De Amicis in America: The Point of No Return
In the cultural panorama of late 19th century Italy, Edmondo De Amicis emerges as one of the writers who were most aware of the gravity of the Italian “social question” and who were most actively concerned with it. However, in the past few decades, some militant critics have attacked De Amicis’ writings – mainly the ones where the author gets more involved with social issues. Cuore in particular, De Amicis’ most widely known work, has suffered the most critiques – the harshest ones appearing during the 1960s and ‘70s (Umberto Eco’s and Arbasino’s being the most famous ones).
After so much controversy, a re-reading of De Amicis’ novel has therefore become difficult and necessary at the same time. This is true not only because of the historical importance of this work, which has influenced generations of Italians – having been passed down not only as a book for children and young teens, but also in school texts and, more recently, through cartoons and TV series. Nowadays, in fact, De Amicis’ novel has acquired a new dimension of up-to-dateness, due to the very particular social and emotional situation of today’s Italy – since one of the main themes informing this work is precisely the relationship between Italy and the Italians.
My paper will focus on a re-reading of some excerpts from De Amicis’ Cuore (the monthly tales on emigration) in the light of Sull’oceano, the travel book he wrote after a trip to South America, during which the author discovered the dimension of Italian emigration abroad and converted to engaged literature
Cinzia DiGiulio (United States)
Department of Modern Languages
Born in Brescia, Italy, in 1961. Moved to the US in 1988 and to Massachusetts in 1999.
Person as Subject
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)