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Viviana Costagliola (Bibliotheca Hertziana)

Viviana Costagliola

Viviana Costagliola
Image Credit: Enrico Fontolan

Fellow in Research Area 2: "Travelling Matters"

February – July 2022

Agents of blindness: travel guides and photography of Southern Italy (1869-1927)

A travel guide is placed on the margins of great literature, but precisely in its distance from the literary field, it presents itself as a useful kaleidoscope of images, stereotypes and instances that collect, document but in part also constructs clichés and stereotypes, thus becoming a great repertoire of the social imaginary. Cities were reduced to a limited number of canonical images that largely remained the same throughout the 20th century.

This project aims to investigate how the foreign travel guides of Southern Italy influenced the photographic production of famous ateliers such as Fratelli Alinari and Giorgio Sommer – with a specific attention to the art historical material – and contributed to the definition of cultural landmarks and visual stereotypes.

The hypothesis under investigation is whether, having ascertained the influence of the guides on photographs for touristic purposes, these kinds of photos, too, played a role in defining visual stereotypes and in consequently updating the guidebooks’ itineraries. In addition, it will look at the reception and propagation of these photos through channels other than the purely touristic, namely those aimed at promoting knowledge of the Italian monumental and artistic heritage for Italians.

The starting point is the first Baedeker’s Southern Italy (1869), accompanied by a first selection of the most popular foreign guides on Southern Italy (Bradshow, 1867; T. Gsell Fels, 1873; Murray, 1878; J.C. Hare, 1911; E. Hutton, 1915).

The touristic market was dominated by these texts to such an extent that the first Italian Touring Club’s guidebook mentions among its aims to free Italians from the use of foreign travel guides. The paradox is that the TCI guidebooks followed the same Baedeker model, and for this reason the first TCI guide to South Italy (1927) constitutes the chronological endpoint of this research.

Viviana Costagliola received her PhD in Art History, funded by the Italian Ministry of Education, from the University of Naples “Federico II” in 2020 (The church of Santa Maria la Nova: first essay of a historical topography). During the doctoral programme, she was a Fellow at the International Society of Franciscan Studies (Assisi) and at the Italian Institute of Philosophical Studies (Naples).

Between 2020 and 2022, she was the recipient of a postdoctoral fellowship from the Bibliotheca Hertziana Max Planck Institute for Art History with a project entitled Naples and its surroundings: The Photographic Documentation of Historical and Artistic Heritage of Naples and Southern Italy (1861-1914).

Her work currently focuses on the reception of Southern Italy’s image through photographs and travel guides, the formation of visual stereotypes and the history of tourism.