TRUTH. JUSTICE. FREEDOM. Giuseppe Fava's narrative documents of the Southern soul as catalysts for contemporary anti-mafia culture

Date: 17 October 2016

Venue: Theater Het Klokhuis - Parochiaanstraat 4 - 2000 Antwerpen (route: UAntwerpen, Stadscampus)

Time: 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM

PhD candidate: Sarah Vantorre

Principal investigator: Prof. dr. Dieter Vermandere, em. prof. dr. Walter Geerts

Short description: PhD defence Sarah Vantorre - Faculty of Arts


TRUTH. JUSTICE. FREEDOM. Giuseppe Fava's narrative documents of the Southern soul as catalysts for contemporary anti-mafia culture
In 1950, after a brief career as a lawyer, Giuseppe ‘Pippo’ Fava (Palazzolo Acreide 1925 - Catania 1984) became a journalist. The exploitative activities of Cosa Nostra in the aftermath of World War II made clear to him Sicilian society’s urgent need for progress towards a greater social justice so that violence could be prevented. Fava developed an ethical conception of journalism: ‘where there is truth,’ he wrote, ‘justice can be enhanced and freedom can be defended’.

Fava was moreover a critically acclaimed novelist, playwright, screenwriter and documentarist. Nevertheless, his assassination by the Catanese mafia on 5 January 1984, shortly before the publication of the twelfth issue of his anti-mafia monthly I Siciliani, has long overshadowed the public memory and appreciation of his cultural versatility and social function as an intellectual. The fact that Fava was primarily known as a journalist and that his journalistic approach to reality was strongly reflected in the content and style of his works has moreover caused his literary oeuvre to have so far remained nearly excluded from the established canons of Sicilian and Italian narrative and, consequently, from academic research. And this despite the growing interest in socially and politically engaged non-fictional and hybrid forms of storytelling within the interdisciplinary field of Italian studies.

This dissertation investigates the innovative character of Fava’s engagement in post-war Sicily and addresses the question whether and through which narrative instruments his works may have paved the way for contemporary forms of anti-mafia engagement. After contextualising and defining the core values and forms of Fava’s intellectual engagement, it investigates and illustrates how – using all journalistic and artistic channels at his disposal and crossing the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction – Fava translated this engagement into emancipatory narrative documents of reality and of the human condition (Southern soul) behind that reality. It does so by focussing on his use of the criminal trial as a metaphor for his journalistic investigations and as a narrative framework for chapters in his novels and for entire courtroom dramas. It shows how, by literally coopting
them as jurors in the trial – a technique which is in many respects reminiscent of the methodologies for conscientisation developed by Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal – Fava invited his readers to understand their reality as an objective-problematic situation that they could critically investigate and transform through their own sensible conclusions and choices in order to liberate Sicily from social injustice and mafia oppression. He moreover challenged them to introspectively gain awareness of those aspects of their mentality that allowed the
mafia to condition them.

From an analysis of those creative acts that have been performed in response to Fava’s oeuvre emerges that his narrative documents of the Southern soul have catalysed critical consciousness and hope, from which contemporary forms of anti-mafia engagement have ensued. Fava can therefore be reckoned one of the intergenerational bridge figures who cleared the way for contemporary forms of Sicilian and Italian upstream engagement against the mafias.

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