In Italian Neorealism: A Cultural History (University of Toronto Press, 2020), Charles Leavitt steps back from the micro-histories focusing more narrowly on, for example, Italian cinema so as to weave together divers cultural strands (literature, the visual arts, drama, journalism, poetry, essays) into a tapestry of historical practice. Which realisms are being invoked under the category of “Neorealism” as it was plied and applied in the mid-20th Century? What were the aims of these realisms? What did they accomplish? Each of Italian Neorealism’s four chapters sketches answers to these questions by approaching a corpus that interweaves some very well-known texts from Italian Neorealism (Rome, Open City, Bicycle Thieves, La terra trema, etc.) with texts that have enjoyed scantier critical attention (like films from the period that have not widely circulated, for example) or which hail from extra-cinematic and even extra-Italian contexts. The result is an eminently readable study whose broad embrace does not sacrifice meticulous attention to detail.
Ellen Nerenberg is a founding editor of g/s/i-gender/sexuality/Italy and reviews editor of the Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies. Recent scholarly essays focus on serial television in Italy, the UK, and North America; masculinities in Italian cinema and media studies; and student filmmakers. Her current book project is La nazione Winx: coltivare la futura consumista/Winx Nation: Grooming the Future Female Consumer, a collaboration with Nicoletta Marini-Maio (forthcoming, Rubbettino Editore, 2020). She is President of the American Association for Italian Studies.