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After Words

After Words: Suicide and Authorship in Twentieth-Century Italy

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    After Words
    Book Description:

    After Wordsinvestigates the ways in which the suicide of a writer informs critical interpretations of his or her works.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6024-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction: The Death of the Author
    (pp. 3-19)

    This study begins with a gunshot wound, an overdose of sleeping pills, and two falls from great heights: these methods hastened the deaths of four of Italy’s greatest twentieth-century authors. Although all but one of the authors described above enjoyed some degree of international fame when they died, it was these authors’ suicides, and not their literature, that captivated both the scholarly community and the general public.¹ The suicide of any public figure instigates public debate. But why do we care particularly when it is an author who dies by his or her own hand? How does that care manifest...

  5. 1 The Posthumous Author: Guido Morselli, Giuseppe Rensi, Jacques Monod
    (pp. 20-64)

    Dispongo che mi si dia sepoltura nel cimitero di Giubiano (Varese), non nella cappella di famiglia, bensì in terra aperta, con una tomba semplicissima, senza alcuna struttura sovrastante, senza ornamenti né simboli … Una lastra di pietra con il mio nome e nient’altro.

    Alla mia morte nessun avviso ne sarà dato sui giornali … Il funerale avrà luogo nella maniera più semplice e disadorna, senza alcuna solennità o funzione ecclesiastica, senza fiori né ‘corone’ o simili.

    Subito dopo il mio decesso, dispongo che un medico mi pratichi una iniezione al cuore di tal natura da poter determinare di per sé...

  6. 2 The Corpus and the Corpse: Amelia Rosselli, Jacques Derrida, Sylvia Plath, Sarah Kofman
    (pp. 65-103)

    To speak of Amelia Rosselli’s life, it is conventional to begin with a death, that of her father Carlo Rosselli. Co-founder and principal theoretician of the Italian antifascist resistance groupGiustizia e Libertà, he and his brother Nello were assassinated on 10 June 1937 by Frenchcagoulardssent by Mussolini in order to quash their influence as antifascist leaders. The practical and symbolic importance of their deaths, and the public nature of their lives and legacy–over 150,000 people attended Carlo’s funeral–must not be underestimated if we are to have any sense of Rosselli’s position as the daughter of...

  7. 3 The Post-Biological Author: Cesare Pavese, Gianni Vattimo, Emanuele Severino
    (pp. 104-137)

    Yesterday evening a chambermaid at the Hotel Roma in Piazza Carlo Felice, passing by the room that for two days had been occupied by the writer Cesare Pavese, recalled that the door to the room had not been opened all day. She knocked. She got no response. The door was forced soon thereafter and the sad discovery was made: the writer lay supine on the bed and gave no signs of life. According to the medical examiner, the death occurred Saturday evening.

    Near him, on the nightstand, lay open one of his last works,Dialogues with Leocò; on the title...

  8. 4 Commemoration and Erasure: Primo Levi, Giorgio Agamben, Avishai Margalit
    (pp. 138-164)

    More celebrated than any of the other three authors I have examined, the complex figure of writer, scientist, and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi (1919-1987) was venerated by a worldwide readership for fortyodd years, until his lethal plunge over the banister in his Turin apartment building in 1987, at the age of sixty-eight. Levi’s suicide has been contested in some circles–not because there was no evidence of suicide (on the contrary) but because his writings deal, more often than not, with his experiences as a concentration camp survivor, and after all, we expect our survivors to survive. But for some...

  9. Postscript: Learning from the Dead
    (pp. 165-172)

    I started with the question of how the knowledge of an author’s suicide changes our approach to a text. I have argued that authorial suicide repositions the author as central to our understanding of a text, and, more broadly, it reveals the continued critical challenges posed by authors and authorship. The suicide of an author complicates the possibility of negotiating between historicist and linguistic readings of literature by redimensioning or throwing into crisis the relationship between a work and the specific or situated subject who created it. Posthumous assessments of our authors’ works inevitably attempt to reckon with or account...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 173-226)
  11. Works Consulted
    (pp. 227-244)
  12. Index
    (pp. 245-250)