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Introduction to Rome, Postmodern Narratives of a Cityscape

Introduction to Rome, Postmodern Narratives of a Cityscape

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Introduction to Rome, Postmodern Narratives of a Cityscape, the second book in our series Warwick Series in the Humanities, published by Pickering & Chatto
Introduction to Rome, Postmodern Narratives of a Cityscape, the second book in our series Warwick Series in the Humanities, published by Pickering & Chatto

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Published by: Pickering and Chatto on Mar 11, 2013
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– 1 –
Dom Holwy n Filippo rentin
It is history, bove ll, tht one res quite iferently [in Rome] rom nywhere elsein the worl. J. W. Goethe
Until the mi-twentieth century,  vst mjority o culturl representtions o Rome within the Western collective imgintion relie, lmost incessntly, onnotions or echoes o the clssicl city: rom ‘Cput Muni’ or the ‘Eternl City’,to the ‘Divine City’ o Christenom or the ‘City o Ruins’ o the Grn our.Troughout the eces these temporlities hve been preserve n hve coex-iste, mouling the imge o the Itlin cpitl s though  plimpsest o writtenn re-written lyers, whose originl trces never completely e. Te metphoro the plimpsest, boun to the pre-moern topogrphy o the city with its syn-chronic coexistence o iferent historicl lyers, ws estblishe throughout thecenturies by the escriptions o scinte trvellers, mze by the persistenceo historicl builings n remnnts o history within Rome’s cityscpe. ForGoethe, visiting Rome ment visiting history itsel,
while or Freu the urbnbric o ‘Te Eternl City’ mirrore the inner structure o the humn min, in which lyers o pst memory-trces, conscious n unconscious, coexist.
Aer the Secon Worl Wr, when Itly ws integrte into the Westernbloc n consequently pressure to conorm to  neo-liberl cpitlist moel,Rome ws rsticlly reene by the contemporry economic n sociluphevl n the growth n expnsion tht ccompnie this perio. A gen-erl popultion increse, omestic migrtions n  turn wy rom gricultureccompnie post-wr regenertion n  reltively rpi re-builing o inr-structure, orcing the city to spre r beyon its tritionl limits. From the1920s on, Rome’s popultion multiplie pproximtely seven times n itssurce becme ten times lrger, encompssing vst irectionl n commercilres.
Tis triggere  rupture,  seprtion o the city into two istinct prts:the historicl city centre, within the Aurelin Wlls, n the moern periphery.
 Rome, Postmodern Narratives o a Cityscape
Te seprtion o the city hs reverberte through the vrious wys o thinking Rome in recent yers, leing to two istinct n complementry pproches to the city. Te rst o these ocuses on the ortune, or the ecy,o the (historicl) city’s clssicl imge, with the key prigm o the city nunwvering point o reerence thus being the ‘Eternl City’. Te secon concen-trtes on Rome’s urbn n suburbn
growth, highlighting the shrpcontrst between the beuty o Rome’s ncient city centre n the ugliness orcorruption o its moern peripheries. In mny cses o the ltter, the implicitichotomy o the corrupt periphery with the beuty o the historicl centresignls tht the sme ptrimonil notion o ‘Eternl Rome’ perves both o these pproches.Exmples o the rst pproch to the city inclue Peter Bonnell’s
Te Eternal City
, n Cthrine Ewrs’s eite volume
 Roman Presences
Te or-mer ims to ientiy the ongoing presence o the myth o Rome rom the timeo Livy n citus to its use in Asimov’s
cycle n the
Star Wars
trilogy; the ltter nlyses the inuentil role tht Rome’s clssicl imge hin the construction o  moern Europen ientity. In spite o their iferentims, both exmples ttempt ultimtely to sustin the enuring legcy/legcieso Rome’s clssicl pst, stressing the existence o n rchetypl Imperil imgi-nry. Another, more recent, exmple o this strn is Michel Herzel’s
 Evicted   fom Eternity: Te Restructuring o Modern Rome
