Call for papers (Anno I, N. 1, January 2017)
Catholics, cinema and sex in Italy between the 1940s and the 1970s
by Mauro Giori and Tomaso Subini
In 1961, in his pastoral dedicated to the Giornata per la moralità del cinema (Day for morality in cinema) organized by Venetian dioceses, the bishop of Vittorio Veneto – pope-tobe John Paul I – described humankind as “people who walk around keeping a piglet on a lead” because of the original sin. Such admission of the centrality of eros in human nature by a prominent member of the Church hierarchies recalls Félicien Rops famous Pornocrates allegory (1878), by which the Belgian artist acknowledged the predominant position gained by sex and sexuality within the art system, right before the emergence of cinema and
psychoanalysis. As scholarship inspired by Foucault’s theories (which have become a classic) has shown, attempts to manage sexuality and its representations were made using different forms of control, that is, not only by promoting prohibition and censorship according to a traditional view of puritan decency, but also participating in the “discursive explosion” that invested Twentieth-century culture.
In Italy, Catholics were naturally confronted with this dialectics between silence and loquacity, which shaped the debate on sex and also characterized some key stages of film history: the bishop of Vittorio Veneto completed his metaphor noticing how, “passing by a ditch, […] the piglet jumps in it, growling merrily”. For the bishop, the cinema was that very “ditch, from where one returns with a soiled soul”. Between the end of WWII and the late 1970s, when pornography emerged, discourse on sexuality progressively involved the cinema, in the context of wider debates on society, on its means of communication and artistic representation in the wake of controversies on prostitution, night clubs, seaside fashion, contraception, sex education, new habits in young people, divorce etc.
This issue of Schermi will represent an occasion to rethink and investigate the role played by Catholics – at both cultural and institutional level – in this debate. The issue will be framed within the wider context that led to the acknowledgment of the prominence gathered by sexuality at the key stages in the development of Italian cinema and will receive suggestions elaborated in the field of film studies over the last forty years, in terms of historical research as well as of theoretical and methodological advances.
We invite submission on the following topics:
• notions of taboo, the obscene and pornography
• threshold between private and public; decency
• Catholics and administrative censorship
• cinema, politics and legislation
• Catholic film criticism (journals and critics)
• currents and debates within the Church
• relationship with the diverse strands of secular culture
• the Venice Film Festival and its management
• the role of Church institutions (Ente dello Spettacolo, Secretariat for Morality, etc.)
• knowledge on sex: medicine, psychoanalysis, investigations, surveys, sex education,pedagogy, conferences, journals
• representations of specific themes and issues: family, male/female opposition,
marriage, prostitution, divorce, contraception, homosexuality, the body, etc.
• gender issues, sexual subcultures
• Catholic cinema
• popular cinema and its genres
• single films and authors
• the public: idealizations and actual behaviour
• paratexts (magazines, bills, etc.)
• the cinema and its relationship with other medias (variety show, theatre, television, journals and magazines, photostories, novelizations, comics, etc.)
Scholars who intend to submit an abstract are invited to access the online database of our research project (Catholics and cinema in Italy between the 1940s and the 1970s) to outline their proposal. The database (http://users.unimi.cattoliciecinema) contains scanned copies of
more than 7000 documents (complete with index and metadata with keywords allowing specific queries). The documents have been collected from ecclesiastical archives and have seldom (if at all) been the object of research. Scholars who have not yet subscribed to the database can request an account to (email@example.com).
300-word proposals, together with a short bio, must be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 15, 2016.
We will accept proposals both in Italian and English.