Cultural Memory in Contemporary Narrative: Andrea Camilleri's Montalbano Series

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Cultural Memory in Contemporary Narrative: Andrea Camilleri's Montalbano Series

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Title: Cultural Memory in Contemporary Narrative: Andrea Camilleri's Montalbano Series
Author: Eckert, Elgin
Citation: Eckert, Elgin. 2012. Cultural Memory in Contemporary Narrative: Andrea Camilleri's Montalbano Series. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation discusses Italy’s bestselling author Andrea Camilleri’s series of Montalbano crime novels. It poses the question of what makes Camilleri’s series so successful in the contemporary literary marketplace and if his success is a representation of Italian culture (and by extension, the postmodern or post-postmodern Italian literary scene). This dissertation deals with Camilleri and his success from a narrative literary point of view. It examines Camilleri’s work from several different perspectives, placing it within the vaster context of Italian literature while also taking a meticulous look at Camilleri as the author who has managed to free a literary genre from its previous confines and opened new boundaries for Italian literature. The dissertation demonstrates how Andrea Camilleri provides a "security blanket" for his readers: by including many elements of a common cultural memory, he keeps his readers safely anchored. These elements include a long list of recurring characters that function almost like the chorus in a Greek play. Certain thematic elements, such as Montalbano’s perpetual search for Justice, and his struggle to combine the written law with the law of men are a topoi of Western literature, as are the antonyms eros/thanatos as well as food and death, which Camilleri heavily employs. The Sicilian author manages to root his work deeply within a literary tradition through direct citations, and explicit and implicit references to the canon, but also breaks new ground and manages to move Italian literature a step forward. In front of this apparently nostalgic background, the Sicilian author plays with and invents many new components in his works, satisfying thus the Italian need for the "known" with the pleasure of a discovery of the "unknown" or the "new", which is a major reason for his success. Camilleri participates in a (post)modern shift of horizons, but does not radically challenge his reader’s "expectations". His series of Montalbano mysteries presents literature of a high level that almost by chance becomes part of an "immediate" literary canon, but does not set out with the ambition to become part of "the canon".
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10323653
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