Earlier this week we carried the news of two recent successful PhD defences. In this post we bring you the abstract of Federico Casari’s thesis.
“The Origin of the ‘Elzeviro’. Literature and Journalism in Italy, 1870-1920”
My research is the very first historically informed investigation to offer an account of the origin of the elzeviro. The elzeviro was a very particular typology of newspaper article unique to the Italian press, printed in the two, two and a half or three columns on the left-hand of the cultural section of every daily political newspaper between 1903-4 and the end of the 1970s. Even though, by the end of its life span, the elzeviro had acquired a special meaning, that of a text with no narrative content, almost an escapist exercise, nevertheless for millions of Italian readers, for almost fifty years it represented the only contact with literary production. This thesis recovers the elzeviro to its journalistic dimension, retracing its origins in the transformation of the communicational space of the newspaper between 1870 and 1920. The original contribution of this research consists in the very first definition of the elzeviro as a newspaper article that originates as the answer to the modernisation of journalism occurred at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the primacy of news began to undermine the legitimacy of the subjective moment of the opinion. The foundation of the elzeviro lies in claiming a territory that was felt to be the province of opinion: literary journalists demanded that subjectivity not be discarded, and proved that the operation could be undertaken through an alternative instrument for the interpretation of reality: that of literature and culture. Literary journalists carved out their own personal space within the newspaper, where they were not forced to comment on news but could instead decide what constituted news and how to comment on it. The elzeviro is the account of the discovery of this news: for this reason, its discursive and colloquial dimension is the basis on which that type of article is organised, as the textual organism is bound by the aim of communicating news values.