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Conference: 'Rome's Modernity: Trauma, Fracture, Narration'

The British School at Rome, Wednesday 17th - Friday 19th October 2012

Organizers: Jennifer Burns, Lesley Caldwell (UCL), Fabio Camilletti, Dom Holdaway, Filippo Trentin

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logo_web_200x1452.jpgThe conference was conceived by the Department of Italian at the University of Warwick as a part of a broader project on Rome’s modernit(ies), in partnership with University College London, the British School at Rome, the Archivio di Stato di Roma and the Centro per lo studio di Roma (CROMA) at the University of Roma 3. It aims to gather scholars from different backgrounds, disciplines and fields of specialization in order to take Rome’s cityscape as a point of departure for addressing questions of literary, art-historical, cinematic, and architectural manifestations of urban modernity.


Commentary on the city of Rome and the changes that it underwent during its modernisation has tended to foreground and underline the degradation of the city, particularly in relation to its glorious past(s). This risks leading to restrictive diachronic histories of the Italian capital, according to which the fractures and metamorphoses undergone by the city throughout the centuries produced an urban landscape in which the importance of classical tradition seems always to haunt the present. By genealogically analysing the legacies of nineteenth- and twentieth-century processes of modernisation undergone by the ‘eternal city’, our conference will interrogate the way in which Rome deals with the cultural fracture caused by capitalist modernity, from the moment in which it becomes the Italian capital in 1871 up to the present. Following Vittorio Vidotto’s call for a paradigm shift in historical Rome Studies, the conference seeks to establish the foundations for an archaeology (Benjamin, Foucault, Agamben) of the Italian capital, rather than looking at contemporary Rome as the outcome of an uni-linear history where past and present are articulated as dichotomic. Emphasising, comparing, and contrasting singular case studies, from representations such as the borgate of Pasolini to the postmodern rephrasing of the Gazometro, can help to map Rome’s modernisation and to discard the dialectical opposition between past and present.

By adopting a quintessentially inter- and multi-disciplinary scope, we welcome proposals from a wide range of disciplines, including (but not limited to) literary and film studies, urban studies, architecture, history of art, visual culture, feminist, queer and postcolonial studies. Possible topics may include:

- Analyses of the ways in which Rome’s multistable modernity has been portrayed, visualised and interpreted in literature, cinema, visual and performing arts, from the Italian fin-de-siècle to the most recent years, also including experiences of literature and cinema di genere;

- Attempts to configure continuities and discontinuities in the process of Rome’s modernity, from 1871 to the present (e.g. after the 1871 breach of Porta Pia, the 1922 March on Rome, the 1945 liberation from Nazi-fascism, the 1968 riots at Valle Giulia, the urban sprawl and the city’s current multi-culturalization, etc.)

- Theoretical reflections on issues of narration, portrayal and urban design, with specific references to such notions as those of fragmentariness, montage, haunting and survival, as well as the relationship between history and fiction;

- Experiments in reassessing the theme of Rome within the frame of such crucial experiences in intellectual modernity as Walter Benjamin’s use of fragments, Aby Warburg’s montage of images and his conceptualisation of a new science of culture (Kulturwissenschaft), Gilles Deleuze’s conception of the cinematic image-temps, the notions of rhizome, palimpsest, haunting, anachronism, survival.