Italian Neorealism: A Cultural History
Published: July 2020© 2020
328 Pages, 6.20 x 9.10 x 1.10 in
Neorealism emerged as a cultural exchange and a field of discourse that served to shift the confines of creativity and revise the terms of artistic expression not only in Italy but worldwide. If neorealism was thus a global phenomenon, it is because of its revolutionary portrayal of a transformative moment in the local, regional, and national histories of Italy. At once guiding and guided by that transformative moment, neorealist texts took up, reflected, and performed the contentious conditions of their creation, not just at the level of narrative content but also in their form, language, and structure. Italian Neorealism: A Cultural History demonstrates how they did so through a series of representative case studies. Recounting the history of a generation of artists, this study offers fundamental insights into one of the most innovative and influential cultural moments of the twentieth century.
1. What Was Neorealism?
2. Renewal through Conservation: Neorealism after Fascism
3. Chronicle and Tragedy: The Neorealist Representation of History
4. From I to We: Neorealism’s Choral Politics
"Italian Neorealism, A Cultural History is a comprehensive theoretical study of neorealism in the context of both the criticism of its contemporaries and the judgement of history. Brilliantly researched, it will make an indispensable reference for anyone teaching the period, either in Italian literature or in cinema."William Wall, Dublin Review of Books
"As debates on the definition of neorealism will undoubtedly continue, Leavitt’s historicizing of neorealism is an essential contribution that will greatly enable our understanding of the enduring place of neorealism in Italian culture."Rebecca Bauman, Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York, Modern Italy
"This is an intelligent, well-written, and very well-documented study. It certainly will be an important point of reference in future discussions of the neorealist movement. Leavitt stakes out a vast research program that can easily stretch over an entire career. This auspicious and ambitious beginning is intrepidly undertaken, and it leaves me awaiting future studies by him."Joseph Francese, Michigan State University, Forum Italicum
"Leavitt shows a wide breadth of knowledge in archival material and demonstrates how one can revisit a movement so widely studied as neorealism without incurring in tautologies or clichés. With a wonderful apparatus of notes and bibliography, this study will definitely be a perfect tool to problematize the ‘Neorealism label’ for students as for scholars and to accept less dogmatically Italian postwar production across the arts."Stefania Lucamante, Università degli Studi di Cagliari, Annali d'Italianistica
"Leavitt’s extensive research, his accessible and moving style, and the careful delineation of his arguments are exceptional. Since he claims there is still much to say about neorealism, we can wait eagerly to see where this work will take him."Marcia Landy, University of Pittsburgh, Italian Culture
"The meticulous research that Leavitt has carried out makes this text a cornerstone of scholarship on neorealism: the reconstruction of the cultural debates that accompanied the development of the various neorealisms across the arts offers a new and stimulating approach, which will necessarily generate new critical readings of fundamental works of the Italian twentieth century."Daniele Biffanti, Allegoria
"The range and depth of the sources Charles L. Leavitt IV draws on is testimony to the hard work and fine scholarship that has produced this study. I can think of no scholar outside Italy who can draw on such an encyclopedic knowledge of the intricacies of Italian cultural and political debate in the latter half of the 1940s. And he puts it all to very good use."David Ward, Department of Italian, Wellesley College
"Charles L. Leavitt IV demonstrates total mastery of the immense literature on the subject of Italian Neorealism, both from the times when the phenomenon took shape and from contemporary sources."Luca Barattoni, Department of Languages, Clemson University
"Impeccably researched and deeply illuminating, Italian Neorealism: A Cultural History probes the networks, the histories, the ethics, and the aesthetics that made neorealism such a vibrant and also contradictory – indeed, vibrant because it was contradictory – cultural moment. Offering a bracing corrective to tired attempts that tie neorealism to dogma and definition, Leavitt proposes instead a compelling model of neorealism as an extended ‘cultural conversation,’ drawing on examples from film, novels, poetry, drama, essays, art, and architecture. In the process he captures neorealism’s variety of voice and its quite exceptional contribution to the culture of Europe’s ‘postwar.’"
Robert S.C. Gordon, Serena Professor of Italian, Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics, University of Cambridge
"In this superbly researched study, Charles L. Leavitt IV historicizes the canonization of ‘neorealismo’ by identifying the term's earlier references to interwar modernist literature, Soviet cinema, and European artistic practices. Italian Neorealism is a triumph of cultural archeology and critical clarity."
Giorgio Bertellini, Professor, Department of Film, Television, and Media, University of Michigan
- 2020 Book Prize for Visual Studies, Film and Media
American Association for Italian Studies - (Winner)
- 2021 Bridge Award – American Section – Nonfiction - (Short-listed)