“Io so’ jodìo romano”: The
“Io so’ jodìo romano”: The Jewish-Roman Dialect Out of the Ghetto
Daniel Leisawitz, Muhlenberg College
Free and open to the public.
This presentation examines the life-long project of the Jewish-Roman poet and historian, Crescenzo Del Monte (1868-1935), and its changing socio-political implications as Italy transformed from a representational democracy to a Fascist dictatorship. Del Monte dedicated much of his life to writing poems in giudaico-romanesco, the particular dialect of the Roman Jews, which is distinct from the romanesco spoken by the general Roman population. This idiosyncratic dialect was already falling out of use by the time Del Monte began writing, as a result of the abolition of the Roman ghetto (1870) and the assimilation of the Jewish population with the broader Roman society. This socio-linguistic shift transformed Del Monte’s poetic project – which consisted of documenting a vanishing world and its indigenous vernacular in poetic form – from an amateur exercise of nostalgic sentimentalism into one of resistance against time, against history, and against social change.
Toward the end of his life Del Monte’s project took on another, more charged, form of resistance: this time political. The fascist regime had launched a campaign against plurilinguismo in the early 1920s, targeting the use of foreign languages in Italy; however, starting in 1929 the government expanded the program to achieve the eradication of Italian dialects in an effort to create a linguistically unified and homogenous nation. Del Monte, then, initially a fascist sympathizer, found his life’s work at odds with the directives of the totalitarian regime.
This presentation will examine Del Monte’s work by placing it within the context of the socio-political developments over the course of the first 35 years of the twentieth century, which radically transformed the Roman-Jewish community and the Italian nation as a whole, and within the broader scope of the rich history and politics of Roman dialect poetry.
Daniel Leisawitz is Assistant Professor of Italian and Director of the Italian Studies Program at Muhlenberg College (Allentown, PA). He received his Ph.D. from Yale University with a dissertation on the representation of Renaissance texts in Italian cinema. His research interests include early modern Italian literature and cartography, the intersection of literature and technology, and Jewish-Italian history and culture. His latest publication in the field of Jewish-Italian Studies is a reconsideration of the work of the sixteenth-century dramaturge and theater theorist, Leone de’ Sommi (Italica 92.2).