Italian Children’s Literature and National Identity: Childhood, Melancholy, Modernity, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Italian Children’s Literature and National Identity

Childhood, Melancholy, Modernity, 1st Edition

By Maria Truglio


208 pages

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Paperback: 9780367346386
pub: 2019-07-17
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Hardback: 9781138243408
pub: 2017-07-20
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pub: 2017-07-20
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This book bridges the fields of Children’s Literature and Italian Studies by examining how turn-of-the-century children’s books forged a unified national identity for the new Italian State. Through contextualized close readings of a wide range of texts, Truglio shows how the 19th-century concept of recapitulation, which held that ontogeny (the individual’s development) repeats phylogeny (the evolution of the species), underlies the strategies of this corpus. Italian fairy tales, novels, poems, and short stories imply that the personal development of the child corresponds to and hence naturalizes the modernizing development of the nation. In the context of Italy’s uneven and ambivalent modernization, these narrative trajectories are enabled by a developmental melancholia. Using a psychoanalytic lens, and in dialogue with recent Anglophone Children’s Literature criticism, this study proposes that national identity was constructed via a process of renouncing and incorporating paternal and maternal figures, rendered as compulsory steps into maturity and modernity. With chapters on the heroic figure of Garibaldi, the Orientalized depiction of the South, and the role of girls in formation narratives, this book discloses how melancholic itineraries produced gendered national subjects. This study engages both well-known Italian texts, such as Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio and De Amicis’ Heart, and books that have fallen into obscurity by authors such as Baccini, Treves, Gianelli, and Nuccio. Its approach and corpus shed light on questions being examined by Italianists, Children’s Literature scholars, and social and cultural historians with an interest in national identity formation.


"This is a timely, elegantly written, and very well researched study of the first fifty years of children’s literature in united Italy, between this country’s political unification (1861) and the beginning of fascism (1922). Truglio’s book convincingly demonstrates the presence, throughout literary and cultural texts of this time period, of a pervasive analogy between the maturation of a child and the modernization of a nation. It is a must-read for all students and scholars seriously interested in the history of Italian and children’s literature." --Cristina Mazzoni, University of Vermont, USA

"A fascinating study which underlines through its employment of a psychoanalytic interpretive lens the central role played by children’s literature in the formation of Italian national identity." --Lindsay Myers, NUI Galway, Ireland

"There is a direct link between educating children and educating the nation. [This book]traces that link in post-unification Italian culture. The book offers the colourful portrait of a varied cast of characters, from Collodi’s Pinocchio to Capuana’s Scurpiddu, while also casting light on Italy’s difficult modernity." --Loredana Polezzi, Cardiff University, UK

"The 2017 publication of Maria Truglio’s Italian Children’s Literature and National Identity: Childhood, Melancholy, Modernity by Routledge, in their prestigious Children’s Literature and Culture Series, is thus a significant step forward not just because it is the first work in the series to discuss Italian children’s literature outside of the context of Pinocchio, but also because it is the first monograph on this literature to have been published by a non-European publisher. After many years of Anglo-centrism, the international study of children’s literature is finally becoming more inclusive.

Italian Children’s Literature and National Identity is aimed at social and cultural historians as much as it is at scholars of children’s literature. The highly detailed readings of children’s books that Truglio carries out in this work undoubtedly reflect and enhance the broader socio-historical observations on the cultivation of national identity around the Risorgimento made by Albert Russell Ascoli and Krystyna von Henneberg in their ground-breaking study, Making and Remaking Italy: The Cultivation of National Identity around the Risorgomento (2001)."

Lindsay Myers, National University of Ireland Galway

Table of Contents

Introduction: Two Ounces of Melancholy

1. Garibaldi’s Shadows: Heroism and Melancholia

2. Geographic Expressions: Mapping Modernity

3. A Beatrice for Modernity: Girls in Italian Children’s Literature

Conclusion: The Heart of the Matter


About the Author

Maria Truglio is Associate Professor of Italian and Women’s Studies at Pennsylvania State University, USA.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / European / Italian
LITERARY CRITICISM / Children's Literature
LITERARY CRITICISM / Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology
LITERARY CRITICISM / Modern / 19th Century