Images of turmoil. Italy portrayed in Britain and re-mirrored in Italy

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In the 1970s, Italy’s national identity was transformed and re-negotiated consequent to a number of tragic events and radical reforms. The country’s image and self-image were constantly revisited in domestic and foreign news features. To this day, the best-known verbal icon of that period remains the phrase “strategia della tensione” (strategy of tension), from the headline of an article in the British press. This highlights a tendency of the Italian newspapers to “look up” to the British newspapers. The aim of this chapter is to investigate how this tendency to prioritize British images of the Italian scenario, turning them into tropes, influenced the construction of Italy’s image between 1969 and 1980. A parallel corpus of articles from The Times and La Stampa is explored through a methodological framework combining diachronic News Translation Studies and the strategies of Imagology. Electronic querying and manual inspection of the corpus revealed cases of textual migration, consisting of textual segments in La Stampa mirroring excerpts from The Times. These migrated texts were identified and labelled according to the translation strategy employed – selective appropriations, permutations, omissions, and additions (Valdeón 2008) – in order to investigate potential agendas, gatekeeping or self-censorship practices. However, rather than display an agenda, this analysis seems to reveal a clash between the British image and Italy’s self-image in the troubled 1970s, the latter being constructed through heavy domestication of the British articles. Translation choices indeed reveal patterns of mitigation of criticism, as well as foregrounding of positive comments, which require a discourse-based approach in order to be fully understood. The strategies of Imagology – notably those applied to Translation Studies in recent work by van Doorslaer (2010) – prove particularly useful in detailing these findings, through close observation of the constructed images of the country.


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