S1726 The Mysteries of Italian Port Cities

Eisner Martin

Port cities often represent spaces of mystery, changing identities, beginnings, and endings. This course examines the literature of authors arriving in, leaving, and facing the mysteries of three fascinating Italian ports: Venice, Trieste, and Naples. How are the cities represented as spaces where boundaries are explored and broken? How do the cities compare to one another? Venice represents the classic mysterious port city, where characters wander around in the mist, confronting death, love, and themselves. The course will start with some of the most famous and unsettling modern works set in Venice, Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” and Daphne du Maurier’s “Don’t Look Now,” before moving onto discussions of select, provocative works set in Trieste and Naples. Jan Morris’s Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere offers a significant example of how port cities can seem out of time and place. Morris returns to Trieste, after many years and a sex change, to contemplate her memories and the history of the port city. Trieste’s most famous author, Italo Svevo, wrote a novel about the mysteries of love and development, entitled Emilio’s Carnival. The current best-selling author Elena Ferrante is often characterized by her relationship to Naples. Her powerful works ask readers to reexamine what they thought they knew about gender and Italy. Her Troubling Love has been called a psychological thriller, among many other designations. Students will discuss these works in terms of their cultural contexts, relationship to Italy’s history, literary style, and significance in considerations of world literature.