On April 11, 2010 I presented at the NeMLA Conference, Montreal 2010 on 19th Century Italian Writing, National History, Literary Genres and Linguistic Norms, together with seven colleagues from various national and international academic intuitions. We read and discussed our original articles within the group and audience.
The seminar focused on the evolution of Italian literature during the 19th Century and to what extent, and in what manner, it was informed by the discussion and the ideals of a national language (Manzoni, Ascoli and De Sanctis among the many), the ideals of a united nation and debates about the function, aesthetics and proprieties of literary production and genre (the late and protracted discussion about Romantic ideals being one of the contributing areas of debate; the transformations in the historical novel and literary shaping of historical events being another).
The focus of the seminar was based on the evolution of Italian genres of literature and language during the 19th century. Spoken language and literature were compared and contrasted to changes in the areas of political discourse, aesthetic discussion, philological research, and the social aspects.
One of the subsidiary aims of the seminar was to offer a forum for discussion that that would be open both to specialists of Italian literature, and to specialists in Italian language and other areas of Italian culture in the hope that this more encompassing approach could also be of interest in other historical periods. The presentations based on articles were meant to help especially on the use of the research and to apply the research on didactic projects for instructors of language and literature.
This specific aspect interested my own research that I have been applying and implementing progressively in different ranges of teaching Italian language, literature, and history.
The article that I presented during the seminar at the NeMLA Conference examined peculiar aspects of one of Italy’s social groups, I Briganti, in the process of “being integrated” historically and within a literature genre. At the end of the 1800’s, during the years of the unification of Italy from 1861 to 1870, The Briganti were isolated even though they were part of the society and population of Italy at the same time. Especially in the south of Italy, the presence of several and various dialects had been the only and exclusive expression of an illiterate social class. These particular social and historical conditions have represented an obstacle to the definition of literary genre for those few writers that were rarely published. From here can be seen the necessity to reevaluate historical events and the links that language and literature have with the evolution of the above mentioned social and historical happenings.
In my course curriculum I have been integrating cultural and historical related topics to the language. In particular, I introduce video clips, movies or parts of movies, and music video clips that testify to historical, literary, and social events.
The use of videos and photographs together with historical and literary documents sustains the evidence of micro history and social developments in the larger frame of determining historical and literary facts.
Most importantly the history of Italy and the evolution of language as its outcome during its early formation as a nation are “rediscovered” and reevaluated under a different light and through the various aspects of Italian language, dialect, and literature.
My article and presentation can be adapted and become directed to graduate students or language researchers interested in gathering information on alternative didactic methods in support of history, language and literature materials.