Literary communication in Twentieth-century Italy

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
Learning objectives
In line with the objectives of the three-year degree course in Humanities for Communication, this course contributes to the acquisition of basic historical and theoretical competences aimed at training professionals capable of entering the world of communication, particularly in the field of publishing (especially book publishing) or cultural journalism.
The course aims to:
- provide students with the basic notions of the history of Italian literature and the history of publishing, from the early twentieth century to the early 2000s
- provide students with the basic theoretical and methodological tools to be able to interpret a literary text and a publishing product, that is the "book object" in its complexity and totality

The aim of the course therefore is to acquire historical knowledge of the development of the contemporary publishing and literary system, and to understand the methods of analysis of publishing mediation in relation to literary production, as a fundamental element in the formation of the cultural identity of contemporary Italy.
Expected learning outcomes
Students will be asked to:
- memorise the basic notions of the history of publishing and the history of Twentieth-century Italian literature
- understand the link between literary production and publishing production, both historically, on the basis of concrete examples of authors and texts (case studies), and theoretically, by understanding the methodological aspects underlying this link
- apply these historical and methodological acquisitions to the reading and interpretation of literary texts taken as case studies during the lesson; students will independently confront other texts chosen from the list proposed in the program
- analyse literary texts, demonstrating the ability to place them in their historical context, both from a literary and editorial point of view
- analyse literary texts, demonstrating the ability to read and interpret them from the point of view of their stylistic identity

Comparison with literary texts will therefore enable students to learn to move competently within one of the most complex textual constructions produced historically by man (literature), acquiring methods and critical skills that can then be used in professional contexts in which the written word is at the centre of communication dynamics.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
More specific information on the delivery modes of training activities for academic year 2021/22 will be provided over the coming months, based on the evolution of the public health situation.
Course syllabus
The first 20 lessons of the course (Editorial history of Twentieth-century Italian literature) will propose the following contents:
- history of twentieth-century Italian literature,
- coordinates of the new literary system of mature modernity, thus showing the different levels that characterise it, from the peaks of the avant-garde to the communicative compromises of entertainment literature, passing through institutional literature.

In this framework of historical and theoretical references, particular attention is paid to the novel form, the hegemonic genre of modernity and the textual structure on which are poured both the ambitions of the most sophisticated experimentalism and the aspirations of the widest readability.

Further contents:
- history of the twentieth-century publishing system, giving space to the historical developments of the profession of the publisher, of the activity and the physiognomy of those publishing houses that have represented the identity of Italian book culture (in particular literary) throughout the century,
- theoretical-methodological issues related to publishing mediation and communication and to the interpretation of the "book object".

All the historical passages, both literary and editorial, and the related theoretical-methodological issues will be exemplified in concrete terms through direct comparison with an author and with the anthological choice of a text taken from one of his works (case study).

The last 10 lessons of the course (Italo Calvino between literature and publishing) will propose the following contents

- explanation of Italo Calvino's literary and editorial activity, chronologically presenting his career as a writer (from his debut in fiction in 1947 to his death in 1985) alongside his work at the publishing house Einaudi,
- critical-interpretative reading of anthological excerpts from his main works, presented in the chronological order of their first edition and therefore analysing the original historical-publishing context in which they came to light,
- unabridged reading of Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore (1979), Italo Calvino's novel that has achieved both public and critical acclaim, becoming a 20th century classic.

The choice of Italo Calvino stems from the fact that the characteristics of his work and his character as an author (given above all his first-hand involvement in the editorial work of one of the major publishing houses of the twentieth century, Einaudi) make it possible to precipitate what was presented in the first part of the course (Editorial history of twentieth-century literature) into a further specific case study, observed this time in its entirety.
Moreover, the decision to read the entirety of Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore is due to the fact that this novel makes the publishing world its own environment and narrative object of choice, thus allowing a "look from the inside".
Prerequisites for admission
Ability to read essay contributions: critical, theoretical and methological studies or historical studies.
Ability to orientate on a bibliographic level: identification and retrieval of critical texts and literary works starting from the online OPAC and within the holdings of the University libraries or others in the area.
Teaching methods
Frontal lessons or synchronous video lessons (the latter in relation to the management of teaching in an emergency phase) with PowerPoint projections, links to web pages and prior distribution of reading materials to be used in class, these ones uploaded on the Ariel page of the course or on a Moodle (the modalities will be clarified in the classroom).
During the lessons, the historical and theoretical contents will be explained with the same structure and articulation with which they will be requested during the exam; the reading and analysis of the textual materials is a concrete and empirical example guided by the teacher of what the student will be asked to do autonomously during the exam.
Practical indications are given on how to check learning and evaluation criteria and suggestions are given on how to use the bibliography in the program for an effective preparation of the subject.

