Irresistible Signs: The Genius of Language and Italian National Identity
Published: February 2011© 2011
368 Pages, 6.25 x 9.25 x 1.00 in
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Language is now understood as a key component of cultural identity, but discourses on linguistic nationalism are only a few centuries old. In Irresistible Signs, Paola Gambarota investigates the connection between Italian language and national identity over four hundred years, from late-Renaissance linguistic theories to nineteenth-century nationalist myths.
Challenging the consensus that linguistic nationalism originated with nineteenth century German philosophers, Irresistible Signs advances a more nuanced theory of how culture and language become inextricably linked through literary and rhetorical elements. Gambarota combines Anglo-American theories of the nation with the most advanced Italian scholarship on language ideology and delves into ideas from Giambattista Vico, Giacomo Leopardi, and Melchiorre Cesarotti. Irresistible Signs also explores how images of national communities are represented within vernaculars, affirming their influence in shaping contemporary models of monolingual nationhood.
- Scripts of vernaculars and collective characters in early modern Europe
- Ut lingua, natio: Dominique Bouhours’ genius of the nation and Ludovico Antonio Muratori’s Italian republic of letters
- Giambattista Vico, the vernacular, and the foundations of modern Italy
- Translating genius: Cesarotti, Ossian, and the question of national character
- Toward sameness: Leopardi’s critique of character and the end of the nation
- Irresistible signs? A postscript and the question of media
'A captivating dialogic approach invites the reader to consider the Italian discourse on language and the national body in relation to those by other European intellectuals from the 1600s through the 1800s, as well as to contemporary theories of the nation. Exhibiting an impressive command of theoretical work, Gambarota's discussions are exceptionally engaging and rich with insights that create new critical perspectives for a variety of fields of inquiry. This highly original work is a significant contribution within and beyond the sphere of Italian studies.' The MLA's Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies 2010 Selection Committee
'Irresistible Signs rigorously examines how the relationship between language and nation has been theorized by Italian thinkers over the course of four centuries. Paola Gambarota firmly situates each author analysed within the larger context of humanist, Enlightenment, and Romantic philosophical currents and balances broad concepts with insightful close readings. Meticulously researched and clearly written, Gambarota's study unpacks the urgent central question of the ideological chains that link the qualities of the "mother tongue" to the essential character of those who speak it.' Maria Truglio, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, Pennsylvania State University
- Scaglione Publication Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies - (Winner)
- American Association for Italian Studies Book Prize - (Winner)