Monica Seger, Landscape in Between. Environmental Change in Modern Italian Literature and Film. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015. 216 pp. £30.ISBN 9781442649194, epub ISBN 9781442619654
Review by Elisabetta Rattalino, University of St Andrews
Reading Monica Seger’s Landscape in Between. Environmental Change in Modern Italian Literature and Film, we might want to leave aside the Italian landscape we are familiar with: towns enclosed by their ancient protective walls, and surrounded by a peaceful, bucolic countryside; perspectives dominated by majestic or picturesque Greek and Roman ruins; the tops of snowy Alpine hills and Mediterranean beaches.
Moving beyond traditional categories of aesthetic landscape appreciation, Seger argues for the values of interstitial landscapes in post-war Italy. Bringing together a select number of works by writers and film directors from different generations, she investigates the critical environmental changes Italy underwent during and following the unprecedented industrialisation and urbanisation of the late 1950s, from which these physical and mental spaces have emerged and acquired significance. Proposing a parallelism with Giorgio Agamben’s sacred man, Seger interprets interstices, namely “spaces in between”, as places for the negotiation of meaning, identity, cultural production and the effects of history. Her aim is arguably to bring light to their epistemological potentials in order to develop a more balanced relationship between humans and non-humans in the contemporary context of ecological crisis.
Thus, analysed through the lenses of landscape studies and eco-critical theory, Seger discusses the environmental impacts of expanding cities and urbanised countryside through Italo Calvino’s La speculazione edilizia (1957) and La nuvola di smog (1965), Gianni Celati’s Verso la foce (1989), Simona Vinci’s Dei bambini non si sa niente (1997) and Rovina (2007), Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Ucellacci Uccellini (1966) and Teorema (1968), and Daniele Ciprì’s and Franco Maresco’s Lo zio di Brooklin (1995), Totò che visse due volte (1998) and A memoria (1996). These literary and cinematographic works are studied not only as narratives that document Italy’s transformations, but also individuate new paradigms that question such changes, and their critical ecological implications. Moreover, Seger offers insightful reflections that could complement further investigations on those visual art practices, which have made of non-traditional Italian landscapes their field of action and interest over the past fifty years.