The Lost Boys of Italia: Peter Pan Syndrome in Italo Calvino’s Male Figures

Shirley, Jacob, Italian - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Cesaretti, Enrico, Department for Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia
Annunziato, Sarah, Department for Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia

This paper will explore the concepts of scioltezza and the Peter Pan Syndrome as exhibited by the male protagonists in three of Italo Calvino’s key works: Pin (The Path to the Spiders’ Nests), Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò (The Baron in the Trees), and Marcovaldo (Marcovaldo). In each case, scioltezza describes the protagonist’s developmental fluidity as he approaches maturation but retains fundamentally adolescent or childlike qualities. This study will take a developmental approach to reveal elements of war, family values, and economic factors that contribute to Calvino’s portrayal of scioltezza, setting up similar yet contrasting cases of the Peter Pan Syndrome. These factors ultimately confine each protagonist to a state of arrested maturation, in which he faces an identity crisis that prevents him from reaching identity achievement or total self- authorship. In these specific cases, we will also see how the text itself mirrors these developmental crises, and how some of Italy’s pivotal moments in history have shaped this phenomenon. Ultimately, these characters and texts reflect a similar developmental plight in Italy itself.

MA (Master of Arts)
Italian modernism, Peter Pan Syndrome, Italo Calvino, literature, personal development, scioltezza
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