Imagining Italians

The Clash of Romance and Race in American Perceptions, 1880-1910

By Joseph P. Cosco

Subjects: American Studies
Series: SUNY series in Italian/American Culture
Paperback : 9780791457627, 243 pages, August 2003
Hardcover : 9780791457610, 243 pages, August 2003

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction: Magnificently Miserable Italians and Their Wretched, Princely Italy

1. Jacob Riis: Immigrants Old and New, and the Making of Americans

2. Edward Steiner: All Is (Not) Race?

3. Henry James's Picturesque Peasants: Heroes of Romance or Modern Men?

4. Henry James's "Flagrant Foreigners": Whose Country Is This Anyway?

5. Mark Twain: Racism, Nativism, and the Twinning of Italianness

Conclusion: The Fight for Whiteness




Explores changes in American attitudes toward Italy and Italians during a crucial period of U. S. immigration history.


Integrating history, literary criticism, and cultural studies, Imagining Italians vividly tells the story of two voyages across the Atlantic: America's cultural pilgrimage to Italy and the Italian "racial odyssey" in America. It examines how American representations of Italy, Italians, and Italian Americans engaged with national debates over immigration, race, and national identity during the period 1880–1910. Joseph P. Cosco offers a close analysis of selected works by immigrant journalists Jacob Riis and Edward Steiner and American iconographic writers Henry James and Mark Twain. Exploring their Italian depictions in journalism, photos, travel narratives, and fiction, he rediscovers the forgotten Edward Steiner and offers fresh readings of Riis's reform efforts and photography, James's The Golden Bowl and The American Scene, and Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson.

Joseph P. Cosco is Assistant Professor of English at Old Dominion University.