Bodies in crisis : fascism, modernism and Italian literary production / by Natasha Vera Chang.
During the years of the fascist regime in Italy (1922–43), the project of forging new bodies and identities came to the forefront of Italian culture. Fascism's promise of creating a unified nation from disparate groups of people, rested in large part on the premise that nation building began by building the bodies of individuals. However, the regime's anxious and pervasive concern with controlling bodies on both a literal and ideological level called into question the stability of the ideals it advanced. Into the 1930s and 1940s, the body building that went on under fascism was increasingly inscribed within the framework of an “economy of crisis”. Starting from fascism's economy of crisis, its obsessive concern with the rupture of barriers between categories such as self/other, inside/outside, private/public, individual/state, this dissertation studies articulations of the body in crisis in modernist literature produced under the fascist regime. While the majority of scholarship on fascism and the body examines fascist artifacts themselves, my work instead focuses on representations of the body in crisis as put forth by writers who have been understood to have an affiliation with the political left. I discuss three major novels of the early twentieth-century Italian modernist panorama: Alberto Moravia's Gli indifferenti (1929), Carlo Emilio Gadda's La cognizione del dolore (1938–1941), and Gianna Manzini's Tempo innamorato (1928). I use the body in crisis as a focalizing concept that allows me to address questions such as: To what extent do these authors map out a potential locus of resistance to the fascist body politic? To what extent are they complicit in dominant myths and ideologies? Why have certain authors been read as antifascist? My claim is that the body is not simply the site where an economy of crisis get played out, but is itself the problem insofar as meaning and knowledge about it are produced in new ways during the first part of the twentieth century. My argument is that thinking through the category of the body can bring to light the complex and often contradictory ways in which literary texts may simultaneously resist and build upon fascist ideology.
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