Accepted Paper:

"Paper Fish" by Tina De Rosa: cultural imaginary as home  


Nourit Melcer Padon (Hebrew University, Jerusalem)

Paper short abstract:

The traditional Italian home threatened by the dynamics of America, the protagonist of De Rosa's novel Paper Fish must negotiate the implications of the dissolution of her physical abode. Home may be a mediating construct between conflicting cultures embodied in the imaginary and sensory experience.

Paper long abstract:

Carmolina Bellacasa, the protagonist of Tina De Rosa's Paper Fish, is a third-generation Italian-American. Carmolina's family house is an extension of her grandparents' house. When her grandmother convenes the family to discuss sending away Carmolina's mentally ill sister, Carmolina runs away from the "beautiful home", Bella Casa in Italian. The only geographical space she knows is her neighborhood. Once out of its boundaries she loses her way. Though she is ultimately found and returned to her parents after a few scary nights, the experience is emblematic of the tension between the two traditions Carmolina embodies: as an American, she struggles for her personal independence and individuality. As the carrier of the Italian cultural "package" she will be expected to remain at home and comply with the Italian heritage dictum. The notion of home is threatened by the dynamics of America and by the Old World folktales of Sicily which materialize in her "Italian" street in America. De Rosa delineates the problematics of a hyphenated narrative. Every "American" action is countered by an "Italian" counter-action. The haphazard narrative provides a background for the breaking up of the home: the threat of the dissolution of the home Carmolina experiences in childhood occurs eventually. In America no tangible home really exists since Italian culture does allow "home" to find a new context. Home may only belong to the realm of a cultural imaginary, carried by the protagonist towards an uncertain future.

Panel P49
Translating cultural imaginaries of home: near-homes and far-homes