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Sentences: The Memoirs and Letters of Italian Political Prisoners from Benvenuto Cellini to Aldo Moro

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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The first comprehensive examination of autobiographical prison literature from Italy. Writings from prison by more than three dozen Italian political figures and intellectuals cover periods from the Italian Renaissance to the 1970?s.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7978-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. Introduction: Writing As Survival
    (pp. 3-11)

    The letters and memoirs of political prisoners to be considered in what follows were written from the Renaissance to the 1970s and beyond. The places of detention described in them range from the Emperor Hadrian′s second-century Roman mausoleum later known as Castel Sant′Angelo, where Cellini was incarcerated in the 1530s, to the block of modern apartments where the Red Brigades kept Aldo Moro prisoner in a ′people′s jail′ in 1978. But wherever held in whatever place for whatever reason by whatever forces of order or disorder, all the writers considered here were sent to jail for their personal and thus...

  5. 1 Predecessors: Prison Writing before 1800
    (pp. 12-37)

    Benvenuto Cellini, Torquato Tasso, and Giacomo Casanova have long seemed figures more of myth than of history. As historical personages, however, none of them was a political prisoner in the usual sense of the term.² Cellini, imprisoned in Rome by papal mandate, was never charged with a specific crime and seems to have been the victim of court intrigue rather than guilty of the thefts with which he was charged; Tasso was imprisoned for purported madness rather than any criminal wrongdoing; and Casanova did not get in trouble for the kind of conduct associated with his name but because books...

  6. 2 The Spielberg: Concealment and Refutation
    (pp. 38-66)

    Giacomo Casanova and Silvio Pellico were both prisoners beneath the lead roof of Venice′s Ducal Palace, and each wrote an account of his stay there. Such would seem – at first glance at least – to be the only tie linking the swashbuckling, free-thinking, eighteenth-century adventurer and the self-effacing Christian apologist of the Restoration. The apparent stodginess of Pellico and other patriots of the early Risorgimento, however, may be a notion fostered by conservative nineteenth-century historians intent on dissociating these founding fathers of modern Italy from the anarchist and socialist activists who went to prison for their beliefs at the...

  7. 3 Bodies Politic
    (pp. 67-105)

    Although the patriots sent to the Spielberg following the trials of the 1820s were arguably the most famous prison writers of the Risorgimento, they were by no means the only ones. In the Archduchy of Tuscany and the States of the Church in central Italy, in the Kingdom of Two Sicilies in the south, and in such northern cities as Mantua during the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s, hundreds of Italians went to prison for their political beliefs. Less obsessed, for the most part, than the Spielberg prisoners with correcting the record of their sufferings that would be transmitted to posterity,...

  8. 4 Authority, Desire, and Dissent: Serving the Revolution
    (pp. 106-130)

    During the night of 29-30 March 1856, the political activist Felice Orsini broke through the window of his prison cell in Austrian-occupied Mantua and clambered down the exterior wall of the same San Giorgio Castle where a few months earlier the Martyrs of Mantua had spent their last days before execution. Unlike his companions in confinement at San Giorgio, however, men who in most cases had interrupted careers in medicine, the clergy, or commerce to become part-time conspirators, Orsini had devoted all of his life and energy to political subversion. From his youthful days in the Romagna, when he founded...

  9. 5 Answering Gramsci: The Anti-Fascists
    (pp. 131-176)

    In the first chapter ofLe mie prigioni, while reflecting on a confinement in Santa Margherita that was still new to him, Silvio Pellico asked himself who might occupy the surrounding cells a hundred years later. A century after Pellico′s stay in the Milan prison, it and similar institutions throughout Italy were again filled with Italians protesting government oppression. The power imprisoning these men and women now, however, was not a foreign one like that of Austria in Risorgimento Lombardy or of extra-Italian origin like that of the Bourbons in Naples during the same period. Though an entirely indigenous regime,...

  10. 6 The Death of a President / The Effacement of an Author
    (pp. 177-185)

    Shortly after nine o′clock on Thursday morning, 16 March 1978, Member of Parliament Aldo Moro (1916-78), president of Italy′s Christian Democrat Party and five-time past president of the country′s Council of Ministers – that is, prime minister of Italy – was on his way to church before continuing to a meeting of the Chamber of Deputies.² At Palazzo Montecitorio in the centre of Rome that morning a new government was to be presented to the Italian Parliament: an array of Christian Democrat ministers that for the first time since the end of the war had the support of the Italian...

  11. Conclusion: Sentences and Convictions
    (pp. 186-196)

    For the authors whose work has been analysed in the chapters above, writing was more than a diversion from the monotony of prison life. It was an opportunity to shatter the fetters of what Curcio, Valentino, and Petrelli have called the ′definizioni definitorie′ used to confine prison inmates not only physically but also linguistically and psychologically.² Whether drawn from the muddled Marxist vocabulary of the Red Brigades or proposed in the more academic terms of penology and criminology, the ′defining definitions′ applied to all of the prison authors studied here function, in these authors′ words, to ′twist one′s identity′ and...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 197-236)
  13. Works Consulted
    (pp. 237-262)
  14. Index
    (pp. 263-276)