Through the Periscope

Changing Culture, Italian America

By Martino Marazzi

Subjects: Italian American Studies, Italian Studies, Literary Criticism, American Studies, American Culture
Series: SUNY series in Italian/American Culture
Hardcover : 9781438488615, 210 pages, June 2022
Paperback : 9781438488608, 210 pages, December 2022

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Table of contents



Part I: Changing Culture

1. A Hard Rome's A-Gonna Fall: Roman Sonnets, Sicilian Sulfur, and American Ballads

2. Changing Culture: European Immigrants and New York City Literature, 1870–1940

3. "Our brother Dante": Dantesque Reappropriations in Italian America

Part II: Transitional Modes of Italian American Letters

4. All the Words That Are (Not) Fit to Print: Notes on the "Illiterature" of the Italian Emigration

5. Questioning the Traditionalism of Italian American Literature

6. Kings of Harlem: Garibaldi Lapolla and the "Grand" Gennaro

7. I Am(s): Strategies of Acceptance and Denial

8. Reading Robert Viscusi



Offers a wider approach to Italian American culture, one that stresses both its material, urban components and the creativity of its formal literary codes.


The constant dialogue between literary forms of the Old and the New World is the core concern of the essays in Through the Periscope, which examine these ever-changing historical, intellectual, and psychological landscapes through the lens of Italian American culture. Moving beyond Little Italy, the book widens the spectrum of "pure" immigrant studies. It analyzes the longue durée of the revolutionary energies of 1848, an arc that leads from Margaret Fuller to Bob Dylan via the Great Migration of European peoples and languages, as well as the merging of various immigrant voices in the "changing culture" of turn-of-the-century New York. It reclaims the importance of Dante for Italian American writers and follows the metamorphosis of a Romance language dense in masterworks and oral nuances through the multiple signs of a new "illiterature." Points of arrival are both the majestic proletarian novels of the 1930s and a contemporary poem like Robert Viscusi's Ellis Island. Martino Marazzi's volume underlines the richness of such an epic cultural transformation and its fundamental importance for a more thorough understanding of Euro-American relations.

Martino Marazzi is Associate Professor of Italian Literature at the University of Milan in Italy. His many books include Voices of Italian America: A History of Early Italian American Literature with a Critical Anthology.


"Through the Periscope deliberately moves along the outer edges of the academic canon of Italian American studies and, at the same time, vibrantly calls for a long-overdue rupturing of the 'favola bella' of Italian cultural centrism … [Marazzi's] study is characterized by thinking in cross-disciplinary and cross-epochal relations and references, a view through the periscope not only in terms of the study's contents but also from a methodological perspective." — Modern Language Review

"This volume is required reading for anyone involved in teaching or researching Italian diaspora culture today. From the very first page of the Introduction, we are reminded of Martino Marazzi's unique ability to read the diaspora from transnational, transhistorical, and transtemporal vantage points that in each chapter open the field to areas of inquiry and comparison that are rarely spoken and, indeed, not widely known. Rich with examples that make the global local and back again, we see diaspora for what it is—an ongoing, relentless movement of people that tells us far more about human history and suffering than pat, nationalistic narratives that grind the energy of literary expression to a tentative halt." — Italian Americana

"In his whirlwind tour through New York settings and remembered Italian landscapes, through Dantean poetic appropriations and dime novels by a 'Homer of Little Italy,' Marazzi joins the company of such scholars as Thomas Ferraro, Fred Gardaphé, and Samuele Pardini in giving new meaning to the internal diversity of the cultural lives of Italian migrants and their descendants and making the notion of an 'Italian American canon' questionable." — Werner Sollors, author of Challenges of Diversity: Essays on America

"More than just issuing a provocative challenge to the Italian American literary canon (though it certainly does that), Marazzi's book proposes an innovative way of looking at Italian migrant subjectivity and consciousness through a bidirectional transnational lens. It represents a groundbreaking effort to reimagine the fields of Italian and Italian American studies, and in a way that enables those fields to more forcefully influence the larger ambit of American studies, trans-Atlantic literary studies, and diaspora studies." — John Gennari, author of Flavor and Soul: Italian America at Its African American Edge