Theses Doctoral

A Reel in One’s Mind: Cultural and Racial Difference, Technology, and Bodies in Amelia Rosselli’s Early Work, 1950–1964

Livorni, Isabella Maria

My dissertation focuses on various intellectual currents that shaped poet, composer, and amateur ethnomusicologist Amelia Rosselli’s work from 1950 to 1964, before she gained mild fame as a poet on the Italian literary scene. Rosselli had a trilingual background in Italian, English, and French, due to her Italian father and English mother and her family’s forced absence from Italy from Rosselli’s birth in 1930 until 1946, as a result of her father’s political activities. Rosselli is sometimes considered an outsider to Italian poetic movements, but in this dissertation I trace how she fits into various transnational intellectual networks. In doing so, I examine Rosselli through different lenses than what is typical in analyses of her work: I center her understandings of cultural difference according to her studies in various strains of anthropology and ethnomusicology.

In doing so, Rosselli’s association of cultural difference with new conceptions of technology comes to the fore: namely, audiovisual recording technology used in ethnographic and ethnomusicological research; tools of electronic music that were bound up with this research in the 1950s; and new points of view on the body’s use as a technology, through a diffusion of the concept of techniques of the body.

What emerges from my investigation is Rosselli’s political investments in establishing the universality of humans’ physiological and psychological capacities, beyond race (Chapter 1); valorizing previously marginalized cultural techniques, particularly techniques of the body (Chapter 2); seeking new mediatic modes of expression beyond the West (Chapter 3); and remapping relationships between self and other in her poetic output (Chapter 4).

Although these political goals did not always result in building networks of solidarity, I argue that taking them seriously as important elements in Rosselli’s thought allows for a fuller consideration of how ideas of power dynamics, universality, and relationality play out in relation to cultural difference in her work. In doing so, I reveal how Rosselli inscribed herself into various political and intellectual networks that shaped Italian cultural life in the 1950s and 1960s.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Leake, Elizabeth
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 25, 2023