Archive for March 21st, 2023

A spring syllabus for reading a group of 20th & 21st century Italian novels and memoirs

For a course at the Oscher LifeLong Learning Institute at George Mason University
Day: Thursday afternoons, 2:15 to 3:40 pm, March 30 to May 18, 2023
F405Z Contemporary Italian Memoirs and Novels
8 sessions online (location site) : 4210 Roberts Road, Fairfax, Va 22032
Dr Ellen Moody

To begin the process of registration go to:  https://olli.gmu.edu/

Description of Course:

In this course, participants will read a group of Italian works with a view to understanding the culture, history and politics of Italy over the last hundred years or so. We’ll read Natalia Ginzburg’s memoir, The Family Lexicon (1963) which takes place in Turin and Rome before, during, and after WWII; Carlo Levi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli, a memoir of his time in exile in WWII (1947); Primo Levi’s Periodic Table (1984), a witty semi-chemical memoir; Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, the first of the Neapolitan Quartet books (2012); and poetry, essays & non-fiction life-writing, and online films (The Bicycle Thieves, Bitter Rice, & film adaptations of our books) as relevant. The course will have as subthemes Italian-Jewish writers, the holocaust and WW2, women’s and life-writing, post WW2 Italy in films.

Required Books:

Natalia Ginzburg’s Family Lexicon, translated by Jenny McPhee, afterword by Peg Boyers. New York Review of Books Classics paperback. ISBN 978-59017-838-6
Carlo Levi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli, translated by Frances Fenaye, introduction Mark Rotella. NY: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-53009-2
Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table, translated by Raymond Rosenthal. NY: Schocken Books. ISBN0-8052-1041-5
Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, translated by Ann Goldstein. NY: Europa, 2012. ISBN 978-1-60945-078-6

Format: The class will be a mix of informal lecture and group discussion. The schedule is not cast in cement; if we find we need more or less sessions for any particular text or topic, we can be flexible.

Mar 30: 1st week: Introduction: Italian Literature and history. Ginzburg & women’s writing. Begin The Family Lexicon

Apr 6: 2nd week: The Family Lexicon & excerpts (non-fiction life-writing) from The Little Virtues and A Place to Live.
Apr 13: 3rd week: Carlo Levi & WW2 & fascism. Christ Stopped at Eboli

Apr 20: 4th week: Christ Stopped at Eboli. 1943: German take-over, Willing Executioners,  the Risorgimento, roots of fascism.
Apr 27: 5th week: Holocaust Memoirs. An excerpt from Charlotte Delbo’s Auschwitz and After. Iris Origo’s Diary. Primo Levi, Post-WW 2 Italy. Begin The Periodic Table
May 4: 6th week: The Periodic Table.
May 11: 7th week: Post WW2 Italy: Neo-realistic film: Vittoria De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief (steams online at Amazon Prime, Criterion Collection &c) . Elena Ferrante & My Brilliant Friend
May 18: 8th week: My Brilliant Friend and Bitter Rice (streams online at Amazon Prime) People could watch the first season on the 2019 TV film serial, My Brilliant Friend (also on Amazon Prime, Criterion Collection &c).  Last Thoughts.

Suggested direct supplementary reading:

Boyers, Peg. Hard Bread [A memoir of the life and writing of Natalia Ginzburg through poetry]. University of Chicago Press, 2002.
Chihaya, Sarah, Merve Emre, Katherine Hill, and Jill Richardson. The Ferrante Letters: An Experiment in Collective Criticism. NY: Columbia UP, 2020.
Ginzburg, Natalia. The Little Virtues, trans. Dick Davis. NY: Arcade Press, 1985. A Place to Live and Other Selected Essays, ed, trans. Lynne Sharon Schwartz. NY: Seven Stories Press, 2002.
Gordon, Robert S, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Primo Levi. Cambridge, 2007.
Ferrante, Elena. The Lost Daughter; the other three novels of the Quartet, all trans Ann Goldstein. Europa, 2006, 2012-15.
Jeannet, A.M., and G. Sanguinetti Katz, ed. Natalia Ginzburg: A Voice of the Twentieth Century. University of Toronto Press, 2000.
Levi, Carlo. Fleeting Rome: In Search of La Dolce Vita, trans. Antony Shugaar. Padstowe, Cornwall: John Wiley & Sons, 2005. Another meditative travel-residence memoir.
Levi, Primo. Survival in Auschwitz; The Reawakening; The Drowned and the Saved. Trans Stuart Wolf. Touchstone and Einaudi. 1958, 1965, 1989.

Further list of good books by and about Italian literature & a French TV serial (germane)

Aleramo, Sibilla. A Woman, trans Rosalind Delamar. Univ of California at Berkeley. 1980
Banti, Anna (pseudonym for Lucia Lopresi). Artemisia, trans Shirley D’arcia Caracciolo. Bison (University of Nebraska), 1998.
Bojar, Karen. In Search of Elena Ferrante: The Novels and the Question of Authorship. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2018.
Bondanella, Peter and Andrea Ciccarelli, edd. The Cambridge Companion to the Italian Novel. Cambridge UP, 2003.
Baranski, Zygmunt and Rebecca West, edd. The Cambridge Companion to Modern Italian Culture. Cambridge UP, 2001
A French Village. Developed by Frederic Krivine, Phillipe Triboit. Various writers and directors. 7 year French serial set in occupied Vichy France, 1941-1946, with fast forward to 1975; 2002. Amazon prime, also to buy as DVD sets
Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s The Leopard, translated by Archibald Colquhoun, introd. Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, trans. Guido Walman. NY: Pantheon. ISBN 978-0-375-71479-5
Moorehead, Caroline.  A Bold and Dangerous Family (a history of a family who fought against fascism in Italy), A House in the Mountains: The Women Who Liberated Italy from Fascism – she has a number of books on fascism and the resistance in Europe, all very good. A Train in Winter is her most famous – it exists as an audiobook.
Origo, Iris. A Chill in the Air, An Italian War Diary, 1939-40, introd. Lucy Hughes Hallett; War in Val D’Orcia, An Italian War Diary, 1943-44, introd. Virginia Nicolson. NYRB Classics, 2017, 2018.
Ortese, Anna Maria. Evenings Descends Upon The Hills: Stories from Naples, trans Ann Goldstein and Jenny McPhee. Pushkin & New Vessel, 2018
Parks, Tim. Italian Ways, A Literary Tour of Italy. Richmond, Surrey: Alma Books, 2016.
Quasimodo, Salvatore. The selected Writings, ed., introd., trans. Allen Mandelbaum. NY: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1960.
Sullam, Simon Elvis. The Italian Executioners: The Genocide of the Jews of Italy. trans. Oona Smyth and Claudia Patane. Princeton UP, 2018
Testaferri, Ada, ed. Donna: Women in Italian Culture. University of Toronto Italian Studies. Toronto UP, 1989.
Tuck, Lily. A Woman of Rome: A Life of Elsa Morante. Harper Collins, 2008.
Weaver, William, ed. Introd. Open City. Begins with a long fine essay on literary and political life in Italy, especially in the north, and then is a book of excerpts from books by the Italian writers in Post-War Rome.

Map of Italy

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