Date of Award

December 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Gregory S. Jay

Committee Members

Robin Pickering-Iazzi, Shelleen Greene, Andrew Kincaid, Peter Paik


Cultural Studies, Italian Studies, Resistance Theory


Through my analysis of literary works, I endeavor to bring to the fore a cultural and intellectual counter-hegemonic discourse that came to be articulated by three Sicilian writers in the years following Italy’s unification. Their intent was that of debunking a national discourse that constructed Italian Southerners as “Otherness.” My study focuses on six primary texts, five short stories, and one novel, written at the turn of the twentieth century. These texts include Giovanni Verga’s “What is the King?” and “Freedom”; Luigi Pirandello’s “Madam Mimma,” “The Black Baby Goat,” and “The Other Son”; Luigi Capuana’s Rabbato’s Americani. In order to expand my discussion and bring it to present-day Italy, I also analyze three films: Florestano Vancini’s Bronte: a Massacre that History Books never Reported, Emanuele Crialese’s Golden Door, and the Taviani brothers’ Chaos. My investigation of these works draws upon theories of many different fields of study like postcolonialism, narrative and trauma studies, new historicism, film studies, border studies, and critical race theory. Consequently, the secondary texts I consulted are by many and diverse authors, such as Homi Bhabha, Shail Mayaram, Antonio Gramsci, Michel Foucault, Stuart Hall, Etienne Balibar, Russ Castronovo, Cathy Caruth and Kalì Tal, and Laurie Vickory, Henri Bergson just to mention a few. Above all, I premise my analysis of the literary texts on Michael Rössner’s theorization that the texts by Verga, Pirandello, and Capuana are conducive to be read through the postcolonial lens because of their authors’ subaltern position within the newly formed Italy. I give a postcolonial reading to my primary texts to uncover a counter-hegemonic discourse that, by discrediting the process of unification as a story of freedom and success for all, constructs the piemontizazione, as a colonization of southern territories. I, then, demonstrate how this counter-hegemonic discourse aimed also to debunk a race rhetoric that had been taking shape in nineteenth-century Europe, and created taxonomies of superior and inferior peoples. In Italy, the local race discourse created Southerners as racialized “Otherness” on which Italy’s failures could be conveniently dumped, and against which the real and pure Italian race was to be constructed. Finally, I finish with the analysis of Sicilians’ emigration to America that can be interpreted as resistance, exile, and trauma. Emigration can be read as resistance insomuch as it was the only possible way to defeat any racial construction of Southerners as intrinsically Italy’s “losers.” Likewise, emigration can be read as Sicilians’ exile that is as their punitive banishment from their own island and the trauma that it entails.