Crime Unmasked: Exploring the Morphologies of Italian Giallo through Transnational Influences and Intermedial Hybridization


If a lively intermedial dialogue emerges between the two world wars in Italy, pushing the Giallo beyond the boundaries of literature (Mazzei and Valentini, 2017; Curti 2022), it is after the end of the Second World War, and especially with the advent of television, that the crime genre (Calabrese and Rossi, 2018; Pieri 2011; Priestman 2009; Knight 2004) branches out into popular culture, exploding in a multitude of forms, productions, atmospheres, styles, and characters.

The representations of crime within the transmedia macro-genre of the Giallo have thus accompanied and interpreted some fundamental cultural and social transformations in Italy, from the 1950s to the present. The polarity between detection and the criminal act – the core of the Giallo – expresses, on the one hand, the morphological complexity of the genre, its permeability to both indigenous and international narrative models and archetypes, and on the other hand, it serves as an amplifier of social anxieties regarding criminal phenomena in contemporary liberal democracies (Biressi 2001) and the tensions and desires of Western societies (Perissinotto 2008).

In this respect, the Giallo becomes a heuristic device capable of capturing and deciphering the symptoms of an ongoing socio-cultural change, as well as revealing the traumatic signs of past historical events (Pezzotti 2014) or the traces of the evolution of criminal law theories and practices, especially in the oscillations between the inquisitorial and the accusatory models (Amodio 2016). At the narrative level, these models are often reflected in the development and hybridization of two different narrative paradigms: detective fiction and procedural drama.

Equally significant from a cultural perspective is Giallo's ability to intersect and reinterpret the paradigms of femininity and masculinity within specific historical periods. It accomplishes this through the use of plots and visual strategies that problematize the relationship between socially prescribed roles, characters, and gender identity, often highlighting contradictions related to stereotypes and hegemonic positions (Dresner 2007; Gates 2011; Buonanno 2017; D’Amelio and Re 2021).

The aim of the monographic issue – developed within the Prin 2020 project The Atlas of Italian “Giallo”: Media History and Popular Culture (1954-2020) – is to analyze the depiction of criminals and representatives of the law and institutions, exploring the intermedial connections between television, cinema, radio, fictional imagery, investigative journalism, and crime reporting. The analysis of how these figures are portrayed will reveal their significance and role in shaping and distorting the public perception of crime and justice.

Through the examination of recurrences and variations of patterns and expressive formulas, this issue aims to open a space for reflection on the diachronic, synchronic and geographical trajectories that have shaped new identity and cultural configurations within Italian crime narratives. The subjects that navigate the realms of detection can be studied in their diverse aesthetic and representational evolutions, taking into account changes in production contexts. Furthermore, it is important to consider the audience responses, including the impact of branding (Turnbull, 2019) and the mechanisms that sometimes associate a star image with a particular role.

Similarly, an interdisciplinary approach to the Giallo represents a privileged access to the complex web of interpretive pathways that span Media Studies, sociology, criminology, Legal Studies, and philosophical reflections on themes of guilt and responsibility. By interweaving these disciplines, this monographic issue aims to shed light on cognitive, political and gender identity issues.

This issue of Cinergie aims to collect contributions that focus on, but are not exclusively limited to, the following points:

  • The figure of the investigator, whether inside or outside state institutions, including law enforcement officers, investigative journalists, writers or private citizens, between professionalism and amateurism.
  • The developments and modes of representation of figures related to the defense of the accused and the staging of the victim as a civil party in the trial, beyond traditional patterns of detection and often in a problematic off-screen position, both in the investigative and procedural phases.
  • The relationship between investigation, trial and truth in the national representation of crime or true crime in a diachronic, intermedial and interdisciplinary perspective.
  • How the hybridizations of different genres and international influences redefine masculine and feminine models of detection as discursive positionalities in the Italian context.
  • The relationship between gender identity and the staging of violence in the dialectic between criminal transgression and the punitive restoration of social order.
  • The symbolic and narrative significance of atmospheres and spaces in the Giallo genre, where the exploration of different locations becomes an expressive practice that activates further levels of identity research.
  • The different sites involved in criminal, investigative, judicial, and punitive actions, such as crime scenes, police stations, courts, prisons, and more.


E. Amodio, Estetica della giustizia penale. Prassi, media, fiction, Giuffrè Editore, Milano 2016.

A. Biressi, Crime, Fear and the Law in True Crime Stories, Palgrave Macmillan UK, London 2001.

M. Buonanno, Television Antiheroines. Women Behaving Badly in Crime and Prison Drama, Intellect, Bristol-Chicago 2017.

S. Calabrese, R. Rossi, La crime fiction, Carocci, Roma 2018.

R. Curti, Italian Giallo in Film and Television. A Critical History, McFarland & Company, Jefferson 2022.

L.M. Dresner, The Female Investigator in Literature, Film and Popular Culture, McFarland, Jefferson 2007.

P. Gates, Detecting Women. Gender and the Hollywood Detective Film, State University of New York Press, New York 2011.  

S. Knight, Crime Fiction 1800-2000, Palgrave Macmillan, New York 2004. 

L. Mazzei, P. Valentini (a cura di), Giallo italiano, «Bianco e nero», 587, 2017.

A. Perissinotto, La società dell’indagine, Bompiani, Milano 2008. 

B. Pezzotti, Investigating Italy’s Past through Historical Crime fiction, Films, and TV Series. Murder in the Age of Chaos, Palgrave MacMillan, New York 2014.

G. Pieri (a cura di), Italian Crime Fiction, University of Wales Press, Cardiff 2011.

M. Priestman, The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2009.

V. Re, E. D’Amelio, «Un lavoro inadatto a una donna»: protagoniste femminili nella serialità crime italiana, «Arabeschi», 18, 2021. 

G. Scomazzon, Crimine, colpa e testimonianza. Sulla performatività documentaria, Mimesis, Milano-Udine 2021.  

S. Turnbull, Crime. Storia, miti e personaggi delle serie TV più popolari, Minimum Fax, Roma 2019.


Submission details

Please send an abstract of 300/500 words and a short biography to Giulia Scomazzon and Arianna Vergari at and by October 17, 2023 - [subject: Cinergie Volti e scene del crimine+ name surname author(s)].

Notification of acceptance will be sent within October 23, 2023.

If the proposal is accepted, the author(s) will be asked to submit the full article by December 15, 2023.

Articles must not exceed 6,000 words and may include images, clips, and links for illustrative purposes. Please provide proper credits, permissions, and copyright information to ensure that images, clips, and links are copyright-free and can be published.

Contributions will be submitted to double-blind peer-review.


The issue will be published in July 2024.