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Title: A new systemic and socio-political interpretation of region and family in 'I promessi sposi', 'The Return of the Native' and 'La Terre' : functional and dysfunctional patterns in the journey towards autonomy
Author: Barletta, Olimpia
ISNI:       0000 0004 8505 3493
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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Up to now, most scholarly work on nineteenth-century regionalist literature has characterised it as sentimental, exoticising, and focalised on the detailed description of customs and traditions of a specifically delimited geographical area. This is defined as often crystallised, fixed in time, static and cut-off from the wider world. This thesis sets out to reassess the concept of region as a literary geography through an innovative transnational, comparative perspective that adopts a three-fold approach: first, studying the relationships and forms of communication and miscommunication that develop among individuals who inhabit the region; second, analysing the power dynamics and social hierarchies that result from them; and finally, examining how individual choices and behaviour impact the wider social sphere and 'produce' regional space. I have chosen to concentrate on regional space as depicted in Alessandro Manzoni's I promessi sposi, Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native and Emile Zola's La Terre through the lenses of systemic theory developed by Austrian biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy, and later re-elaborated in the psychological field by Argentinian psychiatrist Salvador Minuchin. My aim is to show how the region is constructed as involved in a functional or dysfunctional relationship towards characters, similarly to how a family operates towards its members, allowing or hindering their movements and their attempts to achieve autonomy. Chapter One redefines the concept of region and introduces the Minunchian family structures. I then discuss the historical background of the three national contexts (Italy, Britain and France) in which the chosen authors write. Chapter Two examines in more detail the metaphorical correspondence between region and family in Lombardy, Egdon Heath and La Beauce, using Minuchin's theories, in a constant zooming of photographic lenses from a microcosmic level, that is the family stricto sensu as represented in the novels, to a macrocosmic one, that is the regional territory in which these families live and interact. Furthermore, I demonstrate that mobility within and beyond the region determines whether a familial and regional system can be seen as functional or dysfunctional. Here, the journey becomes the key narrative trope writers use to trace their characters' path towards either integration or escape from the enclosed regional boundaries. Chapter Three takes a different perspective and looks at the political, socio-economic and religious aspects of regional life and history in the specific national context of each novel. Here, I contest traditional visions in both literary and cultural discourse of the region as a static entity in time and space. In conclusion, I outline the results obtained, which show how nineteenth-century regionalism is much more than condescending stereotypes, nostalgic sentimentalism and local colour. As exemplified by Manzoni, Hardy and Zola, an interest in regional spaces permeates even the dominant form of the realist novel and manifests itself in their three novels as a complex engagement with the region not as an immobile landscape but as an entity endowed with entropic energy in constant transformation.
Supervisor: Mucignat, Rosa ; Majeed, Javed Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available