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Topic 2: Narrative (weeks 6-10)

Examination of the style and narrative properties of seven short stories from some of the most signficant writers of the twentieth-century including Leonardo Sciascia, Primo Levi, Italo Calvino, Dacia Maraini and Stefano Benni. Discussion of the stories in relation to the cultural and intellectual debates of the day and an examination of different critical methodologies will provide the focus for this section.

Core texts

texts marked ** are available via library extracts

**Leonardo Sciasica, ‘Il lungo viaggio / The Long Crossing ’, in New Penguin Parallel Texts: Short Stories in Italian / Racconti in Italiano, ed. by Nick Roberts (Penguin, 1999), pages 1-14. PQ 4257.S4

Primo Levi , ‘In fronte scritto’ in Vizio di forma (Einaudi, 1971), PQ 4816.E94 no translation available

Primo Levi, ‘L’ordine a buon mercato’, in Tutti i racconti, ed. Marco Belpoliti (Einaudi, 2005), pp. 51-60, PQ 4816.E94 **Translation: Primo Levi, ‘Order on the Cheap’, in The Sixth Day and Other Tales (Abacus, 1991), PQ 4816.E94

Italo Calvino, ‘L’avventura di un lettore’, in Gli amori difficili (Mondadori, 1993), pp. 83-99. PQ 4798.A22 **Translation: Italo Calvino, ‘The adventure of a Reader’, in Difficult Loves (Vintage 1999), pp 67-81. PQ 4798.A22

Italo Calvino, 'L'avventura di un poeta', in Gli amori difficili (Mondadori, 1993) Translation: Italo Calvino, 'The Adventure of a Poet', in Difficult Loves (Vintage 1999), pp. 103-08

**Dacia Maraini, ‘La ragazza con la treccia’, in Italian Women Writing, ed. by Sharon Wood (Manchester University Press, 1993), pp. 81-86 PQ 4253.A9 or Translation: Dacia Maraini, 'The Girl with the Plait / La ragazza con la treccia', in New Penguin Parallel Texts: Short Stories in Italian / Racconti in Italiano, ed. by Nick Roberts (Penguin, 1999), pages 29-42. PQ 4257.S4

**Stefano Benni, ‘Papà va in tv’, in L’ultima lacrima (Feltrinelli, 1996), pp. 9-17 PQ 4790.E7 no translation available


Week 7: What is narrative? How short is a short story? Beginnings and Endings. Leonardo Sciascia, 'Il lungo viaggio'.

Week 8: Introduction to Primo Levi. Ethical Dilemmas: 'In fronte scritto' and 'Ordine a buon mercato'.

Week 9: Introduction to Italo Calvino. The role of the reader and status of the author: ‘L’avventura di un lettore’ and L’avventura di un poeta’

Week 10: Dacia Mariani and Stefano Benni. 'La ragazza con la treccia' and ‘Papà va in tv’.

Suggested Readings

Ann Hallamore Caesar and Michael Caesar, Modern Italian Literature (Cambridge: Polity, 2007)


John Ahern, ‘Out of Montale’s cave: A reading of Calvino’s Gli amori difficili', Modern Language Studies 12, (1982): 3-19

**Richard Andrews, ‘Italo Calvino’ in Writers and Society in Contemporary Italy, eds. M. Caesar and P. Hainsworth, Berg, 1983, pp. 259-81.

Science and literature in Italian culture from Dante to Calvino: a Festschrift for Patrick Boyde, eds. Pierpaolo Antonello and Simon A. Gilson, Oxford: European Humanities Research Centre, University of Oxford, 2004

Martin McLaughlin, Italo Calvino, Edinburgh University Press, 1998.

Kerstin Pilz, Mapping Complexity: Literature and Science in the Works of Italo Calvino, Leicester: Troubador, 2005.

Franco Ricci, Difficult Games: A reading of i racconti by Italo Calvino, Wilfred Laurier University Press, Ontario, 1990

Beno Weiss, Understanding Italo Calvino, Columbia, 1993.


Benchouiha, L., Primo Levi: Rewriting the Holocaust (Leicester: Troubador, 2006)

Benchouiha, L., ‘The Perversion of a Fairy Tale, Primo Levi’s, ‘La bella addormentata nel frigo’, Modern Language Review, 100 (2), 2005, pp. 356-366.

Cicioni, M., Primo Levi: Bridges of Knowledge (Oxford: Berg, 1995).

Gordon, R., ‘The Duty of Memory’, in European Memories of the Second World War, ed. by Peitsch, Burdett & Gorrara (Oxford: Berghahn, 1999).

Gordon, R., Primo Levi's Ordinary Virtues: from Testimony to Ethics (Oxford: OUP, 2001).

Patruno, N., Understanding Primo Levi (Columbia: USCP, 1995).

Ross, C. ‘Primo Levi’s Science Fiction’, in The Cambridge Companion to Primo Levi, ed. by Robert Gordon (Cambridge: CUP, 2007), pp. 115-118. (see ‘guide to Further Reading’in this book for detailed list of books on Primo Levi).

Rudolf, A., At Uncertain Hour: Primo Levi's War against Oblivion (London: Menard, 1990).


Bandinelli, Angiolo, ‘La satira politica e i vignettisti', La satira in Italia (Pescara, 2002) PQ 4184.S2

Monica Boria, ‘I romanzi di Stefano Benni’, in Il romanzo contemporaneo, voci italiane, ed by Franca Pellegrini and Elisabetta Tarantino (Leicester: Troubadour, 2006), pp. 43-58

Suggested Reading on Narrative Theory

H. Porter Abbott, The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative Fiction (London: Routledge, 1983).

Paul Cobley, Narrative (London: Routledge, 2001).

Seymour Chatman, Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1978).

David Lodge, The Art of Fiction (London: Vintage, 2011)

Susana Onega and José Ángel García Landa, eds, Narratology (London: Longman, 1996).