Reading & Composition
What is Literary Neo-Realism ?: Reading Italian Literature in Socialist China
Whereas the influence of Italian-Neorealism on world cinema is undeniable, the literary origins of Neo-Realism are less well-known. The notion of Neo-Realism was in fact first used in Italy to describe trends world literature, and the development of a specifically Italian Ne0-Realist style emerged from a close collaboration between the writers and filmmakers of this period. Just as Italian Neo-Realist cinema became a cultural phenomenon in China in the 1950s, the Italian literature that Chinese readers were consuming was also dominated by Neo-Realist writers. Many of these writers, such as Carlo Levi, Franco Fortini, Goffredo Parise, Alberto Moravia and Carlo Cassola eventually visited China and published China travel narratives that riveted the Italian public. But why were these writers given access to China in the first place? What was the appeal of Italian literary Neo-Realism to Chinese intellectuals and writers? This course will explore the work of the Italian writers who were published in and visited China and will propose a set of Chinese literary counterparts – figures like Ding Ling, Ba Jin, Qian Zhongshu and Eileen Chang, who may themselves be described as writing in something akin to a Neo-Realist style. No knowledge of Chinese or Italian necessary.