The Pinocchio Effect: On Making Italians, 1860-1920

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University of Chicago Press, 2007 - History - 431 pages
Soon after the disparate states of the Italian peninsula unified in the 1860s to create a single nation, the nationalist Massimo D’Azeglio is said to have remarked, “We have made Italy, now we have to make Italians.” The Pinocchio Effect draws on a remarkably broad array of sources to trace this making of a modern national identity in Italy, a subject that remains strikingly understudied in the English-speaking world of Italian studies.

Taking as her guiding metaphor the character of Pinocchio—a national icon made famous in 1881 by the eponymous children’s book—Susan Stewart-Steinberg argues that just like the renowned puppet, modern Italians were caught in a complex interplay between freely chosen submission and submission demanded by an outside force. In doing so, she explores all the ways that identity was constructed through newly formed attachments, voluntary and otherwise, to the young nation. Featuring deft readings of the period’s most important Italian cultural and social thinkers—including the theorist of mass psychology Scipio Sighele, the authors Matilde Serao and Edmondo De Amicis, the criminologist Cesare Lombroso, and the pedagogue Maria Montessori—Stewart-Steinberg’s richly multidisciplinary book will set a new standard in Italian studies.

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About the author (2007)

Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg is assistant professor of Italian studies and comparative literature at Brown University. She is the author of Sublime Surrender: Male Masochism at the Fin-de-siècle.

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