This dissertation centers on the ways in which literary myth, folklore and the myth of America become intertwined with the problem of identity in Cesare Pavese's writing. It places these themes within the Fascist and post-Fascist context. I argue that Pavese's perception of Fascism's appropriation of long-standing symbols associated with national identity created a situation of conflicted personal identity in his writing. My work brings together two important threads in Pavese's writing—America and myth—and looks at them through the lens of identity. I approach these broad themes in Pavese's writing through detailed, careful readings of his essays, novels, stories and poems.
The first chapter establishes the foundation of my argument, exploring the association of landscape and Italian identity in earlier eras of Italian literature: the myth in the landscape as a bond between people and their land. I also interrogate Fascism's appropriation of a symbolic vocabulary including work, the landscape and Classical myth.
In the second chapter, I begin to analyze Pavese's writing directly, looking at the specific ways he uses myth in his fiction and poetry. I argue that the labor of peasants, the seasonality and cyclical nature of their work, ties them to the landscape and to mythic time. In Pavese's view, that work provides the only legitimate, strong, rooted relationship between people and the place in which they live, an identity immune to the vagaries of history. Pavese's narrators remain outside of this relationship, in a position to understand it but not to participate in it.
In the third chapter, I turn to the treatment of America in Pavese's works. I contextualize his ideas about America by looking at some of the other narratives of America published in the contemporary time period. America has a direct presence in his narratives, through scenes set there and through the presence of film; it also has an indirect presence, through imagery of the primeval and of the modern.
In the fourth chapter, I bring the themes of the earlier chapters together in a concentrated study of the single case of La luna e i falò . In this novel, mythic and American imagery unfold together in a single fictional world; this juxtaposition facilitates the analysis of these two crucial threads of Pavese's writing.