rome as a postmodern global capital: Danila Comastri Montanari’s Morituri te salutant (1994)..........................................................................................................................................................73 1.2. The myth of Aeneas revisited................................................................................................................76 1.3. The silence of the Rasna: Sebastiano Vassalli’s Un infinito numero (2001)........................................78 2. THE ETRUSCAN PAST AS A FEEBLE MYTH OF ORIGINS....................................................................................83 3. CELTIC ANCESTRY.........................................................................................................................................85 3.1. The notion of “the Celts”: a historical outlook....................................................................................86 3.2. The Celts as a “positive” alternative to the Germanic tribes...............................................................87 3.3. The ancient Celtic idyll versus modern consumer society....................................................................89 3.4. “La profonda differenza”: Emma Pomilio’s Dominus (2005).............................................................91 10 3.5. The modern reception of the Celts: the “Euroenthusiastic” outlook...................................................95 3.6. “Quest'eredità ce la portiamo nel DNA”: Mauro Raccasi’s Celtic trilogy (2004-2006).....................96 4. CELTIC LEGACY AND REGIONALIST ASPIRATIONS IN NORTH-EASTERN ITALY...............................................98 4.1. Celtic...

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