Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Towards a poetics of neorealism: Tragedy in the Italian cinema 1942–1948
by Pierson, Inga M., Ph.D., New York University, 2008, 323; 3342389
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation, Towards a Poetics of Neorealism: Tragedy and the Italian Cinema from 1942–1948, explores Italian neorealist cinema as a tragic discourse. I argue that the Italian neorealist films are best distinguished by genre and that the emergence of tragedy in Italian culture in the 1940s constitutes a response to the devastation and confusion occasioned by the collapse of the Fascist order and the course of WWII. While I am interested in the political transition with which these films coincide, I seek to re-examine neorealism especially in the context of cultural studies and aesthetic theory. The focus on genre in my arguments serves to challenge the definition of neorealism as a documentary aesthetic and the notion that neorealism is a “pure” realism, devoid of any foreign, narrative or dramatic influence. Through detailed film analyses, the project highlights four films made between 1942 and 1948: Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione (1942), Vittorio De Sica’s Shoeshine (1946), Roberto Rossellini’s Germany Year Zero (1947) and Giuseppe De Santis’s Bitter Rice (1948). Beginning with Ossessione, for a brief period, Italian films shed the melodramatic trappings typical of the Fascist-era film industry in favor of a treatment which engages the spectator in an emotional atmosphere, presents the real and the true as problematic, and aims at a shared, collective understanding among viewers. I explore themes such as kin murder and suicide, the tension between official history and reality, collective mourning and the role of the feminine. My approach is comparative, focusing substantially on the triangle of influence formed by Italian verism, French poetic realism and American hard-boiled realism. But I also consider German “rubble” cinema, Soviet cinema, Hollywood cinema, French criticism and various literary and philosophical source materials. The goal of my reading is firstly to show how neorealism transcends Italian melodramatic tendencies in favor of a tragic discourse. Secondly, I demonstrate the complex negotiation between literary forms and visual culture which these films reflect. Finally, in making neorealism a case study, I test the potential for a tragic category in film studies.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ben-Ghiat, Ruth
Commitee: Albertini, Stefano, Reich, Jacqueline, Tylus, Jane, West, Rebecca
School: New York University
Department: Italian Studies
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Romance literature, Film studies
Keywords: De Santis, Giuseppe, De Sica, Vittorio, Italian cinema, Italy, Melodrama, Neorealism, Rossellini, Roberto, Tragedy, Tragedy and cinema, Transition phenomenon, Visconti, Luchino
Publication Number: 3342389
ISBN: 9781109902617