Che Bella Figura!

The Power of Performance in an Italian Ladies' Club in Chicago

By Gloria Nardini

Subjects: Italian American Studies
Series: SUNY series in Communication Studies, SUNY series in Italian/American Culture
Paperback : 9780791440926, 164 pages, April 1999
Hardcover : 9780791440919, 164 pages, April 1999

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Table of contents



My Methodology: The Ethnography of Communication


A Definition of Bella Figura


The Conceptual Framework of this Study and Related Literature on Women's Language


A History of the Collandia Club


Bella Figura at the Collandia Club


The Transcript: A Linguistic Event Transformed by Bella Figura


Appendix A


Works Cited


A colorful ethnography of an Italian ladies' club, this book explores the historical and linguistic importance of the women's language and behavior.


Literally translated, fare bella figura means "to make a beautiful figure," and figuratively it refers to the act of putting on a good show, performance, or display. The author uncovers the "real rules" of an Italian "ladies'" club by analyzing their language and behavior. In so doing, she gives examples of the historical and linguistic importance of this concept, as well as its potential for cross-cultural misunderstanding.

Gloria Nardini is Visiting Lecturer of English and Managerial Communications at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


"Che Bella Figura! is an excellent ethnography of a fascinating topic, conceptualized in a most innovative and useful way. It will be important not only for the specific and very interesting description it offers of a women's cultural club but also for the model it offers for studying such organizations. Nardini has an excellent eye, and she demonstrates subtle and profound understanding of this cultural group. " — Amy Shuman, The Ohio State University

"Che Bella Figura! is written in a lively and always engaging style in a strong, authoritative voice. Nardini's insights into reading Italian women's culture through language and behavior are remarkably unique. She provides an excellent demonstration of the analysis of how language and culture operate together. " — Fred L. Gardaphe, State University of New York at Stony Brook, author of Italian Signs, American Streets