Mediterranean Islands: Prisons or Crossroads of Cultures? Conceptualising and representing local identities in Sicily and Sardinia
- Wednesday 3 November 2021, 14:00–15:00
School of Arts, Culture and Language Research Seminar Series
Southern Italy Research Seminar Series
Title: Mediterranean Islands: Prisons or Crossroads of Cultures? Conceptualising and representing local identities in Sicily and Sardinia
Guest Speaker: Dr Gigliola Sulis (University of Leeds)
In La terre et l’évolution humaine. Introduction géographique à l'histoire (1922), the historian Lucien Febvre identified in the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia two opposite models of local identity and (self-)representation: Sardinia as a ‘prison-island’ or ‘fortress-island’, resistant and refractory to what comes from the sea, and Sicily as a ‘crossroad-island’, where different civilisations have sedimented over the centuries. This paradigm finds confirmation in the cultural production of the two islands, where, traditionally, identity seems to be constructed as the mix of a plurality of influences in Sicily (in overlapping layers: ‘Ancient Greek Sicily’, ‘Arab Sicily’, ‘Norman Sicily’) and as a unique, exclusive and primitive dimension in Sardinia (the ‘resistant island’ relatively untouched by other civilisations, or at least in fierce opposition to them).
This paper will contextualise and explore some of the literary expressions of the two islands’ identities in the twentieth century (e.g. Leonardo Sciascia, Gesualdo Bufalino for Sicily, and Grazia Deledda for Sardinia), and then focus on the recent changes occurred in the Sardinian context. Since the 1990s, in fact, writers, filmmakers and artists of the so-called ‘Sardinian nouvelle vague’ are proposing an open, dynamic, and plural image of the island, where locals and people from elsewhere interact in a history of multifaceted and conflictual cohabitation.
These renewed representations of the island’s identity seem to be in line with recent theorisations of the Mediterranean sea as a hybrid space and a bridge between cultures, and with the invitations by scholars to ‘reopen the archive of the Mediterranean’ as a way to rethink European culture from its margins and to challenge and redefine the interaction between Western hegemonic thinking and minor, subaltern cultures.
Franco Cassano, The Southern Thought and Other Essays on the Mediterranean (2011 ).
Iain Chambers, Mediterranean Crossings. The politics of an interrupted modernity (2007).
Gigliola Sulis, ‘Sardinian Fiction at End of the Twentieth and Beginning of the Twenty-first Century: an Overview and First Assessment’, in Incontri. Rivista europea di studi italiani, 32.2 (2017), 69-79 (available here: https://rivista-incontri.nl/article/view/8764).
Gigliola Sulis is an Associate Professor of Italian at the University of Leeds (UK). She works on literary representations of Italian polycentrism and regional literatures (especially Sardinian), multilingual literature (from its theoretical underpinning to poetics and ideologies of individual authors), and language and style of 20th- and 21st-century writers. Among her recent publications is Retold, Resold, Transformed. Crime Fiction in the Global Era, co-edited with Christiana Gregoriou and David Platten (Milan: Mimesis, 2019). She is Senior Editor of The Italianist and represents the field of Italian Studies in the University College of Modern Languages (UCML).