The Atlas of Italian “Giallo”. Media history and popular culture (1954-2020)

PRIN 2020 – Responsabile di unità locale: Monica Dall'Asta

This project aims to investigate the history of Italian “giallo” as an ideal subject to re-examine Italian cultural history in light of both the transformations of the media system and the inter/transmedia relationships—among literature, film, radio, the music industry, television, comics—fostered by the genre from the 1950s to the present day.

Since the 1930s, the term “giallo” (corresponding to the English “crime fiction”) has been used in Italy to refer to different forms of detective, noir or thriller narratives. It designates a narrative mode that, born in the field of literature, soon acquired a central position in all media thanks to its ability to represent the themes of knowledge (giallo as interpretive challenge) and ethics (the reflection on justice, guilt, punishment). Its lasting popular success proves the genre’s ability to express the contradictions and fears of an increasingly complex society through entertaining plots, creating a space where to negotiate cultural identities on the national, transnational and “translocal” levels.

The starting point for the project’s interrogation of the cultural identity of Italian giallo will be the mid-1950s, when the advent of television broadcasting and the ensuing diversification of the creative industry allowed an unprecedented expansion of intermedial exchanges. By analysing a corpus of inter/transmedia case studies, as well as a selection of influential critical and theoretical texts, the research will map the key themes and figures that have endowed Italian giallo with its distinctive character, which is not just the product of the independent development of “autoctonous” forms and contents, but also the result of a continued process of appropriation and adaptation of international models.

All these elements will be taken into account in the elaboration of a periodisation of the inter/transmedia history of giallo as a contribution to a broader history of Italian media. Particular attention will be paid to the television series produced by RAI, with the objective of highlighting its key role in the history of giallo from different perspectives: as a context where writing (and even literary) skills are developed; as a means of promotion and popularisation of the national narrative heritage; as an agent of transformation that shapes and reshapes the taste of the general audiences through the innovation of narrative forms.

The project is supported by a large network of important non-academic institutions in its field of research, among which RAI and Mondadori stand out. These organisations guarantee a significant impact as concerns the promotion of the cultural heritage of Italian giallo. The dissemination will include workshops, conferences and scholarly publications, Open Access digital multimedia resources, an exhibition, and a series of public events with creatives and professionals of the cultural sector.

Unità di ricerca 

  • Link Campus University: Valentina Re (Principal Investigator), Alessandro Perissinotto
  • Università di Bologna: Monica Dall’Asta (responsabile)
  • Università di Chieti-Pescara “G. D’Annunzio”: Federico Pagello (responsabile)
  • Università di Firenze: Paola Valentini (responsabile)
  • Università IULM: Gianni Canova (responsabile), Luisella Farinotti