Against Realism: on 'a certain tendency' in Italian film studies

O'Leary Alan, CG O'Rawe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


This polemical article objects to the pervasive use of realism as a value or prescriptive term in the writing of Italian cinema history. It also offers a dissenting appraisal of the ‘institution’ of neorealism: the body of critical work and discourse that constructs neorealism as the ethical and aesthetic centre of Italian cinema. The discursive recourse to neorealism has become the essential authoritative gesture: to fail to refer to it is to risk seeming ignorant, philistine and most of all politically suspect. We contest this insidious common sense of Italian cinema studies, a common sense that is underpinned by a notion of auteurist ‘paternity’ as the default explanatory metaphor of Italian film history, and which leads to a dismissive tone in the discussion of genre films, not to mention a disdain for the audience for such films. We critique the idea of cinema as a ‘mirror’ of the nation found in some of the pre-eminent scholars of Italian cinema, and we finish by recommending a moratorium on the mention of neorealism for at least five years. What would a silence on realism allow us to reveal about other modes and genres?
Translated title of the contributionAgainst Realism: on 'a certain tendency' in Italian film studies
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107 - 119
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Modern Italian Studies
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


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