Ann Hallamore Caesar, Gabriella Romani, and Jennifer Burns, Eds. the Printed Media in Fin-De-Siecle Italy. Publishers, Writers, and Readers

By Salsini, Laura A. | Italica, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Ann Hallamore Caesar, Gabriella Romani, and Jennifer Burns, Eds. the Printed Media in Fin-De-Siecle Italy. Publishers, Writers, and Readers


Salsini, Laura A., Italica


Ann Hallamore Caesar, Gabriella Romani, and Jennifer Burns, eds. The Printed Media in Fin-de-siecle Italy. Publishers, Writers, and Readers. Italian Perspectives 21. London: Modern Humanities Research Association and Maney Pub., 2011.

This collection of essays offers a valuable and innovative perspective on the post-Unification period, examining how the culture industry--as represented by printed media--helped modernize Italy. The interlude between Italy's birth as a nation state and its entry into World War I has recently received much needed critical attention from socio-cultural and literary historians. This collection cogently illustrates how the emerging study of material culture can illuminate fundamental discussions on the development of a national identity. These discussions remain ongoing, as the editors point out that "some of the core questions connected to Italy's struggle throughout the nineteenth century to affirm itself as a modern nation remain unresolved" (4).

The first section of the book opens with John Davis's essential essay contextualizing the volume as a whole by examining Italy's printing industry. Disputing the conventional theory regarding Italy's alleged inferiority in this arena, Davis instead traces the lineage between the early Unification period and the end of the century, when the country had built up a substantial print media that eventually served both upper and working class interests. Maria Grazia Lolla's essay looks at how writers and publishers believed reading habits could transform society, especially in times of social unrest. Libraries and their volume count, as well as literacy rates, became important markers of social progress, especially as readership grew.

In the second section, which focuses on cultural productions of print media, Joseph Luzzi addresses the role and language of money in Verga's novels. In this fascinating article, Luzzi ties the questione della lingua irrevocably to the questione della lira. He examines how the new standardized banknotes became easily readable texts for all social and economic classes. Olivia Santovetti examines De Roberto's L'Illusione and its "meta-reflection on literature and writing" (50). In particular, Santovetti looks at how authors regarded the new constituency of female readers, often displaying an ambivalence that carried over into their attitude toward the genre of the novel itself.

Three Fiorentine periodicals--II Regno, La Voce, and Lacerba--revealed a schizophrenic approach to publishing, writes Francesca Billiani in her essay. These periodicals, active between 1903 and 1914, were torn between artistic aspirations and the "distrazioni del mercato editoriale" (64). All three, under the guidance of innovative editors and publishers, hoped to create a class of socially-aware and involved readers, using a language and approach that would welcome all classes. Luca Somigli, in his review of F. T. Marinetti's periodical Poesia, traces a profound shift in the way the Futurist founder located the contribution of Italian culture to the European poetic tradition. Through the pages of this periodical, Marinetti moves from first aligning Italian poetry with French Symbolism to a revelation of its own unique literary pedigree.

The third part of the volume looks specifically at publishers and journals and the role they played developing Italy's print industry. Silvia Valisa posits that a broad array of interests helped the Milanese publishing house Sonzogno achieve its position as a major influence in the development of a national culture during the post-Unification period. Sonzogno's daily newspaper Il Secolo, founded in 1866, was the first Italian newspaper to have foreign correspondents. …

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