From Christian commiseration to patriotic pride. Eliciting emotions in readers of Italian children’s literature, magazines and school textbooks (1870-1930)

Simonetta Polenghi*, Anna Debe'*

*Autore corrispondente per questo lavoro

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in libroContributo a convegno


This paper explores the ways in which disabled persons were represented in Italian children’s literature, magazines and school textbooks between the last decades of the XIX century and the Fascist era, paying particular attention to the adjectives used to described them, thus seeing which emotions were stirred in readers. With regard to physical deformity, whereas in adult literature the prevailing emotions, particularly when describing physical disability, seem to have been loathing and disgust, the feelings most commonly elicited by Edmondo De Amicis’ works, including the bestselling secular book “Heart” (1886) which generations of Italian children read, were pity and solidarity: blind, deaf, and physically disabled children were all depicted as unlucky, goodhearted, and sweet, deserving private and civic philanthropic help. Magazines associated with private institutes for the disabled aimed to stimulate philanthropic feelings among possible donors, e.g. “Il nuovo Presagio” (1879-1886) produced by the Pious Institute for rickets sufferers in Milan, a secular private special school. Famous intellectuals and writers published in this without remuneration, depicting the “deformed” as intelligent and deeply unfortunate, deserving human pity. Catholic magazines, like “La Beneficenza” (born in 1904) the mouthpiece of the San Vincenzo Institute “for deficients’ education”, highlighted in strong terms the mocking and contempt mentally disabled children had to endure. Either a response of secular solidarity or Christian charity was urged, both in preaching tones. A different emphasis emerged with WW1. Propaganda both during and after the war depicted the wounded body as possessing the highest level of dignity. This idea was stressed in both schoolbooks and children’s literature and children born disabled were also afforded a new respect. We will show how disabled children and the war disabled were depicted in Fascist schoolbooks of the 1930s, stressing their dignity and avoiding paternalistic language, instead replacing it with Fascist and nationalistic rhetoric.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteHistories of Disability and Emotions Conference. Abstracts
Numero di pagine2
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2023
EventoHistories of Disability and Emotions Conference - Online
Durata: 13 giu 202315 giu 2023


ConvegnoHistories of Disability and Emotions Conference


  • History of emotions and disability
  • Children’s literature
  • Italy
  • Magazines
  • School textbooks


Entra nei temi di ricerca di 'From Christian commiseration to patriotic pride. Eliciting emotions in readers of Italian children’s literature, magazines and school textbooks (1870-1930)'. Insieme formano una fingerprint unica.

Cita questo