Italian Masculinity as Queer Melodrama: Caravaggio, Puccini, by John Champagne

By John Champagne

Supplying queer analyses of work through Caravaggio and Puccini and movies via Özpetek, Amelio, and Grimaldi, Champagne argues that Italian masculinity has usually been articulated via melodrama. extensive in scope and multidisciplinary in method, this much-needed examine exhibits the important function of impact for either Italian heritage and masculinity experiences.

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Yet despite this hyperinvestment—David Stone calling him “a cult figure”—art historians have struggled to name Caravaggio’s aesthetic (36). As Creighton E. Gilbert argues, “Although there is broad agreement to reject the time-worn tag of simple naturalism . . modern writers have not found a replacement easy” (79). ”2 Another critic notes Caravaggio’s combining of the naturalistic and theatrical, his sensibility “halfway between the quotidian and the symbolic . . 3 A third similarly finds in Caravaggio both “naturalistic modeling” and “the highly theatrical construction of pictorial narratives” (Schütze 26).

That the Counter-Reformation evinces a crisis in the sacred is obvious. In response, the Catholic Church called for visible signs of faith, devotion, and submission to the papacy, the Counter-Reformation fostering “popular marks of identity, and enmity, as with the Marian cult” (Wright 31). This crisis of meaning to some degree paralleled the conditions that would ultimately make melodrama possible. To use Brooks’s words, the late eighteen century’s “shattering of the myth of Christendom, the dissolution of an organic and hierarchically cohesive society” that characterizes the “epistemological moment,” 34 ITALIAN MASCULINITY AS QUEER MELODRAMA that melodrama “illustrates and to which it contributes,” is prefigured by the Reformation and its aftermath, including the series of meetings of the Council of Trent and the Thirty Years’ War (Brooks Melodramatic 14–15).

Melodrama, Painting, and the Catholic Response to the Reformation As a theorist of aesthetic modernism, Jonathan Flatley locates in art-making “a response to the losses generated by the experience of CARAVAGGIO AND THE MELODRAMATIC SENSIBILITY 33 modernity” (9). Melodrama has similarly been defined as a response to a loss, specifically, the loss of religious faith. It comes into being “in a world where the traditional imperatives of truth and ethics have been violently thrown into question, yet where the promulgation of truth and ethics, their instauration as a way of life, is of immediate, daily, political concern” (Brooks Melodramatic 15).

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