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Challenging the (Italian) American Canon: Past to Present

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    Ryan Calabretta-Sajder

    What makes a canon? More importantly, what is the confines, political and literary, faced by installing a canon? By destroying the canon as scholars, do we end up doing more good than bad? What is the future of ethnic writers when considering the canon?

    Italian American studies scholar Mary Jo Bona claims that “many factors contributed to the exclusion of ethnically identified writers from anthologies and syllabi, not the least of which was the way the teaching of literature and reading choices shifted in the 1920s to academic professionals, who were mostly male and white” (219). A little over a hundred years later, the canon continues to evolve, albeit slowly for ethnic writers, especially those of Italian descent. This session examines the (Italian) American canon in literary and cinematic productions, particularly anniversary texts of 2022. Below are some possible texts to consider. Please submit a 250-word abstract and bio.

    Films and television series can include but are not limited to Scarface (1932), Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1967), The Godfather (Coppola, 1972), The Valachi Papers (1972), Saturday Night Fever (1977), Moonstruck (1987), The Untouchables (1987), Wiseguy (1987-2009), Lorenzo’s Oil (1992), My Cousin Vinny (1992), Mac (1992), Donnie Brasco (1997), Fuori/Outside (Kym Ragusa, 1997), Kiss Me, Guido (1997), Oz (1997-2003), Lilyhammer (2012-2014), Silver Linings Playbooks (2012), Call Me By Your Name (2017), The Deuce (2017-2019), Frank Serpico (2017).

    Literary texts can include but are not limited to Pietro di Donato’s Christ in Concrete (1937), Mari Tomasi’s “Stone” (1942), Joseph Tusiani’s Rind and All (1962), John Fante’s Full of Life (1957), Diane di Prima’s Selected Poems: 1956-1976 (1977), Tony Ardizzone’s Larabi’s Ox: Stories of Morocco (1992), Rose Romano’s Vendetta (1992), Theresa Carilli’s A Thorough Cleansing (1997), John Ciardi’s The Collected Poems of John Ciardi (1997), Louise DeSalvo’s Vertigo: A Memoir (1997), Don DeLillo’s Underworld (1997), Franco D’Alessandro’s Roman Nights (2002), Salvatore Antonio’s In Gabriel’s Kitchen (2007), Maria Gillan’s All That Lies Between Us (2007), Peter Covino’s The Right Place to Jump (2012), Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Time of Useful Consciousness (Americus, Book II) (2012), George Guida’s The Pope Stories and Other and Other Tales of Troubled Times (2012), and Carole Maso’s Mother & Child (2012), or Mary Melfi’s My Italian Wife (2012).

    Deadline for submissions: March 22

    Contact: Alan J. Gravano,

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