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Here is an expanded description of the 2014 MLA session on Italian Difference
This session invite contributions that explore the extent to which literary texts support the critical categories of impurity and hybridization that the thought of Italian Difference has put forth.
The concept of difference has enjoyed a great deal of attention in Italian and European cultures, from différance to the feminist thought of gender difference. Without necessarily excluding them, this session aims to go beyond such formulations.
Recent works by Giorgio Agamben, Remo Bodei (2004 and 2009), Roberto Esposito (2010, Engl. 2012), Maurizio Ferraris (2012), Lorenzo Chiesa and Alberto Toscano (2009), all strive, albeit in varied manners, to broaden and exemplify a new concept of Italian Difference that includes also a new perspective on literature that emphasizes the resourceful hybridization of the Italian.
As Remo Bodei has observed, since the Middle Ages one of the distinctive historical traits of Italian literature has been, in kind with its rhetorical penchant, a cognitive and even practical drive: to recall Gianfranco Contini’s famed formulation, it has often understood literary style as a “mode of knowledge.” Niccolò Machiavelli, Gianbattista Vico, and Giacomo Leopardi may be the best-known examples of this strand. Contini (1973) coined the controversial category of “linea espressionistica” of Italian literature precisely to accommodate hardly categorizable “fuoriserie” [one-of-the-kind authors] such as Carlo Emilio Gadda and Roberto Longhi. As Contini’s classification was considered mostly linguistic in character, it was quickly dismissed when the “linguistic turn” withered away under the sway of post-modernism. But alongside the allegedly linguistic category, Contini had also questioned the appropriateness of the alternative of “either reading or commentinga text.” With that in mind, he devised the adjacent concept of “scrittori in funzione d’altro” to bring forth the theoretical and practical breadth of 20th century Italian authors and the nature of works that are constantly crossing disciplinary and genre-related boundaries.
The use of an interdisciplinary approach and the combination of different comparative analysis are encouraged. Possible topics are, but not limited to:
- adaptation and profanation vs. rendition in literature/cinema/theater
- discussions of new critical aspects of the Italian formalist and historicist traditions
- experiments that open up to the future of literary genres and media
- gender as contamination in literature, cinema, and theater
- problematizing the distinction between high-brow and pop culture
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