The Italian Gothic and Fantastic: Encounters and Rewritings of Narrative Traditions

The Italian Gothic and Fantastic: Encounters and Rewritings of Narrative Traditions

The Italian Gothic and Fantastic: Encounters and Rewritings of Narrative Traditions

The Italian Gothic and Fantastic: Encounters and Rewritings of Narrative Traditions


This volume investigates modes of the reception, rewriting, and appropriation of the gothic and the fantastic in Italy in the late nineteenth century and the second half of the twentieth century. It articulates the ways in which Italian writers both undermined the narrative spaces created by realist narration and introduced agnoseological dimension centered on a disempowered and disjointed subjectivity. It argues that both in their breaking of nineteenth- and twentieth-century aesthetic and literary paradigms and in their radical questioning of personal, collective, ideological, and literary identities, the gothic and the fantastic become forces of subversion. The identity resulting from this hermeneutic engagement is defined not by coincidence, but by difference: both collective and subjective identities must activate a process of negotiation that has to assimilate the Other in the spaces between the real and the unreal. Meanwhile, by assimilating the Other into our own modes of representation of reality and imagination, twentieth century female writers of the fantastic show how alternative identities can be shaped and social constituencies can be challenged.


In uno, nessuno E centomila luigi PIRANDELLO’S hero discovers that others, his own wife included, see him very differently from how he sees himself; “in altri occhi” to pick up another phrase of his. That basic realization is a recipe for strangeness; another way to look at oneself and to posit the subject in his/her relationship to what he/she is not … or not yet. It also underlies the paradigm of the present anthology; another way—and a national one—of investigating what the anglophone world loosely terms: fantasy, a term that encompasses all productions whose kinship is their antirealist stance in the broad spectrum of genres or modes.

In a book about Italian gothic, readers will immediately remember the eighteenth-century fascination of the English terrorist school for Southern and Catholic purlieus—as if a repressed connection, in a tit-for-tat sort of reflex, was resurfacing to appropriate some reputedly Northern sensibility to the dark … Italy as the privileged locus of other-worldliness, from Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto to Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun, and Henry James following suit with his Portrait of a Lady and, after Merimés La Vénus d’Ille, probing harrowing returns in his Last of the Valerii. Crossing over to get a “room with a view,” as E. M. Forster would have it, dies hard: Venice as the ur-text of the uncanny; in direct generic terms with Daphne Du Maurier’s thrilling novella Don’t Look Now; or more indirectly, in Ian McEwan’s extraordinary neo-vampiric novel, The Comfort of Strangers.

Co-editor Francesca Billiani lines up the inaugural concepts of “reception, rewriting, and appropriation,” the Italian selfdomesticating the foreign Other with a view to rejuvenating itself and reactivating a latent or dormant potential in a wider European context.

The process of reappropriation is in itself thought-provoking in its dialectic of repetition and renewal. Remarkably, the present collection very much revamps the libertarian drive of the imagi-

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