From Wiseguys to Wise Men: The Gangster and Italian American Masculinities

Fred Gardaphé (Stony Brook University)

Since the gangster’s earliest appearance in American cinema, there has been regular association between the gangster figure and the Italian/American male. Perhaps no literary or cinematic figure has had such a profound effect on the development of an ethnic stereotype. The gangster becomes a telling figure in the tale of American race, gender, and ethnicity, a figure that reflects the autobiography of an immigrant group just as it reflects the fantasy of a native population. This talk, based on the recent Routledge publication of the same name, explores the gangster as embodying the traits that the dominant American culture represses and explains why Americans are so obsessed with it.