Final Thoughts
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Final Thoughts The performances of Eugenio Bennato and Alessandra Belloni play with different representations of the Italian South in a constant negotiation between artisticimpulse,sociopoliticalconcerns,audiencemotivations,andcommercial opportunities. Furthermore, the complexity of Belloni’s project derives from her own artistic persona and from her own performance as a southern Italian woman and artist. Insofar as her tarantella performances and workshops affect the representation of southern Italy among U.S. and cosmopolitan audiences , Belloni’s positionality and ethics play an important role as a recorder of southern Italian folk music for an international audience—as it does my own, Imightadd,sinceItoostudytherevivalandtranslateit,bothlinguisticallyand culturally, for a U.S. academic audience. In representing the musical and cultural world of tarantella for national and global audiences, the performer, the folklorist, the popularizer, the cultural critic, and the intellectual are not only structurallyaffectedbytheirpositionalitiesinrelationtothetopicofstudy,but should carefully reflect on them and their agency. In fact, in the study of folk cultures,amajorriskisthatofromanticizingorexoticizingthefolk,andasIhave illustrated throughout this study, neither the folklorist, the performer, nor the intellectualcaneasilystayawayfromsuchaninevitablyromanticizingattitude. Problems of representation have consistently been central to both folklore studies and cultural studies scholarships, two major scholarly frameworks for this study, given the attention paid in both fields to the cultural expressions of 172  •  Final Thoughts sociallymarginalizedgroups.ThisfocusonthemarginalreachedItalianscholarship in the earlier part of the twentieth century through the work of Antonio Gramsci, whose main concern was over what he saw as a “split between the people and the intellectuals” (1985, 168). This reflection ultimately led him to a new conception of the intellectual, which was based on the assumption that “theintellectualfunctioncannotbeseparatedfromproductiveworkingeneral” (275). But reflecting on the role of the intellectual also led Gramsci to consider the role of folklore within both cultural and political spheres. According to Gramsci, the intellectual’s role was in fact crucial in helping people “regain importance” (168), and this placing of the people (also to be understood as groupsorcommunities)atthecenteroftheintellectualendeavormeantgiving new importance to the marginal, the repressed, the local. Gramsci’s attention to folklore, conceived as the culture of the lower classes, therefore developed outofhisMarxistpoliticalorientation,whileatthesametimeinauguratingthe study of folklore within Italian Marxist scholarship. This concern about giving voice to the culture of marginalized groups still remains central to folklore studies today. Yet the history of this discipline offers many examples of folklore scholarship that declared to give voice to the people, but in actual practice often constructed these voices according to the folklorist’sownperspectivesandbiases.AcaseinpointisthebrothersGrimm’s nineteenth-century folklore scholarship. As documented by German scholar HeinzRöllekeinthe1970sandfurtheranalyzedbyRichardBaumanandCharles Briggs, the Grimms were constantly concerned with authenticity when they transcribedoraltextsandtransformedthemintocollectionsoffolktales;however , they did make many stylistic changes and revisions. It was exactly these stylistic additions, such as the introduction of direct discourse, that helped to makethetexts“authentic”intheeyesofthecollectorsandtheirreaders,whenin realitynoactualpeasanthadbeeninterviewedbytheGrimms,butonlymiddleclass families who often knew the story from previous publications (Bauman andBriggs2003,212–14).ThispracticeultimatelyrevealstheGrimms’central concern with building an idealized image of what “the folk” said or what they felt. This paradox, inherent in the early formulation of folklore studies in nineteenth -centuryEurope,isconfirmedbyGramsci’sviewoffolklore.Whilecapitalizing on the crucial role of the marginal classes within Italian society and advocating a renewed interest in these classes’ “conception of the world,” he also reminds us that “this conception of the world is not elaborated and systematicbecause ,bydefinition,thepeople. . .cannotpossessconceptionswhich are elaborated, systematic and politically organized and centralized in their Final Thoughts  • 173 albeitcontradictorydevelopment”(1985,189).Thiscontradictionisexplained in Gramsci’s view by the need to understand the people’s conception of the world inorderto help them move beyond it, to educate them, and in this way to contribute to the construction of a national consciousness, while maintaining a cosmopolitan dialogue with other nations. In doing so, he also constructs a rather negative and limited conception of the folk, which deeply influenced severalgenerationsofItalianfolklorists.MybriefexaminationofDeMartino’s 1961 study of tarantismin the first chapter asserted both De Martino’s indebtedness to Gramsci’s thought and his belief that the “backward” southern folk culture was a sign of the lack of social and cultural development in the region. Both 1970s and 1990s tarantella scholarship, which is deeply influenced by Italian Marxism and by Gramsci’s thought, certainly moved beyond Gramsci’s conceptionoffolkloreonlytoembraceanoverlypositiveimageoftheSouthand of tarantella. This leads us to ask how their understanding of southern Italian folklore takes into consideration questions of agency and appropriation. De Simone’s 1979 study of Campanian folk songs, which first made available the folkcultureofthisregiontoanationalandmiddle-classaudience,wasinformed byamuchmorepositivenotionofthefolkthanDeMartino’s.Yetlocalperformers and old-timers were and are very aware of the distance separating them from De Simone’s intellectual position...


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