Debate in the Dark: Love in Italian-American Fiction

  • Robert Viscusi


Italians, according to stereotype, make great lovers. Like most stereotypes, this one is true but not true enough. It leaves out something important in the interest of rendering its object relatively harmless. Thus, if one says the poor are shiftless, one is unlikely to want to add why it is that they cannot find decent jobs. Women are hysterical if you refuse to listen to anything they say except with their bodies. And so on. Italians are great lovers to people who would rather not think of them as economic or political agents. This is a peculiar and, in Italian history, a profound reality. The lay theology of heterosexual love, though its early development took place elsewhere, reached a spectacular pitch of elaboration in thirteenth and fourteenth-century Italy precisely as a way of endowing with effective agency forms of feeling that had no other avenue of expression. That is, the great new language of love one finds in Dante and Petrarca and Boccaccio is most clearly seen as a way of legitimising the dignity of the uxorious burgher against the systematic linguistic and ritual exclusion long practised by a powerfully homosexual priestly hierarchy. The medieval church was a club of men who preached salvation and lent money.1


American Life Italian Immigrant Great Lover American Declaration Italian History 
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Copyright information

© Ann Massa 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Viscusi

There are no affiliations available

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