Italy’s Unification and Its Discontents: Giovanni Verga’s Cos’è il Re?

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The article, ‘Italy’s Unification and its Discontents: Verga’s Cos’è il Re, focuses on the mental confusion of the protagonist, Cosimo, which becomes symptomatic of the southern rural masses’ disenfranchisement from the unification process. Verga’s political disillusion with the new state, for which he fought, comes to the fore, underlining how the Savoy kingdom’s constitution was no guarantee of a real improvement for the rural masses. Verga’s story contrasts the Savoy king, whose power is limited by the constitution, with the Bourbon Monarch’s Corpus Mysticum, as described by Ernest Kantorowicz, whose power is absolute, like that of Jesus Christ. The story denounces, then, the paradox that the Bourbon monarch, in his paternalistic governance, was better for the impoverished rural masses than the constitutional Savoy king. Moreover, Italy’s unification under the Savoy sovereign further developed a national discourse that systematically racialized Southerners because of their subaltern position within the nation.


Journal of Modern Italian Studies, Vol. 24, No. 1 (2019): 129-146. DOI.