Until quite recently neorealism, a set of largely European cultural practices including but not limited to prose narrative, film,
poetry, and theater, was considered the post-World War II artistic expression of the Resistance experience. The desire to recapture all the while refashioning what Giovanni Verga* first outlined in the preface to his I Malavoglia (The house by the medlar tree, 1881)—a landmark of naturalism and realism—as the literary attempt to sincerely and dispassionately depict human life, was seen as the postwar corrective to a Fascist aesthetic that reified the representation of class and gender roles. Through more direct political engagement and the depiction of a more active class dynamic, neorealism was also thought to have corrected the social passivity of verismo.
The political engagement of the neorealist school, however, is seriously impugned if it can be demonstrated, as recent
criticism tries to, that the period of neorealism does not coincide precisely with the Resistance movement of the late 1930s, but includes the efforts of some young self-avowed Fascist writers in Italy and elsewhere, Russian novelists of the twenties, and German novelists of the early thirties. Authors of such different stripes may display clear ideological content in their work, but the ‘‘resistance’’ they are said to enact differs so radically as to question the category of resistance tout court.
The disputes of critical reception notwithstanding, there exists a coherence to representation in and production of neorealist artifacts. Saying that the brand of political engagement differs with regard to its sociocultural specificity does not void these works of political content, for political concern and action do characterize many neorealist works.
While not hostile to a feminist inquiry, the topic of neorealism is not entirely congenial to feminist concerns either. Few names of women writers, for example, appear in the roll call of neorealist writers. Cornerstones of the received notion of neorealist prose narrative include—in order of publication—Ignazio Silone’s Vino e pane (Bread and wine, 1937), Elio Vittorini’s Conversazione in Sicilia (Conversation in Sicily, 1941), Carlo Levi’s Cristo si e` fermato a Eboli (Christ stopped at Eboli, 1945), Italo Calvino*’s Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno
(The path to the nest of spiders, 1947), several of Vasco Pratolini’s novels, especially Cronache di poveri amonti (Chronicle of poor lovers, 1947) and Me-tello (1955), and Cesare Pavese*’s La luna e i falo (The moon and the bonfires, 1951). One might also include Renata Vigano`*’s L’Agnese va a morire, Elsa Morante’s La storia, and some short fiction by Natalia Ginzburg.
These works comment on the conditions of real people in actual places engaging, to varying degrees, in political acts. Sometimes, as in the case of the works by Morante, Pavese, and Calvino, there is a concern for mythopoeia.
Neorealist cinema includes films by Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti, and Giuseppe De Santis, among others. Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1944–1945) weaves the stories of several lives (a partisan leader, his mistress, his priest-comrade, and a working-class woman), positioning them in front of the backdrop of occupied Rome. Filmed in spartan conditions, Rome, Open City (which tends to vilify female sexuality) actually embodies and enacts resistance; the story of its production is legendary and canon-making. A comparison between Open City and Paisa`, (1946), six episodes staged throughout peninsular Italy in the throes of the civil war, shows what a difference a year makes. Both films exemplify the neorealist tendency to work against the grain of an Eisensteinian aesthetic of montage, opting instead for longer shots happening in a ‘‘real time’’ consonant with the desire to represent more accurately lived lives; Paisa`, however, is certainly more crafted and artful than its predecessor. Through the studied use of nonprofessional actors in his films, most notably Il ladro di biciclette (The bicycle thief, 1948) (in which, incidentally, the mother’s absence is conspicuous) and Umberto D. (1951), De Sica attempts to attain an even greater degree of lived authenticity. Other films thought to represent the neorealist phase include Rossellini’s Germania anno zero (Germany year zero, 1947), De Sica’s Sciuscia` (1946), Visconti’s La terra trema (The earth trembles, 1948), and De Santis’s Riso amaro (Bitter rice, 1949). Women were largely absent in neorealist cinematic production, apart from the star turns of important actresses such as Anna Magnani and Silvana Mangano, and apart from Suso Cecchi D’Amico’s assistance behind the cameras.
See also: Film; Novel: Realist.
Bibliography: Asor Rosa, Alberto. ‘‘Il neorealismo.’’ In Storia d’Italia. Torino: Giulio Einaudi, 1975. Vol. 4, pt. 2: 1604–14; Marcus, Millicent. Italian Film in the Light of Neorealism. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1986; Re, Lucia. Calvino and the Age of Neorealism: Fables of Estrangement. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990; Ben-Ghiat, Ruth. ‘‘Neorealism in Italy, 1930–50: From Fascism to Resistance.’’ Romance Languages Annual 3 (1991): 155–59; Jewell, Keala. The Poiesis of History: Experimenting with Genre in Postwar Italy. Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1992; Bon-danella, Peter. Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present. New York: Continuum, 1994; Reich, Jacqueline. ‘‘Reading, Writing, and Rebellion: Col-
Lectivity, Specularity, and Sexuality in the Italian Schoolgirl Comedy, 1934– 43.’’ In Mothers of Invention: Women, Italian Fascism, and Culture. Ed. Robin Pickering-Iazzi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995. 220–46.
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Vigano`, Renata (1900–1976) Novelist, poet, journalist, and essayist, Renata Vigano` began her precocious literary career with two volumes of poetry. Her most influential work, however, remains L’Agnese va a morire (1949), a novel that tells the story of Agnese, a working-class woman who joins the partisans. Winner of the 1949 Viareggio prize, the novel is a paradigmatic neo-realist Film Film-going was the principal source of popular entertainment in Italy from 1930 to 1970. It reached staggering figures in the 1950s, when movie theaters drew the largest crowds in Europe. At this pivotal time in Italian postwar history, when the country was shifting from a predominantly agricultural economy to a modern industrial one, film-viewing became Maraini, Dacia (1936–) Since her literary debut and success in 1962 with the novel La vacanza (The vacation), Dacia Maraini has become the most prolific and well-known Italian feminist writer, poet, critic, and activist both in Italy and abroad. Founder or cofounder of several experimental theater groups, including the feminist group La Maddalena in Rome, Maraini is the A Bronx Tizzle Sample essay topic, essay writing: A Bronx Tizzle - 476 words
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