Attendance is optional but strongly recommended.
Teaching Resources
Who takes an exam for 6 CFU have to study only the first part of the program (first 20 lessons)


First 20 lessons: Editorial history of 20th century Italian literature

· the contents of the lessons

· anthological excerpts provided from lesson to lesson for commentary purposes

· Alberto Cadioli - Giuliano Vigini, Storia dell'editoria in Italia. Dall'unità a oggi, Milano, Editrice Bibliografica, 2018

· Alberto Casadei, Il Novecento. Storia della letteratura italiana /6, a cura di Andrea Battistini, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2013

· Vittorio Spinazzola, Le articolazioni del pubblico novecentesco (pp. 49-66) essay contained in the volume La modernità letteraria, Milano, il Saggiatore-Fondazione Mondadori, 2001 oppure Vittorio Spinazzola, Le coordinate del sistema letterario (pp. 85-98) essay contained in the volume L'esperienza della lettura, Milano, Unicopli, 2009

· One title of your choice from this first group of volumes (each to be read with the introductory essay, when present):
- Luigi Pirandello, Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio operatore, Oscar Mondadori o Feltrinelli
- Aldo Palazzeschi, Il codice di Perelà. Romanzo futurista (edizione 1911), Oscar Mondadori
- Piero Jahier, Con me e con gli alpini (edizione 1918), Torino, Claudiana
- Giuseppe Antonio Borgese, Rubè, Oscar Mondadori
- Svevo, La coscienza di Zeno, Oscar Mondadori
- Alberto Moravia, Gli indifferenti, Tascabili Bompiani
- Cesare Pavese, Paesi tuoi, Tascabili Einaudi
- Cesare Pvese, La luna e i falò, Tascabili Einaudi
- Elio Vittorini, Conversazione in Sicilia, BUR / Tascabili Bompiani
- Elio Vittorini, Uomini e no, Oscar Mondadori
- Beppe Fenoglio, I ventitre giorni della città di Alba, Tascabili Einaudi
- Beppe Fenoglio, Una questione privata, Tascabili Einaudi
- Vasco Pratolini, Metello, BUR
- Pier Paolo Pasolini, Ragazzi di vita, Tascabili Garzanti

· One title of your choice from this second group of volumes (each to be read with the introductory essay, when present):
- Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Il Gattopardo, Tascabili Feltrinelli
- Giorgio Bassani, Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini, Tascabili Feltrinelli
- Carlo Cassola, La ragazza di Bube, Oscar Mondadori
- Natalia Ginzburg, Lessico famigliare, Tascabili Einaudi
- Carlo Emlio Gadda, Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana, Adelphi
- Carlo Emilio Gadda, La cognizione del dolore, Adelphi
- Lucio Mastronardi, Il calzolaio di Vigevano, Tascabili Einaudi (edizione con altri testi)
- Paolo Volponi, Memoriale, Tascabili Einaudi
- Edoardo Sanguineti, Capriccio italiano, Feltrinelli (da cercare in biblioteca)
- Nanni Balestrini, Vogliamo tutto, Oscar Mondadori
- Elsa Morante, La Storia, Tascabili Einaudi
- Umberto Eco, Il nome della rosa, Bompiani o La Nave di Teseo
- Pier Vittorio Tondelli, Altri libertini, Tascabili Feltrinelli
- Ammanniti, Brancaccio e altri, Gioventù cannibale, Einaudi Stile Libero

Lessons 21-30: Italo Calvino between literature and publishing

· the contents of the lessons

· Mario Barenghi, Calvino, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2009

· Alberto Cadioli, La militanza editoriale di Italo Calvino, chapter 9 (pp. 245-288) contained in the volume Letterati editori. Attività editoriale e modelli letterari nel Novecento, Milano, Il Saggiatore, 2017

· Isotta Piazza, Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore, chapter V (pp. 195-232) contained in the volume I personaggi lettori nell'opera di Italo Calvino, Milano, Unicopli, 2009 oppure Claudio Milanini, La rivincita del lettore, capitolo VI (pp. 148-169) contained in the volume L'utopia discontinua, Milano, Garzanti, 1995

· Italo Calvino, Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore, Oscar Mondadori

· a book of your choice from among the works of Italo Calvino, all published in the Oscar Mondadori series (each to be read with the introductory essay, when present):
- Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno
- I racconti
- I nostri antenati
- Tutte le cosmicomiche (solo le parti intitolate Le Cosmicomiche e Ti con zero, le quali sono acquistabili anche in due volumi separati)
- Le città invisibili
- Il castello dei destini incrociati


Below is the complete program with ALL the texts to be prepared.

Part one: Editorial history of 20th century Italian literature

· Donald McKenzie, Bibliography and the sociology of texts, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999

· Ian Watt, The rise of the novel, Berkeley - Los Angeles, University of California, 2001 (chapters 1, 2, 6)

· Robert S. C., Gordon, An introduction to Twentieth-century Italian literature: a difficult modernity, London, Duckworth, 2005

Part Two: Italo Calvino between literature and publishing

· Italo Calvino, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (any edition)

· Martin McLaughlin, Italo Calvino, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1998
Assessment methods and Criteria
Assessment method: oral test
Type: oral questioning structured as an interview with the teacher on the topics envisaged in the program; in particular, starting with questions that cover the main contents and topics dealt with in the lesson, the interview will be structured in more or less in-depth directions depending on the student's ability to argue and analyse
Assessment parameters: the student must demonstrate:
- knowledge of the history of literature and publishing in Twentieth-century Italy
- have understood the dynamics of literary and publishing system in Twentieth-century Italy
- have acquired an adequate and effective ability to analyse the literary text and the "book object" that conveys it
- to know and be able to critically analyse the case studies presented in class, both the anthological ones in the first part of the course and the complete one in the second part
- have read and be able to critically analyse the theses read independently
- be able to express themselves correctly and appropriately in relation to the topics dealt with, using the specific critical terminology
- be able to link and rework the content presented in class and/or in the volumes and essays on the program.

Type of evaluation used: grade in thirtieths. The exam is passed with 18/30.
Unita' didattica A
Lessons: 20 hours
Unita' didattica B
Lessons: 20 hours
Unita' didattica C
Lessons: 20 hours