Continuities and Discontinuities of Italian Modernism between the 1930s and the 1950s

Organiser: Giorgia Ghersi (University of Pisa); Chairs: Guido Bartolini (Ghent University)

The idea of the persistence of modernist traits throughout 20th-century Italian literature is still highly debated among scholars. In our panel, we would like to consider Modernism as a continuum that runs undercurrent and often resurfaces as a result of the dynamics of the literary field. Our starting hypothesis is that some features of Modernism re-emerge patchily throughout the 20th century, even in authors and texts that are considered generally as belonging to different literary traditions. We aim to adopt a flexible approach that takes into account primarily the intersections between different historiographical and literary phenomena. In particular, the 1930s and 1940s represent a perfect case study. Indeed, these decades, which have traditionally been read through the problematic label of Neorealism, risk appearing as a sort of in-between period, following High Modernism and coming just before Neomodernism. Taking into account this broad set of questions, our talks will analyse the interplay between modernist and realist poetics in different authors and texts. In particular, we aim to look at debut works written by some of the main representatives of Neorealism in order to verify if and how we can find an enduring influence of Modernism. Among others, we will consider Conversazione in Sicilia, Paesi tuoi, Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno and La malora. The analysis of these texts will show that between the end of the 1930s and the early 1950s there is an assimilation of modernist grammar, which shows both persistence and disruptions. On the one hand, key devices of Modernism begin to be normalised and increasingly used in a mimetic direction; on the other hand, novelists’ stances are marked by the conflictual relationship between the modernist conception of the autonomy of art and the emerging idea of heteronomy. Some topics we will consider in this respect are: the construction of the author’s voice; the point of view of the author and characters; poetics statements; hierarchies and power relationships at work in the literary field.


Giorgia Ghersi (University of Pisa) – Unframed Modernism: Fausta Cialente’s Natalia

Michela Rossi Sebastiano (Università degli Studi di Siena) – Carlo Bernari’s Tre operai: The Modernist Structure of a Neorealist Novel

Niccolò Amelii (University G. D’Annunzio of Chieti-Pescara) – Workers and Builders: Tre operai by Bernari and Quartiere Vittoria by Dèttore Between Modernist Realism and Expressionism

Alessandro De Laurentiis (University of Pisa) – Modernist Persistence in Vittorini’s Piccola borghesia

Michele Maiolani (University of Cambridge) – Calvino’s Early Short Stories: A Modernist Debut?

Erica Bellia (University of Cambridge) – “Una perfetta allegoria”: A (Neo?)Modernist Re-Reading of Ennio Flaiano’s Tempo di uccidere and Lalla Romano’s Le Metamorfosi