Urban Elsewheres: The Phenomenology of the City in Selected Works of Contemporary Italian Literature

By: Zachary LaRock '16

Advising Faculty: Paola Sica

The United Nations has predicted that at least sixty-six percent of the world’s population will live in cities by the middle of this century. The city may thus be considered as a geo-spatial site that is emblematic of the emergence of human modernity and presents those who inhabit it with both limits to and possibilities for the actualization of subjective human consciousness and agency. This study operates within a cultural studies framework. It focuses on three works of contemporary Italian fiction whose diverse authors employ narrative as a medium to critique the distribution of people, architectural forms and hegemonic power within urban spaces. Through a reading of Le città invisibili (Invisible Cities) by Italo Calvino (1972); Esperimento con l’India (Experiment with India) by Giorgio Manganelli (1992); and Pecore nere (Black Sheep) by Gabriella Kuruvilla, Ingy Mubiayi, Igiaba Scego, and Laila Wadia (2005), I contextualize the historical specificity and literary strategies that their individual authors employ by paying close attention to their protagonists’ subjective, phenomenological constructions of urban space as both embedded within and existentially beyond their human bodies. These three texts – utopian, Orientalist and migrant, respectively – represent diverse means of leveraging socio-political critiques of city life. They exhibit hope for a more ethical and person-centric urban episteme as the population of our globalized world becomes increasingly concentrated in cities.

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Related Fields: Italian Studies