M. Bacigalupo, P. Castagneto
The 2001 Biennal International Conference of AISNA, the American Studies Association of Italy, was devoted to America and the Mediterranean and took place in Genoa. A few weeks before the Conference, its theme was given additional poignancy by the events of September 11.
America owes its name and its 'discovery' to Mediterranean people and much of its population is of Mediterranean origin. Writers and artists have used Mediterranean perspectives to comment on the United States. From Mark Twain and Henry James to Ernest Hemingway and Mary McCarthy, there have been countless variations on the theme of the American Innocent coming to terms with an older and ambiguous Mediterranean world as if this were a necessary step in his education.
Genoa, with a history going back to the Crusades, has always been a central point of contact/conflict between North and South, East and West. Melville saw it as a sublime Satanic outpost, surrounded by hills and forts, overlooking the insidious sea.
At the Conference, plenary lectures delved into various encounters between America and the Mediterranean: accounts of 19th-century visitors to Genoa (Rosella Mamoli Zorzi), popular images of the Mediterranean in American culture (Fred Moramarco), Longfellow's Venice (Christoph Irmscher), the visionary waters of Charles Wright and James Merrill (Robert Hahn), "America's Mediterranean Coast" (Ronald Steel). Workshops were devoted to poetry, Italian-Americans, religion, fiction, American women in Mediterranean contexts, the early U.S. Republic, U.S. Middle-Eastern policy, etc. The present volume collects all the lectures and about sixty papers from workshops, offering one of the most wide-ranging surveys of the subject ever published. America has most often defined itself in relation to the Atlantic and Britain. This book proves that its origin - and its destiny - is equally linked to Homer's "many-sounded sea".