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The Pinocchio Effect: On Making Italians, 1860-1920

ISBN-13: 978-0226774480
ISBN-10: 0226774481
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Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
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Editorial Reviews


“This is a brilliant work from beginning to end, and it will take up a previously empty place on our bookshelves as a strikingly original diagnosis of Italian modernity. Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg uncovers a wealth of fin-de-siècle obsessions with the ways that bodies were measured and disciplined, attached to apparatuses, and made to move autonomously. The result is a fresh contribution to both the field of Italian studies and a psychoanalytically informed theory of ideology and its workings.”

(Barbara Spackman, University of California, Berkeley)

“An extraordinary book, The Pinocchio Effect is eclectic and stimulating at every turn. I found the reading of Pinocchio in relation to the paternal and the liberal subject to be captivating. I know of no other work that narrates and describes the nineteenth century in Italy with such nuance and force.”

(Karen Pinkus, University of Southern California)

“Allowing textual materials and theories—historical, literary, cinematic, photographic, operatic, educational, psychological—to speak to each other in an exciting interdisciplinary dialogue, firmly rooted in a strong sense of historical context, this book ambitiously attempts to redefine Italian modernity. Pinocchio, that canonical boy/man/puppet, becomes emblematic of the Italian national character, and even beyond that of the subject of modernity in general: a puppet who moves at the will of others, but also an autonomous being—with no strings attached. Using this figure as a ‘hinge,’ Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg insightfully opens up areas that range from a paternal authoritarianism to the psychology of the masses, always basing her finely tuned analysis in the extended criticism and frequently allegorized readings of Pinocchio in Italian culture. After all, Pinocchio is also self-reflexively fictional: he lies, and we can see the results of his stories on his body.”

(Linda Hutcheon, University of Toronto)

"The book has the merit of highlighting new and complex issues in the formation of Italian national identity."
(Stephen Gundle Times Higher Education Supplement)

"[The author's] reading of these post-unification intellectuals is sophisticated and injects a theoretical framework and literary analysis so often missing from historical studies. . . . I would recommend ThePinocchio Effect, with its combination of literary analysis and history, as necessary reading for Italianists in both fields."
(Mary S. Gibson H-Net Review)

"An often brilliant and very important work, and not just for scholars of modern Italy. It offers nothing less than a new way of writing the messy history of the late nineteenth century and, more broadly, a new way of mobilizing the past for the present."
(David G. Horn American Historical Review)

About the Author

Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg is assistant professor of Italian studies and comparative literature at Brown University. She is the author of Sublime Surrender: Male Masochism at the Fin-de-siècle.

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