Cultural Hegemony, understood as the domination of a foreign culture over an indigenous population's culture, is a useful concept for explaining the profound magnitude of the difference between Italian Studies Programs and the reality of the history and culture of near seventeen million Americans of southern-Italian descent.
For example, prominently displayed in the center of Notre Dame’s Italian Studies webpage is an automated sequence of 9 pictures showing various locations in Italy - all northern:
- Rome (2)
- Torino (2)
- San Gimignano
Clearly, the tacit message is:
Torroni need not apply to Notre Dame’s Italian Studies program unless they’re willing to submit to a cultural lobotomy.
This is not a program where Americans of southern-Italian descent learn about the history and culture of their ancestors.
Just in case an especially dense Terroni doesn’t get the pictorial hint, to the left of the pictures read “Dante Studies” and “Rome Seminar”. Digging further into the online catalogue, the message gets clearer and clearer – Notre Dame is a Northern Italian cultural “sphere of influence” in southern-Italian Americana (i.e. domination of an indigenous culture by a foreign culture).
More generally, documentary evidence, obtained from the catalogues of other American university Italian Studies programs, such as faculty resumes, and curriculum and course descriptions demonstrate the great divide between Italian Studies and southern-Italian Americans. (For a detailed discussion of the documentation, please see “Chickens Come Home...” and "American Terroni - 3,000 year..." articles linked in the “Related Articles” box on this page.)
Cultural Hegemony implications of Translations
More documentary evidence of the Northern Italian cultural hegemony over southern-Italian Americana comes from translation patterns of Italian language works into English.
Needless to say the number of northern Italian Renaissance translations are virtually uncountable and never stop coming. For example, in a 3/26/03 Slate.com article Adam Kirsch wrote:
“The abundance of new translations and new editions of Dante is wonderful but also overwhelming.”
“In just the last year, five new editions of the Inferno have appeared, including a reprint of Longfellow's landmark version. Still more surprising, there are three new translations of the much less popular Purgatorio, the second of the Comedy's three "canticles."
Even the Italian American Harvard professor/poet John Ciardi, the darling of Italian American literati, who famously became outraged when one of his poems was called “the best Italian American poem ever...” (the ‘Italian American’ part bothered him – in the Harvard tradition ‘best’ was judged ‘needless-to-say’)... he also translated Dante.
Also, lesser ‘northern lights’ are translated in volume. Manzoni’s The Betrothed, for example, has had five translations, and even a northern ‘speck of light’ such as Tranchetti’s Fosca has been translated into English.
What a difference a few hundred miles makes.
In sharp contrast to the flood of Northern Italian translations, great Terroni works languish never seeing the light of English translation; thus, systematically denying southern-Italian Americans access to the progenitors of their culture.
For example, the prolific Sicilian historian Michele Armani whose works are cited in the footnotes and bibliographies of many renowned contemporary historians have never been translated. (For a detailed discussion of the magnitude of Armani’s historiographic influence versus scholarly English language aversion, please see article “Terroni Americana...” linked in the “Related Article” box.)
Significantly, even famous northern Italians do not get translated – when writing about the South.
What a pathetic commentary on the American Italian Studies profession that the seminal works of Villari, Franchetti and Sonnino; works giving rise to the profound and incredibly voluminous 150 year “Southern Question” historiography, philosophy and social science genre; works offering profound insight into the history and culture of the Partria Meridionali and its American offspring, have never been translated.
For example, one of greatest historians of Sicily, Denis Mack Smith wrote:
“The most important contemporary study by far is that of L. Franchetti and Sidney Sonnoino, La Sicilia nel 1876”. (Modern Sicily p. 557 emp.+)
Thus, a renowned and respective study of Sicily done and published at the very onset of the great Sicilian migration is not available to the descendants of those migrants. But, there is no shortage of northern Italian translations foisted on Sicilian-American students by Piedmontista teachers.
Italian Studies professors, fly back and forth between Tuscany and their Tuscan decorated offices, building careers in what Stanford’s Robert Harrison called “Dantology” and the like, while completely ignoring the historic and cultural roots of near seventeen million Americans of southern Italian descent.
If one wants a walk'n, talk'n, sure-as-shootin example of foreign northern-Italian cultural hegemonic domination of the indigenous southern-Italian American culture, they can do no better than this outrageous ‘ wanting-of-translation’ insult; a virtual ‘slap in the face’ of all southern-Italian Americans.
Herman Hesse’s novel “Magister Ludi”, about 'scholars' who ‘withdraw’ from 'reality' to conjure eloquent aesthetic constructs as opposed to empirical descriptions and explanations of reality, captures the Italian Studies’ research and education milieu.
The Majister Ludi of American university Italian Studies Progrms live and work in an Ivory Tower conjuring ever more eloquent translations and explications of northern Italian literature. Meanwhile, they are completely isolated and insulated from the masses of southern-Italian Americans, while perpetuating the illusion that they are the teachers of the American Terroni – a great pedagogical ‘sleight-of-hand’.