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The Invention of Modern Italian Literature

The Invention of Modern Italian Literature: Strategies of Creative Imagination

Dawn Winterhalter
Gemma Dawkes
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  • Book Info
    The Invention of Modern Italian Literature
    Book Description:

    As an investigation of new expressive processes and stylistic experiences, The Invention of Modern Italian Literature situates prominent Italian writers within the context of modern literature.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8495-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
    Franco Fido
  4. 1 On the Autobiography of Alfieri
    (pp. 3-28)

    In the eighteenth century autobiographical writings began to thrive in European literature, giving the genre modern legitimacy. TheViteof contemporaries were divulged and the forgotten lives of the deceased were brought to light, as in the case of Cellini’sVita, which was finally published in 1728 and stirred up the enthusiasm of Baretti (in 1764 inLa Frusta letteraria) and Goethe (who began to translate it in February 1796 and published it in 1803). The need for a retrospective, self-testifying memorial began to be felt on a large scale, while the right term to designate it did not yet...

  5. 2 Foscolo and the Mythology of the Self
    (pp. 29-43)

    In the history of the nineteenth-century Italian novel, the romantic analysis of one’s own self belongs mainly to Foscolo, to the Foscolo ofUltime lettere di Jacopo Ortis, and bears the distinguishing marks of heroic and self-celebrating egotism. ‘Regna in noi tutti quella divinità che si chiamaIo’ (Enthroned in all of us is that divinity calledI), declares theRagguaglio d’un’adunanza dell’Accademia de’ Pitagoriciin 1810. This inner study of the narrating I, absorbed in self-examination, emphatically reveals an exceptional individuality both stormy and tormented, which by reason of its enticing force of attraction is destined to take on...

  6. 3 The Theatrical Works of Manzoni
    (pp. 44-63)

    The founder of the Italian modern novel was also the greatest tragedian of the nineteenth century; indeed he was the last great Italian author of tragedies written in verse.

    It is historically significant that the birth of the realist novel and the death (or definitive decline) of the verse tragedy coexisted in the same writer between the second and third decades of the century. These changing expressive forms not only reflect the profound ideological and sociological upheavals of the times but also demonstrate Manzoni’s determination as a writer.

    The transformation of the classic tragedy into romantic drama was the starting...

  7. 4 Leopardi and the Dissembling Style
    (pp. 64-74)

    A reprint of the correspondence between Giacomo and Monaldo Leopardi² calls its readers’ attention to an epistolary relationship that is both fascinating and cruel. Although innocent in appearance, it is in reality convoluted and disturbing and sheds light on the shady misadventure lived out by the poet of theCantion a human and family level.

    Too often, critical historiography is only interested in the public side of official literary production, presuming this to be a scientific approach. So as not to be influenced by anecdotes and chronicles, researchers have conducted little investigation in the area of private and occasional...

  8. 5 Quotations of the Heart
    (pp. 75-84)

    In the late eighteenth century, quotations of the heart began to rise on the stock exchange of our literary civilization. Since then, the heart metaphor has given poets and narrators no quarter; it has become the dominant symbol of affection, sentiment, and passion; it is both moral guide and source of artistic inspiration, amounting to a private identity card. It is the secret corner devoted to inner changes and jealous memories, where desires reside together with the human will. And yet the heart has still other meanings besides these.

    At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the reasons of the...

  9. 6 The Novelist Verga
    (pp. 85-116)

    There is still a somewhat ascetic, monkish image of Verga in circulation. He is seen as a solitary artist seated among the various stills of a formal laboratory, a writer endowed with splendid and priestly steadfastness, setting his sagacious talent to work to produce that formidable stylistic mixture that would bring to life the pages ofI MalavogliaandMastro-don Gesualdo. This portrait may be fascinating, but it bears no resemblance to the original. It arises from a vertiginously formalized reading of only select pieces by Verga – his so-called masterpieces. This microscopic vision cancels out the high and low...

  10. 7 Notes on ‘La tessitrice’
    (pp. 117-129)

    The paradoxes of ‘La tessitrice’ have been thoroughly discussed,² but the most striking one is that a lyric poem so fragile in appearance³ and yet so surprisingly complex and evocative in reality could be expressed with such frugal use of expressive devices (vocabulary and imagery). Similarly, we know that the distinguishing characteristic of great chefs is their ability to create the most excellent dishes from nothing more than ordinary ingredients. ‘Mi piange ancora nel cuore il pianto della tua “Tessitrice.” È poesia stupenda’ (The tears of your ‘Weaver’ continue to fall in my heart. It is marvellous poetry). With these...

  11. 8 The Well and the Cellars. On the Twentieth-Century Italian Novel
    (pp. 130-146)

    Let us start out by quoting a well-known passage from D’Annunzio, taken from his letter to Francesco Paolo Michetti, the introduction toTrionfo della morte, in 1894:

    Avevamo più volte insieme ragionato d’un ideal libro di prosa moderno che […], libero dai vincoli della favola, portasse alfine in sé creata con tutti i mezzi dell’arte letteraria la particolar vita – sensuale sentimentale intellettuale – di un essere umano collocato nel centro della vita universa.¹

    An ‘essere umano collocato nel centro della vita universa’ (human being placed at the centre of universal life) is clearly explained through this gleaming verbal construction:...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 147-169)