Historicized fiction or fictionalized history?: Lia Levi's Cecilia va alla guerra and the legacy of the First World War in contemporary Italian children's literature
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Myers, L. "Historicized Fiction or Fictionalized History?: Lia Levi's Cecilia va alla guerra and the Legacy of the First World War in Contemporary Italian Children's Literature." The Lion and the Unicorn, vol. 41 no. 2, 2017, pp. 167-185. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/uni.2017.0016
Historical fiction has always been a popular genre in international children's literature, and recent decades have seen a notable increase in the number of novels for children set during the First World War. Providing authentic experiences of past events while simultaneously respecting the attitudes and norms of today's readers can, however, constitute a significant ideological and philosophical conundrum. As Catherine Butler and Hallie O'Donovan have observed, "in a world riven by the effect of cultural mistrust and incomprehension writers seem to face a difficult choice: that of presenting a sanitized past with at least the sympathetic characters displaying an ahistorically liberal sensibility; or appearing to normalise and perpetuate those attitudes through fiction."1 Innovative narrative techniques and point-of-view shifts can be effective tools for engaging contemporary readers with the past, and narratives with first-person perspectives and multiple focalization have become extremely popular in contemporary First World War fiction for children.2 The employment of unconventional narrative perspectives is not, however, in and of itself, inherently progressive; the ideological message of any text being as bound up with the plot, the language, the structural patterns, and the characterization as well as with the accompanying paratextual materials. National biases can also often exert a powerful influence on the content and style of children's historical fiction, particularly when the work is set during a founding moment in that nation's history.