October 14-16, 2022
A conference co-organized by University of Notre Dame and University College Cork
Ruins and Rubble in Post-War Italy
Ruins and rubble, signifiers of a material relationship with both time and space, have captured the imagination of writers, artists and thinkers for centuries. In Italy, the prevalence of classical ruins has tended to dominate artistic and literary representations, from the Middle Ages up to the nineteenth century. The importance of ruins and rubble in the culture, thought, and politics of the twentieth century, however, has received relatively little scholarly attention. This conference and subsequent edited volume examine how the reflection on ruins and rubble—both ancient and modern—shaped and was shaped by the world conflicts, dramatic economic fluctuations, widespread social movements, and unprecedented industrial and technological developments of the twentieth century. Reading the city and the built environment as the physical reflection of socio-historical conditions and events, the conference participants will examine ruins and rubble that result from conflict and its destructive nature, as well as those produced by the passage of time, environmental degradation or neglect.
Given the continued presence in Italian cities of the material traces of Italy’s long history and the peninsula’s strategic position in the Mediterranean, which rendered it subject to invasions by diverse populations, its urban environments represent unique temporal and material stratifications.
Ruined monuments can be considered remnants of Italy’s bids for colonial power or, conversely, as relics of its defeat; such material vestiges are woven into the urban fabric and are deeply imbricated in discourses of both memory and oblivion. The question remains as to what urban planners and communities are to do with such ruins and rubble. How do urban communities interact with sites of ruination viewed as less aesthetically pleasing, such as abandoned industrial sites and factories? Will—can—ruins and rubble return to nature? Moreover, while ruins and rubble commonly signify a complex relationship with the past and memory, what implications do they have for the future, when envisioning urban reconstruction or regeneration?
This conference – the result of a collaboration between Italianists at the University of Notre Dame and University College Cork – brings together international scholars at various career stages from diverse institutions in the US, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada and Italy, including Bard College, University of London, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Toronto, Università degli Studi di Udine, University of Cambridge, College of William and Mary, Newcastle University, Brown University. Harnessing relevant critical theories and diverse methodologies, scholars will address ruins in Italian culture from multiple disciplinary perspectives, including but not limited to art history, architecture, history, geography, film studies, and literary studies. Critical approaches draw on geocriticism, environmental humanities, ecocriticism, posthumanism, trauma and memory studies, postcolonial theory, conflict theory, and the spatial humanities.