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America sotterranea

Numero 2

Estate/Autunno 1994 - Anno I

enlightened Le energie del sottosuolo: America sotterranea

enlightened Religione e movimento operaio: un confronto

enlightened Biografia della bambola Barbie


Città d'America

St. Louis sotterranea. Poetica e politica dei luoghi – pag. 3

George Lipsitz

The character of places is determined both by specific local features, by their place in the world system, and by the human uses of physical space. The paper describes how St. Louis owes its existence to the characteristics of the ground, its relationship to the river and the rich underground spaces on which it stands, as well as to the course of English and French empire, Asian commerce, the slave trade. Immigrants and slaves have given the city its distinct characters, and in turn spread its name and products in distant lands. Though the contemporary crisis of industrial society and culture seems to cause a sense of loss in both economic opportunity and cultural identity, St. Louis has always dealt with change: the character of place, ultimately, lies in the ways in which human imagination and desire shape power, resistance, solidarity and mutual interaction.

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Testo a fronte

Tradurre Emily Dickinson – pag. 9

Marisa Bulgheroni
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Dodici poesie – pag. 11

Emily Dickinson
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"The Subway and the Cellar": Breve viaggio nei sotterranei d'America – pag. 16

Mario Maffi

The subway and the cellar are two exemplary figures of the American underground. Metaphors of the individual and collective unconscious, both haven and inferno, they function as catalysts for contrasting social and cultural fears, anxieties, and desires. Drawing on texts by authors like Mark Twain, Jack London, Ralph Ellison, George Lippard, Edgar Allan Poe and Leroi Jones, and movies like The Warriors or Forbidden Planet, the essay explores the subway and the cellar as, respectively, the Other of the city and the Other of the self: the sites where the repressed must be confronted, but also where the reconstruction of a new identity may begin.

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"The Power of Blackness": gli afroamericani, le macchine, e l'energia del sottosuolo – pag. 22

Alessandro Portelli

A number of key symbols and words reveal the subterranean “Africanist presence” (Morrison) in America’s “black holes” (Baker): coal, mines, tunnels, cellars, sewers, the boiler rooms of ships and trains, the hold of slave ships, the “roots” of the earth and of identity, and many more. These places are both symbolic, related to the black presence in American imagination, and concrete, related to the actual roles carried out by African Americans in the production system and in the labor market. As such, they are  both claustrophobic sites of oppression and negation, and secret reservoirs of affirmation and  power. The paper analyzes the dialectics of oppression, power, and explosion in a number of authors  and works, including Audre Lorde, Ellison, Hawthorne, Wright, Morrison, Ch, Johnson, Melville, Sh. A. Williams, as well as in oral history and folklore.

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"Siamo come un popolo": homeless, razza e soggettività a New York – pag. 35

Dorinda Welle

Reporting on the personal experience of homelessness in New York City, as part of a research project carried out for the U.S. Census Bureau, the author demonstrates how the prevailing scientific discourse on homelessness as part of the “underclass” and as the consequence of personal disaffiliation or disabling does not correspond to the ways in which individual homeless persons construct in words and action forms of subjectivity, identity, relationships, solidarity that enable them to confront their experience and create meaning for themselves.

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Thomas Pynchon e gli alligatori nelle fogne: letteratura e folklore urbano – pag. 43

Kenneth A. Thigpen

While the understanding of literature has always benefited from the identification and interpretation of folklore in literary texts, the use of literature for an interpretation of folklore has been less frequently practiced. In this paper, the transformations of an urban legend – “The Alligators in the Sewers” of New York – in a literary work – V by Thomas Pynchon suggest the possible evolution of folklore in an urban setting. While the oral versions of the legend remain grounded in the expression of modern anxieties vis-a-vis human interference with nature, Pynchon weaves the contemporary legend with folktale motifs such as descents in the lower worlds and slaying the Dragon. The fact that oral tradition has excluded these motifs indicates that heroic imagination seems out of place in today’s tragic and mysterious world.

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Dai mondi sotterranei alla luce: l'universo nel racconto degli Indiani d'America – pag. 50

Daniele Fiorentino

According to the cosmology of many Native American tribes the universe is divided into four directions, to which one must add the up and down of the earth. The world below is not only the world of the dead; it is rather the place where natural things, be them plants, animals or human beings, are generated or regenerated. Moving from the evident dualism of such a conception, where the six directions of the universe are bipartite in groups of two, this essay analyzes the American Indian concept of the underground. The myths of emergence, widespread in the South West, testify of a duality between the upper and the lower worlds. Both are part and parcel of the human experience. Human beings, in fact, emerged from the underground in a mythical time, that is absolute, to live on the earth. Their connection to the underworld, however, was maintained. Mythical creatures still move freely from the lower to the upper world while many a ceremony of Pueblo Indians are celebrated underground.

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"Urban Underclass": la mobilità frantumata – pag. 57

Raffaele Rauty

The permanence of an “underclass” in periods of economic growth as well as recessions powerfully contradicts the American dream of social mobility. What are the defining social and cultural traits of the underclass, however, is less clear, and the concept has been the object of a lively theoretical debate since the 1960s, when it was first introduced. As shown by this survey, the recurrent temptation is to offer a stereotyped image of the underclass, depending on which social subjects are included in the category. A solution may be found in a dynamic and fundamentally historical approach, capable of integrating the social, economic, spatial, and cultural dimensions of the problem, thus avoiding any racial, moral or structural simplification.

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Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: Identità e funzioni dell'intellettuale afroamericano – pag. 64

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

In conversation with students and teachers at the University of Rome, H. L. Gates reconstructs his own experience and background to illustrate the encounter between African American literature and postmodernism, and the writing of his book, The Signifying Monkey. Questions and answers deal with the interaction of literary forms and the Black vernacular, with the African background of African American literature, with the position of African American intellectuals vis-a-vis events such as the South Central LA rebellion of 1992.

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"Dio è una cosa e la Chiesa è un'altra": religione e movimento operaio in Italia e Appalachia. Una prospettiva comparata – pag. 69

Cristina Mattiello

The relationship between the labor movement and religion is explored through a comparative analysis of late-nineteenth- and early twentieth- century case studies of Italy and Appalachia. The working  hypothesis is that the differences between the ways in which labor and religion interact can be  accounted for by investigating the complex intertwining of historical and sociocultural elements in the two contexts. The theological  divisions between Italian Catholicism and the various strands of American Protestantism, though  important in themselves, must be reassessed in light of the different social, economic, political, and cultural conditions in which they emerge and which contribute to shaping the structure of the respective churches.

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La bambola Barbie – pag. 81

Marianne Debouzy

The appearance of the Barbie doll in 1958-59 marks the beginning of a new era both in childhood-related social practices and the socializing of girls. The replacement of the baby-doll by the woman-doll projects girls into an adult world where they are constantly addressed as potential consumers. Surrounded by a universe peopled with other dolls, houses, dresses, and a host of different accessories, the doll is a good example of the simulacra produced by a social imagination which seems to have lost its capacity to distinguish reality from false appearances. Its enduring commercial success, at any rate, is a proof of Barbie’s adaptability to different social, cultural, and ethnic contexts. While Barbie should not be demonized, yet there is certainly something to be learned from the barbification of the world.

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