Resiting genre : a study of contemporary Italian travel writing in English translation
This thesis aims to highlight the presence of a large and varied production of contemporary Italian travel writing and to analyse the reasons for its 'invisibility' in the Italian literary system and critical tradition. Through the use of a comparative approach to genre and of current theories developed in the area of Translation Studies, the thesis will outline the different status attributed to travel writing in the Anglo-American and the Italian literary systems. Such a comparative approach allows the study to escape the narrow confines of a perspective based on the idea of national literature and to adopt a wider view, which, in turn, highlights the presence of phenomena otherwise easily overlooked or discarded as insignificant. The peculiar characteristics of travel writing, a genre mostly based on the representation of the Other for a home audience, are also analysed in order to point out their affinity with translation practices and, ultimately, to underline the 'double translation' implied by translated travel writing. The case studies which make up the remaining part of the thesis are intended to illustrate different aspects of the genre of travel writing; to provide scope for an analysis of its boundaries and connections with other genres (ranging from ethnography to autobiography, from journalism to fiction, from the essay to the novel); and to illustrate the way in which generic expectations influence both the selection of texts for translation and the strategies adopted when translating and marketing them for a new audience. The writings of twentieth-century Italian explorers to Tibet, and their translations into English, constitute a significant case of adaptation of foreign texts to the needs and expectations of a British audience (and to the British interests in the geographical area concerned). The works of Oriana Fallaci and their different reception in Italy with respect to the UK and the USA illustrate the way in which personal biography and generic choices can intersect, determining both the popular image and the critical success of an author and of her work. Calvino's choice to sublimate the genre of travel writing in the stylized fiction of Le citta invisibili is treated as an example of the way in which a text which is meant to provide an escape from a low-status genre can become an icon of that same genre once it is translated and read in a different cultural context. Finally, the case of Claudio Magris's Danubio and of its English-language translation provides evidence of the complex network of literary references which marks the reception of a text in different cultures, and of the way in which generic affiliation can both promote the recognition of a 'marginal' text and constrain its more idiosyncratic (and original) characteristics.