Itinerant Ecocriticism, Southern Thought, and Italian Cinema on Foot
This short essay explores an impulse guiding Italian ecocriticism, and also a recurrent trend in Italian cinema: that of thinking on foot. Drawing on the work of sociologist and philosopher Franco Cassano, I consider why contemporary philosophers seek to understand Italy at a pace that works strategically (sometimes defiantly) against petroleum-fueled speed. Brief examples from three recent Italian films that proceed on foot (Basilicata Coast to Coast , La lunga strada gialla , and Il cammino dell’Appia antica ) attempt to reanimate southern Italian landscapes as “vehicles of identity, solidarity, and development” (Cassano xxxvi). Each film represents a socio-political project enabled by its walking pace; each, in turn, has the potential to unveil how these projects depend on the naturalcultural health of the landscapes being traversed. Against the “slow violence” being perpetrated on Italian landscapes—a slow violence of toxic contamination at the hand of ecomafias, of the cementification of agricultural lands and delicate coasts—and against the speed of turbocapitalism, thinking on foot enables modes of ethics and aesthetics simultaneously attuned to historical depth and ecological crisis. In this view, Italy is no longer a “bel paese,” but rather an ecocultural landscape in which the seeds for meaningful change are deeply embedded.
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