. Tough Herzel’s gol iferssomewht, since he escribes the recent process o gentriction within speci-clly the Monti qurter, the rmework tht he uses is similr, s he nostlgiclly res the isppernce o locl lie rom this re o Rome in terms o the ing wy o Rome’s eternlity: ‘[h]ere, eternlly, eternity continues to rcture nto colesce, repetely n without rest’.
For ech o these stuies, the signier‘Rome’ evokes imges o its glorious, clssicl pst.Te secon pproch to Rome, which ocuses on its moern ce, hs beenle by pioneering urbnists such s Itlo Insoler n Antonio Ceern, nthe importnt scholrs tht ollowe them.
While these stuies re key tounerstning the post-wr restructuring o Rome, since they hve unveile theountionl role plye by estte specultion n politicl corruption in the post-wr reconstruction o the city, they hve lso estblishe the bsis or  con-servtive rmework o rejection n complint ginst every ttempt to provielterntive reings o Rome’s contemporry imge. A cler legcy o this rme- work is the urious cries which ollowe the inugurtion o the museum o theAr Pcis, esigne by Americn rchitect Richr Meier in 2006 (see rentin’scontribution to this volume on pp. 101–17).Te essys collecte in
 Rome, Postmodern Narratives o a Cityscape
emergerom  iferent position. Rther thn lmenting the loss o the ‘eternl’ spectso the city s  consequence o moernity n postmoernity, the essys col-
lecte here im to problemtize the universl ie o Rome by incorporting nbsorbing the rgments, the etritus n the hien zones o the city’s contem- porry imge. In this sense, it prticiptes in the ongoing ormtion o
 rmework o stuies on recent Rome, which ollows some o the theoreticlinsights expresse by historin Vittorio Viotto in his seminl
 Roma Contempo-ranea
. As Viotto writes, tritionl pproches to Rome bse on the completerejection o its moernity prouce ‘un sostnzile incomprensione storic ellcittà, incpce i cogliere e i volgere in positivo l complessità ei ttori elltrsormzione urbn’ ( substntil historicl misunerstning o the city, which ws incpble o unerstning n reing t ll positively the complex-ity o the vrious ctors tht contribute to urbn trnsormtion).
Shring in Viotto’s sentiment rom  theoreticl point o view,
 Rome, Postmodern Narra-tives o a Cityscape
chllenges both the grn nrrtives o Rome s ‘Eternl City’,n Rome s  moern hell, moels which hve limite the possibility to re,interpret n nlyse the complexities o Rome’s contemporry cityscpe. Whileit is very importnt to recognize the singulr importnce o the rst two els o Rome stuies, in ouning itsel on the thir this book seeks to enct something o  shi rom the criticl rmework in which the previous moels prticipte.
Tis thir pproch to the city, which hs prouce  number o importntcontributions to contemporry Rome stuies in recent yers, thus exminesthe contemporry city in open, plurl n inclusive rther thn binry terms.
 Rejecting the ichotomy between the supposely glorious ncient city n thellegely squli moern one in vour o  ilecticl unerstning never-theless rises  very tricky question: how to go beyon the weighty presence o Rome’s clssicl pst, without rejecting it outright.Te specil issue o 
 Annali d’Italianistica
entitle ‘Cpitl City: Rome1870–2010’ represents  relevnt instnce o the thir pproch to Rome; theessys quite speciclly ocus on Rome’s post-unitry moernity in  universlstuy o the citys specic trjectory (tking into ccount centre n periphery).In the introuction to the volume eitor Cristin Mzzoni writes:
the cpitl hs serve s  mirror in which to contemplte the problem o moernity.More thn ny other city, Rome typies the insistent presence o the pst in Itly,n the seemingly insurmountble chllenge o reeing Itlins rom the constrintso trition.
 While Mzzoni’s unerstning o Rome s n incubtor or importnt insighton moernity is unoubtely ruitul, it is in reltion to this historicl nxiety tht we seek to ofer, i not some resolution, then certinly some new insight. Weo so in ct by turning to Rome’s
nrrtives, tking the city s  mir-ror in which to contemplte the problem o 
, n its own, striking re-ppropritions o history, s we illustrte below.

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