A new exhibition on display at University College Cork aims to shed light on the relationship between Irish and Italian culture in the early 20th century.
The early years of the 20th century were a crucial time in the history of both countries, with the establishment of an independent Ireland and the start of the fascist regime in Italy.
Initially, Ireland’s independence and developing culture went largely unnoticed, but this changed following the Easter Rising of 1916.
The exhibition explores the simultaneous development of Irish and Italian national consciousness, and how Irish literature came to be appreciated in Italian culture.
“A new idea of Ireland as a rebellious country started to arise only to become fully-fledged towards the early 1930s,” the exhibition organisers said.
“This Ireland, which co-existed with earlier notions of the Celtic and mystical country, was especially favoured by fascist intellectuals trying to propagate the image of a potentially fascist ally, a postcolonial victim of the ‘cruel British Empire’, ‘the perfidious Albion’ as it was known in fascist Italy. This prompted a greater interest in Ireland.”
Though it did not survive beyond the Second World War, Fascist Italy saw a passionate interest in Ireland and Irish arts rise in the peninsula.
English writers were eventually banned during the war and authors with any vague connection to Ireland were marketed as fashionably Irish.
The exhibition focuses not only on famous Irish writers like James Joyce and William Butler Yeats, for whom Italy was a home or inspiration, but also on the publishers and translators.
Italian ambassador Paolo Serpi and UCC president Patrick O’Shea launched the exhibition, titled Irish in Italy.
The exhibition, which premiered in Rome, will run until the end of March in the Boole Library, UCC.