Date of Award

2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English

Department

English

First Advisor

Peter Covino

Abstract

This dissertation explores American true crime literary and visual narratives and focuses on historical cases involving Italian American women and the cross-cultural relations between Italy and the United States from the late-nineteenth century to the beginning of the twenty-first century. I investigate the influence of true crime narratives on the popular imagination, with attention to the construction of ethnicity, class, and gender. The focus on Italian American women functions as a case study to discuss the impact and persistence of racialized assumptions and cultural stereotypes in American literature and cinema and explores the resistance of women to the dominant narrative.

Starting from a systematic analysis of newspapers from the late-nineteenth century, and moving to literary and visual texts, I identified signs and elements belonging to markers of ethnic identity in Italian American culture and in cross-cultural relations between Italy and the United States. From the popular press and the age of mass migration (1880-1924) to the transnational murder case of Meredith Kercher as adapted in American novels and documentaries, I focus on four specific moments in the history of Italian immigration to the United States and I identify four sensationalized true crime stories that reshaped the popular imagination about Italian Americans and Italy. Since implicit bias and prejudice still exist even in the most recent adaptations of those crimes, it is crucial to discuss and reconsider the dominant narrative and argue for a counter-narrative in which nonwhite female characters reclaim their own central role as main protagonists.

Available for download on Saturday, April 22, 2023

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