Nato Fuori Posto: Exploring Placelessness in Dean Serravalle’s “The Buried Tree”

Gianluca Agostinelli

Published online: 2017-04-05 | DOI: 10.1515/culture-2017-0002


Building on the seminal scholarship of humanistic geographer, Edward Relph, this paper explores the postmodern notion of placelessness in Canadian-Italian literature. The author argues that placelessness can afford bi-cultural writers, and their literary protagonists, a degree of productive peripherality that works to deconstruct and undercut the authoritative dynamic of a culturally dominant place. Working with the concept of placelessness, the author analyzes, critically, “The Buried Tree,” a short story composed by Canadian-Italian author, Dean Serravalle, to suggest that the metaphysical state is not one of precarity and dearth but, rather, one of purposeful resistance to the traditional, often oppressive notions of cultural hybridity. While Serravalle’s text focalizes the strong senses of home and cultural rooting as fundamental markers of ethnic identity, placelessness, a space associated primarily with exclusion, can offer refuge and escape for the protagonost, Michele, who seeks both ethnic dissociation from the familial traditions into which he is born, and detachment from his innate, immigrant history. By exploring Michele’s identity crisis, Serravalle seems to challenge the traditional narrative of lifelong, oppositional pluridimensionality, and posits placelessness as a productive, and perhaps necessary, personal state to establish, rather than to reclaim, one’s cultural roots.

Keywords: Italian-Canadian; placelessness; cultural roots

Featured Image Credits: Brigitta Schneiter, June 24, 2017| © Courtesy of Unsplash

You may also like...