Resurrecting Christ in Concrete
DiPasquale, Joseph A.
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In 1939 Pietro Di Donato's landmark novel, Christ in Concrete, was released to accolades of admiration vindicating the Italian American immigrant. Since their mass immigration to American shores in the late nineteenth century, their status was left socially and economically bereft in a fog of misunderstanding and marginalization as a low class, almost white ethnic culture. This marginalization encouraged many Italian Americans to seek outside relief in the form of proletarian activism, while many wrote radical proletarian pamphlets in refutation of the "American Dream". This dissertation proposes to analyze the novel in relation to radical proletariat writings by Italian Americans alongside Christ in Concrete and its author and his ideology which propelled him to write Christ in Concrete. Tracing the radicalization of Italian American immigrants during the first decades of the twentieth century through political, economic, and societal measures adds impetus to the dissertation's analysis of radical, proletariat literature. Christ in Concrete represents one of the most notable vehicles by which to analyze the Italian American immigrant. Pietro Di Donato was lauded as "a shining figure to add to the proletarian gallery of artists" (Gardaphé Italian Signs 66). Some critics worried that this early spotlight of honor may have "blinded his artistic vision" as none of his subsequent works met the standards of this early achievement (Napolitano 7). But in terms of proletariat radical literature, Christ in Concrete envelops the immigrant experience in language, style, and the mores of Italian Americans. The dissertation journeys into this writer's ascent from an initial reading to a path of determination to acquire book rights and create a film to spur this unique book to its rightful place in literary history. Acquiring the book rights is only part of the story, I wrote a screenplay, assembled a star-studded cast all the while pursuing an academic path studying the Italian American proletariat literature with Christ in Concrete as the paradigm. I was propelled into making this film and onto the public scene in response to a statement written by Fred Gardaphé. In his analysis of the Italian American population, he declared that Italian Americans are "invisible people...because they refuse to be seen" and this dissertation proposes to expose this hidden, essential segment of Americana (Gardaphé Anti-Italianism 1). In my almost thirty years of working in the film and television industry, nothing has gripped me like has Christ in Concrete. The end result of my work as a screenwriter, adapting the novel into a script, resulted in my further examination of the academic life of the novel and writing like it. Ultimately, the two will work in concert for me to produce the film version of Christ in Concrete after decades of its sidelining from American culture.