To be specified published in:Landscapes of Realism: Rethinking literary realism in comparative perspectives. Volume I: Mapping realism
Edited by Dirk Göttsche, Rosa Mucignat and Robert Weninger
[Comparative History of Literatures in European Languages XXXII] 2021
► pp. 531–549
Madame Bovary in Italy
Forms of realism in the late nineteenth-century Italian novel
The final thirty years of the nineteenth century – which coincide with the first decades of the unified Italy – are the golden age of the Italian novel: for the first time ‘Italian’ and ‘novel’ combined to produce an “authentically Italian novel” (Asor Rosa). This extremely rich period is characterized by lively debates and great experimentation as well as by two main elements: the adoption, almost universally, of the realist mode, and the reference to French literature as a model. This chapter looks, first, at Franco-Italian cultural transfer; then it analyzes the influence that Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary had in Italian literary practice and in the rise of Italian realism. I pay special attention to four realist novels which reworked the bovarystic theme and explored the ‘dangers’ of novel-reading. I argue that in the age of realism the woman reader character becomes a self-reflexive device which enables the novel to reflect critically on its status, fictional and illusory, on its function and its readership, real and implied. My case studies offer a sample of the forms of realism in the late nineteenth-century Italian novel and address the following questions: the issue of morality in the novel (Antonio Fogazzaro’s Malombra, 1881), the ambivalent power of fiction (Matilde Serao’s Fantasia, 1884), the difficult legacy of romanticism (Federico De Roberto’s L’illusione, 1891), and the adoption of realist poetics (Marco Praga, La biondina, 1893).
Keywords: realism, bovarysme, woman readers, morality and literature, Franco-Italian cultural transfer, romanticism, Verismo, naturalism
- 1.The novel in post-unification Italy
Madame Bovary in Italy
- 2.1French novels: “Malombra” (1881) by Antonio Fogazzaro
- 2.2Too much imagination: “Fantasia” (1883) by Matilde Serao
- 2.3Against romanticism: “L’illusione” (1891) by Federico De Roberto
- 2.4The end of the didactic function of literature: “La biondina” (1893) by Marco Praga
Published online: 21 April 2021
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