Italian Research Seminar - "Points of View: 'The People' in the 19th-Century Italian Novel" - Roberto Dainotto (Duke)

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Location: Rare Books & Special Collections (102 Hesburgh Library)

The third meeting of the Italian Research Seminar in Spring 2020 will host a lecture by Prof. Roberto Dainotto, entitled "Points of View: 'The People' in the 19th-Century Italian Novel."

Perhaps the most essential device for the organization of the novel-form is the narrative point of view. Mikhail Bakhtin, for instance in “Discourse in the Novel" (1934-1935), maintained that “[e]very language in the novel is a point of view, a socio-ideological conceptual system of real social groups and their embodied representatives.... [A]ny point of view on the world fundamental to the novel must be a concrete, socially embodied point of view, not an abstract, purely semantic position.” György Lukács too, having discovered the particular Standpunkt of the proletariat in History and Class Consciousness of 1923, would keep defining the novel - for instance The Historical Novel in 1938 - as the “conscious and consistent application of... specifically historical viewpoints.” On closer inspection, Antonio Gramsci, only a few years earlier, had touched on a similar topic in a (somewhat cryptic) observation on the Italian novelistic tradition: "the 'point of view' of the key cannot be that of the lock". The observation opened in turn the way to a veritable taxonomy - from Manzoni's "paternalism" to Dostoevsky’s "con-science" - of the various modes for the representation of “the people" in the Italian novel. My talk is the beginning of a study of the novelistic point of view in a period that stretches from Vincenzo Cuoco's Platone in Italia (1801-1803) to Federico de Roberto's Vicerè (1894).

Roberto Dainotto is Professor of Italian and of Literature at Duke University. He is the author of the edited volume Racconti Americani del ‘900 (Einaudi, 1999); Place in Literature: Regions, Cultures, Communities (Cornell UP, 2000); Europe (in Theory) (Duke UP, 2007), winner of the 2010 Shannon Prize in Contemporary European Studies; and Mafia: A Cultural History (Reaktion Books, 2015). He is currently working on a monograph devoted to Antonio Labriola; on the intersections between meridionalismo and the Global South; and on the relation between historicism and the novel.


The Italian Research Seminar, a core event of the Center for Italian Studies, aims to provide a regular forum for faculty, postdoctoral scholars, graduate students, and colleagues from other universities to present and discuss their current research. The Seminar is vigorously interdisciplinary, and embraces all areas of Italian literature, language, and culture, as well as perceptions of Italy, its achievements and its peoples in other national and international cultures. The Seminar constitutes an important element in the effort by Notre Dame's Center for Italian Studies to promote the study of Italy and to serve as a strategic point of contact for scholarly exchange.

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