Revisionary Identities: Strategies of Empowerment in the Writing of Italian/American Women

Revisionary Identities: Strategies of Empowerment in the Writing of Italian/American Women

Revisionary Identities: Strategies of Empowerment in the Writing of Italian/American Women

Revisionary Identities: Strategies of Empowerment in the Writing of Italian/American Women

Synopsis

Mary Ann Vigilante Mannino is Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Temple University.

Excerpt

In order to understand the writers and their task, it is important to know something about the social and historical conditions in Italy at the time of the mass exodus of southern Italians. It is important to know who these immigrants were, what they knew, and what they valued.

In 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi, a northern Italian from Nice, which at the time was part of Piedmont, liberated the region south of Rome—the Mezzogiorno from two hundred years of Bourbon tyranny. That area, with its seven distinct regions, was to produce eighty percent of all Italians who came to the United States. When it was united with the recently formed northern Kingdom of Italy, the modern nation of Italy was formed.

Four hundred years of Spanish and Bourbon domination had kept the Mezzogiorno isolated and poor. The vast majority of its inhabitants, as much as ninety-six percent of the population in some areas, were peasants who lived in medieval conditions of squalor and ignorance (Amfitheatrof, 147—148). Mangione tells us, “The family of modest means, not poor, ate meat twice a year: chicken or a capon for Christmas, a roasted kid for Easter” (Mangione and Morreale, 38). There was no plumbing, no electricity, and no compulsory public education. Most homes had an oven, but the very poor cooked outside on stone piles; the means of transportation was the donkey.

Unification failed to provide southerners with either participation in the new government or with improved economic or social conditions. There was a tremendous class difference between the southern peasants and the educated middle-class northerners. After the unification, an official Italian language developed, and the languages of the southern peasants were denigrated. An Italian's worth was immediately determined by that person's ability to speak standard Italian.

The government in Turin allowed gross inequities to be thrust on southern farm workers. Absentee landowners dictated the terms of all contracts . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.