This article reconstructs the various, and at times contradictory, phases of the critical debate on Italian crime fiction from national unification to the present day. I rely on the key ideas of 'resistance' and 'canonisation' with the intention of showing how, over this long span of time, they have alternately polarised and reframed the nature of the debate, changing its coordinates and shaping scholarship on the subject. This analysis will highlight the constitutive anomalies, limits, and shortcomings of Italian crime criticism, from the repeated conventionalisation of the genre's historical development to the inadequacy of its theoretical conceptualisation. Thus, I will demonstrate that, far from disappearing, the deep-seated dichotomy between 'literary' and 'popular' fiction, with the latter being seen as aesthetically and ideologically insignificant, has now simply metamorphosed and assumed different, often undetected guises. Finally, I will argue that it is necessary to eradicate dominant perceptions and existing critical paradigms - the rigid concepts of 'genre' and 'canon', and the narrow framework of the nation - in order to facilitate a fuller and more comprehensive understanding of Italian crime fiction and its complex and multifaceted history.
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