Geografia e letteratura. Piccolo manuale d’uso

Author: Marina Marengo | Publisher: Patron, 2016

In recent years, following in particular a substantial ‘spatial turn’ in the social sciences and humanities, the geo-literary approach has become widespread among scholars. A little ‘less instead of geographers, especially in Italy. The latter then learned to interact with colleagues from other disciplinary backgrounds, contributing to an interesting and recent literature. The present volume aims to provide the basic tools to students, researchers and actors in the area interested in geo-literature and the geography of literature.

Review (by Michela Lazzeroni):

The volume of Marina Marengo presents an updated contribution on the relationship between geography and literature, after the valid publications of Fabio Lando (1993) and Maria De Fanis (2001) in Italy and the numerous works produced internationally within the geographic studies of matrix cultural. What distinguishes the text, in addition to the precious reconstruction of the humanistic and geo-literary approach in geography, concerns both the deepening of some areas and areas of study that we can define as marginal (campaigns, islands, borders) that the presentation of specific case studies, that make the reading pleasant and concrete the initial theoretical reflections.

As the author states in the introduction, the relationship between geography and literature has acquired a growing importance in recent years, especially on two fronts. On the one hand, reference is made to the development within the geographical discipline of cultural studies that deepen the analysis of the places of setting of the novels or of the areas where a more popular type of literature emerged, which gave rise to the so-called literary sagas , such as the Roman de terroirFrench. On the other hand, we highlight the emergence of new territorial projects, aimed at creating museums, itineraries or literary parks, which aim to contribute to the development of a territory both because they can go to identify and enhance the place of origin of a author both because they can recall the setting of novels and the specific narratives of the territorial identity. In this regard, the author describes some interesting examples of enhancement projects that have their own focus in the literature: the rediscovery of booktowns, smaller centers that specialize in the sale of used books or in publishing, such as Hay-on-Wye, a small rural village in Wales, and the Italian Montereggio in Lunigiana with the tradition of itinerant booksellers; the establishment of museums, the opening to the public of the writers ‘homes and the creation of literary parks or cultural-tourist itineraries, as in the case of the Writers’ Road in Sicily.

The first area of ​​research presented in the book concerns the evolution of European campaigns, analyzed by presenting selected passages of works by the writers Federigo Tozzi, Cesare Pavese, Claude Michelet and Gianni Celati: some passages bring out the landscapes and work systems of a type of pre-industrial agriculture; others narrate the subsequent processes, generated by the phenomenon of abandonment of the countryside and the aging of the population. In this way, the author manages to represent effectively and vividly the economic and social transformations that took place in the rural areas from the post-war period up to the present day and describe the most recent changes deriving from the arrival in the countryside of new residents, who continue to work in the cities and therefore hardly integrate with the original inhabitants and their life,

On the other hand, the second in-depth theme concerns insularity and coexistence in these – often paradoxical – areas between two tendencies, one towards closure and isolation, and the other, in contrast, towards openness towards the sea. and of the external world, trends conditioned by factors intertwined with each other (geographical features, historical events, character elements of the population, etc.). The cases reported in the text (Saint-Malo through the literary trilogy of Bernard Simiot “Ces Messieurs de Saint-Malo”, and Procida, seen with the eyes of Arturo in the novel by Elsa Morante) have the common denominator of insularity, which it often accompanies the propensity towards defense and, therefore, towards the construction of barriers and protection against external threats. However, the “literary” narration of the two islands manages to exalt even its specific features: Saint-Malo emerges as the capital of corsairs and trades on an international scale, identity also transmitted in the most recent territorial marketing and tourism promotion projects; Procida is presented as a closed island, turned to the mainland, with limited connections to the outside, a tendency to introversion also strengthened by the presence of the prison, so that the way to escape is represented by the abandonment of the island .
The third geographic object, analyzed through both scientific contributions and literary narratives, is the border or better the border, intended as an area of ​​passage and intersection or in some cases as a closure zone towards the other territory or alien subject that is threatening and therefore constituted in defense of its inhabitants. The geographical area analyzed in this case is the border region of the Western Alps on both the Italian and French sides. From the literary texts analyzed for this case study (novels by Jean Giono and Francesco Biamonti), the author extrapolates some common themes of mountain areas and border areas, such as: the roads of transhumance, the paths of smugglers, the refugees from illegal immigrants, the presence of agricultural activities in impervious and terraced areas,passer to help people to go beyond borders, the contact between different cultures and languages ​​and the emergence of diversity.

Through an expressive and effective style, the author succeeds with this book to highlight the value of narration and literary analysis in geographic research, proposing it as a method of analysis to represent the transformations of a territory and the evolution of its identities. Moreover, in spite of numerous literary citations, it does not renounce the geographic approach, which emerges constantly in the text and which is evident in the choice of the three themes of study. The subtitle (small user manual) refers to the predominantly didactic purpose,