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IT315 Experiments in Narrative: Telling the Past

Module Code: IT315
Module Name: Experiments in Narrative: Telling the Past
Module Coordinator: Dr Alberica Bazzoni
Term 2 Time: Mondays 10:00-12:00 Room: H0.44
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

The tradition of the novel is more complex and contested in Italian culture since the early nineteenth century than in comparable western European literatures. This module explores the linguistic, social, intellectual and cultural contexts to the development of the novel and of associated forms of narrative in Italy, including cinema, from the nineteenth century to the present day. It does so through exploring key examples of texts which have sought to establish or re-orientate specific modes of story-telling in relation to histories of the nation, of regions, of events or periods, of ideologies, or of individuals. Fictions defined as historical or autobiographical – from Nievo’s seminal novel, Le confessioni di un italiano, to Ginzburg’s autobiographical recollection of her family and World War II in Lessico famigliare – are examined in terms of questions and theories of memory (individual and collective), identity (personal and national), psychoanalysis, gender, language, testimony, and ethics. Central to the module’s inquiry is also the question of the formation of readerships or audiences in Italian culture. Students are enabled to trace literary-critical and intellectual movements and the formation of genres in Italy from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first, and to map the literary and cultural history of modern and postmodern Italy.


Section 1. Historical Narratives

  • Introduction: history, memory, identity. The historical novel, autobiography – week 1
  • Ippolito Nievo, Le confessioni d’un italiano (1867) – weeks 2-3
  • Elsa Morante, La Storia (1974) – weeks 4-5

Section 2. Narrative and Selfhood

  • Natalia Ginzburg, Lessico famigliare (1963) – week 7
  • Goliarda Sapienza, L’arte della gioia (1998) – weeks 8-9
  • Alina Marazzi, Un’ora sola ti vorrei (film, 2002) - week 10

Suggested viewing/reading

Students should aim to read as many of the novels and view as many of the films in the syllabus as possible before the start of term. It is essential that they have read Le confessioni d'un italiano and La storia in advance.

Additional preparatory reading includes:

Anderson, Linda, Autobiography (London: Routledge, 2001)

Bondanella, Peter and Andrea Ciccarelli (eds), The Cambridge Companion to the Italian Novel (Cambridge: CUP, 2003)

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

Cavarero, Adriana, Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood (London: Routledge, 2000)

De Groot, Jerome, The Historical Novel (London: Routledge, 2010)

Ganeri, Margherita, Il romanzo storico in Italia. Il dibattito critico dalle origini al postmoderno (Lecce : Pietro Manni, 1999)

Glynn, Ruth, Contesting the Monument: the Anti-Illusionist Italian Novel (Northern Universities Press, 2005) - chapters 1 and 2

Marcus, Laura, Auto-biographical discourses: theory, criticism and practice (Manchester University Press, 1994)

Steedman, Carolyn, Past Tenses: Essays on Writing, Autobiography, and History (London: Rivers Oram Press, 1992)


Either one essay of 4000-4500 words OR one essay of 2000-2500 words plus one one-hour exam in the summer