The engines of history: The automobile in American and Italian literary cultures, 1908--1943
Pardini, Samuele F S
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This is a study of the automobile as a cultural symbol of modernity in the United States and Italy from 1908 to 1943. Through the symbol of the car, I trace an intercultural map of American and Italian modernity that crosses the traditional borders of "high" modernism, ventures into popular literature, and incorporates folklore, visual arts, journalism, and governmental documents. The dissertation is divided in three parts. The first examines the connections between speed and the instrumentality of work, whose formalization I take as the founding principle of the social and cultural origin of Euro-American modernity, in the works of Luigi Barzini's Peking to Paris , F. T. Marinetti and the Italian avant-garde at large, Henry Adams's The Education of Henry Adams , Victor Appleton's Tom Swift and his Electric Runabout or the Speediest Car on the Road , and Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . The second section is dedicated to gendering of power and the structural transformation of the family in Marinetti's L'Alcova d'Acciaio and Palazzeschi's Le Sorelle Materassi on the one hand, and in Faulkner's Sanctuary and Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath on the other. In the third part, I trace a geopolitical and cultural cartography of Fascism and the New Deal through the publications the fascist propaganda dedicated to two car races, "La Coppa D'Oro Del Littorio" of 1934 and "La Mille Miglia" of 1936, and the American Guide Series of the Federal Writers Project. I examine the links between American and Italian literary cultures as responses to the process of modernization. I suggest to revisit modernism as a transregional phenomenon whose cultural transfers transgress and invert the traditional boundaries of national literatures and identities. At the same time, I argue for the need to focus on a new elaboration of a cultural and political idea of citizenship as indicated by the Federal Writers' Project's state guides.