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Offers information and insights
The many available scholarly works on Italian Americans are of little practical help to the undergraduate or high school student who needs background information when reading contemporary fiction with Italian characters, watching films that require a familiarity with Italian Americans, or looking at works of art that can be fully appreciated only if one understands Italian culture. This basic reference work for non-specialists and students offers quick insights and essential, easy-to-grasp information on Italian American contributions to American art, music, literature, motion pictures, and cultural life.
Spotlights the uniquely Italian in American Life
This rich legacy is examined in a collection of original essays that range from portrayals of Italian characters in the films of Francis Coppola to Italian American poetry, from the art of Frank Stella to the music of Frank Zappa, from a survey of Italian folk customs to an analysis of the evolution of Italian American biography. Comprising 22 lengthy essays written specifically for this volume, the book identifies what is uniquely Italian in American life and examines how Italian customs, traditions, social mores, and cultural antecedents have wrought their influence on the American character. Filled with insights, trenchant observations, and ethnic facts and fictions, this volume is a valuable source of information for scholars, researchers, and students interested in pinpointing and examining the cultural, intellectual, and social influence of Italian immigrants and their successors.
Includes an Extensive Lexicon of Important Terms
This informative lexicon provides definitions of Italian terms that are central to the Italian American experience and that serve as indexes of the Italian American worldview. Whenever appropriate, the editor refers readers to a source in which the meaning of the term is more fully explored.
Excerpt from a sample Lexicon entry:
al fresco: adv., adj.: outdoors, literally "in the cool," meaning fresh air: an Italian phrase now used in English as in the expression "dining al fresco". Conflating the idea that Italian cuisine is admirably suited to be eaten in the open air and the image of the Mediterranean climate, al fresco has become a signifier of the pleasurable way in which Italian life is conducted.
Excerpts from the book:
"Madonna fully plays out the Madonna/puttana (and its darker variation, Madonna/dominatrix) identities and her own internal division between sacred and profane; when she is good she is very bad, and when she is bad, she is very good."-from "Madonna: The Postmodern Diva as Maculate Conception" by Fosca D'Acierno, "I hate the hoity-toity view of art which is pretentious, airy, and filled with moral meanings. Most critics and scholars have no direct contact with artists; they would be uncomfortable with them. They pretend to talk about works of art, but in fact they are quite different from artists in personality. I have repeatedly said that the artist has more in common with the car mechanic -- getting yourself dirty -- which is why I have enormous rapport with artists."-from "Italian Catholic in My Bones: A Conversation with Camille Paglia" by Camille Paglia and Thomas J. Ferraro *
"If a piece of bread falls to the floor, it should be kissed and blessed with the sign of the cross. Bread should not be wasted, nor should one pierce it with knife or fork. Bread should be one of the first items brought into a new home, and keeping at least a crust of this food staple in the cupboard warded off famine."-from "Bread and Wine in Italian-American Folk Culture" by Frances M. Malpezzi and William M. Clement