‘Wretched’ and ‘humilated’? Writing agency into history

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Stefania Sandrelli as Agnese in the 1964 film ‘Seduced and Abandoned’

Despite having probably hundreds of ideas that I meant to blog about I have written barely anything for this blog lately. Partly that’s because I’ve been busily writing up my research and trying to cobble together the first draft of a book manuscript. However as I begin to revise some of those chapters, I’m thinking again about how I approach the people I research and write about.

During the summer I spent some time researching and writing about honour crime and forced marriages in 1960s Sicily. I’m still hoping to blog about that research more soon. However at the moment I’m reflecting more generally on the Sicilian women I encounter in my research and how I can capture their subjective experiences in my writing. read more

The Great Beauty: Reflections on Berlusconi’s Rome?

UnknownI went to see La Grande Bellezza a couple of weeks ago, and meant to put up the review much sooner than this. Seeing that the film has just been chosen by Italy as the national candidate for Best Language Film at the 2014 Oscars, I figured it was still sort of timely.

After I’d seen the film, I remember leaving the cinema thinking that I liked it, even though I wasn’t entirely sure why. The film is a loud, sprawling epic about Rome, and Italy, with barely any plot; in a device that echoed Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, it follows Gep, an ageing writer who no longer writes, as he wanders around his city. read more

Love in the time of miracles

The following advice was given to a reader of the popular Italian magazine Grand Hotel who wrote in 1955 with the pseudonym ‘Gone with the wind’, and it manages to capture in a few words, the complex meanings and expectations associated with love and marriage in 1950s Italy.

“It wouldn’t have been very nice of you to marry (the first man) just to have a comfortable life. As for the other one, if he really loved you and had serious intentions, he would be able to persuade his parents to break his obligation. Be careful then dear, (…) neither a marriage of convenience nor a clandestine relationship with a man who is engaged to another. You’ll be left with empty hands and a bitter smile.” read more