Estremi confini (2020)

Nella primavera del 2020 è uscito il volume collettaneo Estremi confini, a cura di Nicoletta Brazzelli.

Dalla quarta di copertina:

Il volume offre uno sguardo sulla raffigurazione degli spazi estremi nella letteratura in lingua inglese. Nel mondo anglofono, soprattutto in relazione alla sua storia coloniale e postcoloniale, i luoghi «alla fine del mondo» permettono di definire e di ridefinire i rapporti fra il sé e l’altro, fra il centro e le periferie. Gli «estremi confini» fanno leva sul ventaglio delle possibilità offerte dal remoto, dallo sconosciuto, dal diverso; i luoghi «dove tutto può accadere», su cui si sono proiettate fantasie utopiche e inquietudini distopiche, costituiscono un motore narrativo dalle caratteristiche sorprendenti, che viaggia lungo i binari sia del realismo che del fantastico.

La versione elettronica del volume Estremi confini è accessibile qui. Mentre di seguito, riportiamo gli abstract dei contributi dei membri del CRC.


«What the nation would not do, a woman did»: Lady Franklin e l’esplorazione artica di Nicoletta Brazzelli

In February 1845 Sir John Franklin was given the command of a naval expedition to find a Northwest Passage in Canada and he set sail on the Erebus, with a three-year supply of provisions: when, in 1848, the expedition had not returned, Lady Jane Franklin was personally involved in the organization of several search parties. Although she never participated in any of these, she took charge of their preparation and scheduling. Finally, in 1857 she sent the Fox on a final search for survivors: three years later, Francis Leopold McClintock returned with evidence of the expedition’s unhappy fate.

In this essay, the tragic loss of Sir John Franklin’s expedition in search of the Northwest Passage is investigated from the perspective of Franklin’s wife, who won significant popular celebrity through her efforts to discover the fate of her beloved husband. Jane Franklin greatly transformed the narrative discourse of Arctic exploration, both through the direct influence she exerted on the search for Franklin and through her rewriting of the language of heroism, suffering and national honour. Her correspondence with British prime ministers, Members of Parliament, Lords of the Admiralty offers a private side to a national tragedy and sheds new light on what Sir John Franklin’s disappearance meant to England and its public opinion.

The analysis of Lady Franklin’s letters focuses on the combination of the (female) language of affection to promote (male) imperial views. These letters persuaded the Admiralty to persevere with the search when it would have given up, and kept Franklin’s memory and honour alive in the national imagination. The sequence of Jane’s letters also traces the progression of Lady Franklin’s growing awareness of her husband’s death and contributes to the transformation of the Arctic explorer into a heroic figure. The language of Lady Franklin’s letters is geographically precise and conveys detailed information on the Arctic, whilst also providing readers with the domestic side of the disaster. She is the «afflicted wife» whose emotional language reveals the affection she feels for her husband, while her letters are addressed to officials. In her writings, two voices overlap: the Arctic expert and the wife. Jane called upon the Admiralty to perform its function and rescue her husband, alluding to the Arctic as a blank space on the maps, thus employing male colonial language. But she also represents the search as an emotional and moral imperative. These two discourses are distinct in style and rhetoric. The Arctic analysis is clear and discusses the reports of returned navigators, the shipping routes; however, the real power of Lady Franklin’s texts lies in her emotional appeals. She also apologizes for her «female motions»: in this sense, the introductory and concluding remarks of her letters are worth considering. She was afraid that her advocacy would necessarily be weakened because of her too close connection with the subject. From her offer of a reward to whalers to her identification as the widow of Franklin, she made her letters persuasive to both the officials and the general public, challenging the male world of Arctic navigation and enhancing the moral responsibility of Britain towards its heroes and wives’ devotion.

Da luogo a spazio: il Donegal in Translations di Brian Friel di Elena Ogliari

Set in Irish-speaking Donegal in August 1833, Translations is one of Brian Friel’s best-known plays, which has elicited extensive criticism since its premiere in 1980. Drawing on Edward Said’s studies, most scholars interpret the play as Friel’s attempt to expose the imperialist implications of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, whereby the process of mapping Donegal is precursor of a cultural programming aimed at the erasure of the Gaelic heritage. Consequently, another major branch of criticism discusses the playwright’s historical accuracy in depicting this cartographic project. In the wake of Morash and Richards’s Mapping Irish Theatre and Yi-Fu Tuan’s Space and Place, however, the present essay proposes to analyse the recalcitrant geography of Pre-famine Gaeltacht as is evoked in the play. Due to its remoteness, Donegal was a twilit region difficult to reach and one of the last bastions of Celtic culture in the eyes of the British «sappers», entrusted with charting its wilderness in the 1830s. Friel used their diaries and letters as sources to describe the encounter between two cultures with the Gaelic one threatened with extinction in Donegal Baile Beag, which the British characters view as a village crystallised out of time. The dramatic landscape mirrors the tensions engendered by the encounter between Irish and British peoples, who also differ in the way of knowing the landscape and relating to it; on the one hand, Gaelic lore and mythology inform the Irish peasants’ perspective: for instance, they believe that the heroes and gods of the Ulster Cycle live by their side. On the other, the British see the Irish woodlands and wetlands as spaces to anglicise and control, with maps and technology functioning as instruments of colonisation. Britain’s project is bound to succeed and its scorched-earth policy will change the physical appearance of the landscape. Importantly, the occupiers’ incursion only quickens an ongoing process of modernisation. Despite appearing as a «flight from contemporaneity», the rural Baile Beag has been already transformed by socio-economic pressures.

Explore Beautiful County Donegal with Discover Ireland

The lands of Donegal, here represented as a precarious repository of Celtic culture where boundaries dividing reality from mythology are permeable, is becoming more and more a lieu de memoire, which will only exist in the memory and tales of its inhabitants. The familiar place is being replaced by the openness and freedom of the space: a space that poses threats or promises for its original inhabitants.

Informazioni bibliografiche

Spazi e narrazioni nella letteratura in lingua inglese

A cura di Nicoletta Brazzelli

Anno di pubblicazione: 2020

Saggi di: Elisa Bolchi, Nicoletta Brazzelli, Luigi Cazzato, Lucio De Capitani, Francesca Guidotti, Angelo Monaco, Francesca Montesperelli, Elena Ogliari, Eleonora Sasso.

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