Date of Degree

6-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Comparative Literature

Advisor

Giancarlo Lombardi

Committee Members

Monica Calabritto

Nancy K. Miller

Subject Categories

Comparative Literature | Film and Media Studies | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Other Italian Language and Literature

Keywords

Queer, Television, Italian, LGBTQ

Abstract

Contemporary Italian television, like many national televisions, has entered a period in which the relationships the producers and consumers of televisual content are increasingly indistinguishable. In this age of media convergence the new participants of this medium work across platforms to actively engage, consume, create, and recreate both televisual content and our understanding of the medium. These new relationships require a new understanding of the semiotic and discursive changes taking place in television so that we may reconceptualize the contemporary interplay between media and society.

This dissertation maps out a new understanding of the televisual economy through an elaboration of the dynamics between the four main “bodies” of television, understood as: the consumed televisual body; the produced televisual body; the community bodies of production and consumption; and the individual bodies of production and consumption. These bodies dismantle traditional understanding of identity coherence and must be taken as unstable assembled moments of connection whose mercurial forms depend on technology and on their proximity to the other televisual bodies at play. The compositions of these bodies, which all shape and are shaped by one another, embody queerness as they reflect the queer theories of assemblage (Puar), temporality (Edelman, Halberstam, and Dinshaw), phenomenology (Ahmed), and utopia (Muñoz). Throughout this dissertation, Italian television is used as a steppingstone, as a gateway through which we may understand the intersections of national and global television in this queer moment of media convergence.

In sharp contrast, investigations of contemporary representations of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people on Italian national television lie in direct opposition to the queerness embodied by the contemporary structures of the medium. By using Stuart Hall’s theory that identity is formed through representation (see Questions of Cultural Identity), we may understand that the depictions of LGBT people on Italian television shape the ways these groups are understood by and positioned within society, and the effects and consequences of their positionality. The analyses of LGBT people on family fiction programing produced by mainstream (satellite, private, and public) Italian television between 2007 and 2017 reveal the problematics of the contemporary trend of “normalizing” these minorities. Depictions of LGBT characters repeatedly mirror and thus naturalize the desire for monogamous procreative futurity. The necessary consequence of this is the erasure of difference both between LGBT people and heterosexuals and gender conforming individuals, and between people within these Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) communities. The invisibilities of LGBTQIA intimacies, desires, alternative modes of living, and communities on Italian television only allow for a partial integration of these people in the larger Italian society. Mainstream LGBT depictions frame these communities as marginalized while necessarily reinforcing the naturalness of their homonormative presentation. If we, however, expand our gaze to include televisual engagement that lies outside mainstream representation—which, in this age of convergence, is more representative of the contemporary structure of television—we may reframe the identities being created through the representations produced and consumed. In this way the individual and community bodies that participate in the technologies and aesthetics of this contemporary moment of television, unlike the LGBT depictions that reify and naturalize normative social models, can be understood as queer.

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