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Imagining Italians

The Clash of Romance and Race in American Perceptions, 1880-1910

Joseph P. Cosco

Publication Year: 2003

Integrating history, literary criticism, and cultural studies, Imagining Italians vividly tells the story of two voyages across the Atlantic: America’s cultural pilgrimage to Italy and the Italian “racial odyssey” in America. It examines how American representations of Italy, Italians, and Italian Americans engaged with national debates over immigration, race, and national identity during the period 1880–1910. Joseph P. Cosco offers a close analysis of selected works by immigrant journalists Jacob Riis and Edward Steiner and American iconographic writers Henry James and Mark Twain. Exploring their Italian depictions in journalism, photos, travel narratives, and fiction, he rediscovers the forgotten Edward Steiner and offers fresh readings of Riis’s reform efforts and photography, James’s The Golden Bowl and The American Scene, and Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv

CONTENTS

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pp. vii-

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

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pp. ix-

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INTRODUCTION: Magnificently Miserable Italians and Their Wretched, Princely Italy

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pp. 1-20

A gloomy mist hung over New Orleans on the night of October 15, 1890, as David C. Hennessy, the popular police superintendent, walked home after a late-night snack of half a dozen oysters and a teetotaling glass of milk at Dominic Virget’s saloon. As Hennessy walked alone in the gloaming...

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1. JACOB RIIS: IMMIGRANTS OLD AND NEW, AND THE MAKING OF AMERICANS

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pp. 21-60

In his chapter “The Italian in New York” in How the Other Half Lives, the journalist and pioneering photographer Jacob A. Riis begins by discussing the transformation of the Italian immigrant as he makes his way from the Old World to the New. Riis notes that Italians form a “picturesque, if not very...

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2. EDWARD STEINER: ALL IS (NOT) RACE?

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pp. 61-86

At about the same time that Jacob Riis was becoming an elder statesman in the urban reform movement and Henry James was probing the immigrants’ coloring of the American scene, a lesser known academic/journalist was spending vacations trailing and documenting European migrants to...

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3. HENRY JAMES’S PICTURESQUE PEASANTS: HEROES OF ROMANCE OR MODERN MEN?

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pp. 87-111

In 1904, Henry James returned to the United States from Europe, after a twenty-one-year absence, for an extended visit to his native land. The trip produced a series of seismic shocks for the sixty-one-year-old James. Big ugly factories, a society grasping for dollars and goods, and swarms of urban...

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4. HENRY JAMES’S “FLAGRANT FOREIGNERS”: WHOSE COUNTRY IS THIS ANYWAY?

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pp. 113-142

Since its publication in 1904, The Golden Bowl has come to be considered one of James’s most hermetic creations, a novel whose ambiguity is nearly legendary despite all that has been written about its meaning. The plot is a simple one: Maggie Verver, the daughter of a rich American, marries Prince...

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5. MARK TWAIN: RACISM, NATIVISM, AND THE TWINNING OF ITALIANNESS

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pp. 143-170

If we are foolish enough to believe Mark Twain, he performed a simple “kind of literary Caesarean operation” on the unruly tale of Siamese twins that was giving him such a struggle in the early 1890s. Dr. Twain saw the procedure as a simple one: Remove, from the main story line, the farce...

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CONCLUSION: THE FIGHT FOR WHITENESS

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pp. 171-178

This study has been an attempt to look at American ideologies concerning Italy, Italians, and Italian immigrants during the decades from 1880 to 1910. My goal was to examine how those ideologies were represented, and to ask not so much what those representations say about Italy, Italians, and...

NOTES

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pp. 179-206

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. 207-226

INDEX

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pp. 227-231


E-ISBN-13: 9780791486627
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791457610
Print-ISBN-10: 0791457613

Page Count: 243
Illustrations: 6 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: SUNY series in Italian/American Culture
Series Editor Byline: Fred L. Gardaphe

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Racism -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Racism -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Italian Americans -- Public opinion.
  • Immigrants -- United States -- Public opinion.
  • Immigrants -- United States -- Social conditions.
  • Public opinion -- United States.
  • Italian Americans in literature.
  • United States -- Ethnic relations.
  • Italian Americans -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
  • Italian Americans -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
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