Daniela Zanini (SAS) - 2016-17 Students

Historical Traumas and Deferred Memories. The Case of Contemporary Italian Literature of Emigration

Though an estimated twenty-three million Italians left the country during the first two mass migrations, between 1861 and 1945, for almost a century a handful of literary works were published on this topic. Conversely, in the last two decades, several published prose works realistically depict the past emigration experiences of Italians. Incorporating findings of other research areas such as history, sociology and psychology, my interdisciplinary project aims to determine the possible causes, purposes and consequences of the recent literary interest in Italian emigration. I will explore whether such literary oblivion can be seen as a repression of traumatic historical events depicting poverty, distress and estrangement. I will investigate whether this literature may be an attempt to ‘work through’ trauma, i.e. to come to terms with a rejected past, and thus belatedly contribute to the recovery of a traumatised national identity. I will examine the extent to which the renewed literary interest in Italian emigration has been heightened by recent mass migration movements to Italy. Drawing on concepts and tenets of cultural memory studies, I will analyse how this corpus, through the retrieval of collective and individual memories, provides additional cognitive and cultural tools to interpret past and contemporary migration phenomena.

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