Workshop 1: Abstracts

'Exoticizing Vesuvius'? The historical and intellectual formation of Neapolitan historiography, 12 January 2009 (Cambridge)

Peter Burke (University of Cambridge): 'Barons in the City: Reflections on Culture and Society in Early Modern Naples'

This paper, an exercise in thinking aloud rather than the presentation of new research, may be described as variations on a theme by Gerard Labrot. Where Labrot examined the architectural consequences of the decision by Neapolitan aristocrats to live in the capital, I should like to think about the intellectual consequences. A strong tradition in the historiography of Naples, focussed on Vico, emphasises the role of the 'ceti civili' in intellectual life. I should like to explore the possibility of inserting some aristocrats (including viceroys) into this story.

John Davis (University of Connecticut): 'Napoli Novecento: unfinished histories'

The paper will examine the ways in which Neapolitans have tried to understand and explain the history of their city since Unification. Does it have a history that is different from that of the Mezzogiorno? Has it followed trajectories that are different from those of the other larger southern cites (Bari, Palermo, Catania)? Is its history synonymous only with false starts - from the Saredo Inquiry to the post-World War II recovery that never happened, from the cholera to the collapse of the Bassolini bubble and Gomorra? Has there been no change in the script since Mani sulla Città? Do rhetoric and nostalgia offer the only alternative readings of Napoli Novecento? Is the past the principal obstacle to the city's future?

Girolamo Imbruglia (Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples): 'Enlightenment according to Benedetto Croce'

As with any historicism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a comparison with the enlightenment was also essential for Croce. However, in comparison, to other historians, his evaluation was ambiguous. On the one hand, he recognized its capacity for creating a culture so profound that it assumed the characteristics of a religion, as in all cultural movements, even secular ones (and its theory was that of the religion of liberty). This culture inspired the Jacobins of the Neapolitan republic of 1799 which, according to Croce, represented the most glorious episode in all of the history of southern Italy in the modern period, in fact the only and nationally relevant episode. On the other hand, however, the enlightenment, because of its devastating critical energy, never really created a true political system. The illuministi, like the Jacobins, were defeated, even if they were capable of writing the most sophisticated pages of ethical-political history. In the eighteenth century, there was a new intellectual figure who had created a new relationship with power. In the historicism of Croce, unlike German historicism, power and morality, ethos and crathos, did not coincide.

Aware of this impasse, Croce compared in his writings many times the theoretical and historical questions of the enlightenment, looking again at it his own position even to the point, for example, of changing his definition of reason in the eighteenth century; nonetheless, he maintained his point that what separated enlightenment from historicism was the antihistorical character of the first. Both against, and in tune, with the illuministi stood the figure of Giambattista Vico, the great unread philosopher of the eighteenth century. It was through Vico, however, that Neapolitan culture, by reflecting on its own traditions and the revolution, was able to enter in to a dialogue with the new culture of nineteenth-century philosophical languages, while it was through the revolution that it was able to create its own political reality. This interpretation rested on exceptional and erudite study, on the one hand, and an ethical-political vision, on the other. This, of course, presented a paradox: the illuministi were protagonists and creators of cultural languages, but not of a political language. It was Franco Venturi, exiled in Paris in the 1930s, who was to criticize this position. In his study of Diderot, and then later of the Italian reformers, Venturi showed instead that enlightenment had within itself a strong political dynamic which turned around the polarity of utopia and reform.

John Marino (University of California at San Diego): 'Myths of Modernity and the Myth of the City: When the Historiography of Pre-modern Italy Goes South'

This paper will examine late medieval, Renaissance, and early modern Neapolitan historiography from the teleological myths of modernity (individualism, secularism, republicanism, realism, and capitalism) that have created the paradigm of the two Italies, and from the myth of the medieval communes (their precocious development and divergence from the cities and towns of the Mezzogiorno) that there has been a continuity of their institutions and values to the present. Is there a unifying principle of Italian history in the city? Did the French Invasions and Italian Wars after 1494 mark the loss of liberty and calamity of Italy? Were the Renaissance papacy’s political role and the failure of the Reformation in Italy causes of delayed Unification and the supposed absence of the Protestant/capitalist ethic? Was Spanish rule destructive and subsequent antispagnolismo an easy scapegoat for political and economic backwardness?

Marta Petrusewicz (City University of New York: Hunter College and the Graduate Center): 'Were the peripheries really so monotonous?: Rural modernizers in Two Sicilies, 1815-1860'

This paper represents an attempt to normalize peripheral modernity as it operated in the 19th-century Kingdom of Two Sicilies. It concentrates on the Neapolitan cohort/milieu/network* of modernizers active mostly in the 1830s and 1840s, often through a variety of associations. The paper will explore the cultural identity of these modernizers, not so much in terms of their ideas, programs and practices, but rather of their education, frequentations and networks, cultural references etc. My focus here is not the city of Naples but the much less studied Neapolitan provinces.

*A good term to denote this is the Norwegian word Slegten for which I have not yet found an equivalent.

Anna Maria Rao (University of Naples 'Federico II'): 'The lost opportunities in the history of Naples'

The history of the Kingdom of Naples and its capital has often been read as one of lost opportunities and/or delays, if, for example, one compares it to medieval Italy in the age of the Communes, to England in the middle of the seventeenth century, or to France at the end of the eighteenth century. This has meant the history of Naples has been read as kind of competition in which the rules are set somewhere else; it is not accidental that one often comes across expressions such as “Naples did not miss (or missed) its appointment with history.”. This paper will discuss examples of this reading and examine its reasons and origins. Within this approach, there operates a vision of history in terms of 'models' of development which are based on certain experiences and which compare other experiences as 'minor' or delayed. The following questions and aspects will be considered: which disciplines and fields use the terms 'lost opportunities' and delay? To what extent has the so-called 'general history' (storia generale) of Naples -- such as political, social, economic, and cultural history -- been influenced by 'particular' histories -- such as the history of art, music, and architecture – and vice versa? Are these particular histories limited by the frameworks of general history, or have they suggested alternative interpretative frameworks? To what extent has Enlightenment thought of the eighteenth century, often considered the 'best' moment in the history of the South and its European moment (its ora più bella according to Giuseppe Galasso's definition), marked these historical interpretations?