R5A, Section 2: The Architecture of Play: Redefining the Home in Postwar Italy

MWF 8-9 | Evans 41 | Instructor: Lauren-Claire Kelley

Units: 4

Children often make up stories while they play. But what happens when these children, once grown, use play to pattern their stories? In this course, we will read narratives structured by the inventions of childhood, analyzing the continuity between literary techniques and the abstract thinking that children often perform in play. We will explore how children, using, rhyme, metaphor, and other devices, interpret the world around them, offering startling accounts of what they perceive. The texts that we will study hail from locations as diverse as Rome and Naples, and focus on the second half of the twentieth century, a time when childhood and its defining location, the home, were undergoing drastic change in the wake first of war, then a rising consumer culture. Suddenly, home no longer represented a refuge from the outside world: the family structure had been shaken by war; Italy was rapidly industrializing; and more and more women were leaving home in search of jobs and equal rights. Play formed part of this contested border between home and ‘out there,’ juxtaposing old and new models of domesticity. We will investigate how writers have used techniques and representations of play to reinvent the boundary between home and the outside world, revising notions of gender, class, and even childhood itself.


Course Objectives

Throughout this course, which fulfills the first half of the Reading and Composition requirement, we will practice the skills of analytical reading and writing, fundamental preparation for all college work. In addition to three essays, we will complete several exercises that take you through the steps of developing clear and persuasive arguments about literary texts, from close reading to drafting to revising. We will practice scrutinizing our own work, analyzing our writing process. In this class, revision involves more than just streamlining sentences; revision is a process of identifying and elaborating your important ideas. With revision, we will practice writing as a process of thinking through questions, and in the end, of achieving insights that a first draft alone cannot gain.


Reading List

  1. Italo Calvino, The Baron in the Trees (Il barone rampante), 1957

Translated by Ann Goldstein, 2017, Mariner Books, 978-0544959118

Please note that the choice of this translation is pending the instructor’s final          decision.

  1. Elena Ferrante, The Lost Daughter( La figlia oscura), 2006

Translated by Ann Goldstein, 2008, Europa editions, 978-1933372426

  1. Course reader containing:
  2. a) essays and articles on play
  3. b) Rosetta Loy, The Water Door (La porta dell’acqua), 1976
  4. c) Sandra Petrignani, The Toy Catalogue (Il catalogo dei giocattoli), 1988
  5. d) Fabrizia Ramondino, Althénopis, 1981 (pending publisher’s approval)
  6. selections from Hans G. Furth, Desire for Society : Children’s Knowledge As Social Imagination, 1996 (available as an e-book through UC Berkeley Library)