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Italian Modernism

Italian Modernism: Italian Culture between Decadentism and Avant-Garde

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 488
  • Book Info
    Italian Modernism
    Book Description:

    Italian Modernismwas written in response to the need for an historiographic and theoretical reconsideration of the concepts ofDecadentismoand the avant-garde within the Italian critical tradition.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2338-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Foreword: After The Conquest of the Stars
    (pp. ix-xxiv)
    Paolo Valesio

    Italian Modernismmarks a significant turn in the development of contemporary research -in Italy, the United States, and elsewhere -on modern Italian literature. Italianists in Italy are often content to rehearse the (undeniable but in itself not very interesting) fact that in Italian literature the category of ‘modernism’ has never been really at home. The editors of this book (Mario Moroni and Luca Somigli), on the other hand, have finally decided to take the logical next step: to acclimatize this category in the landscape of contemporary critical discourse on modern Italian literature, thus making this territory more accessible and comparable...

  5. Contributors
    (pp. xxv-2)
  6. Modernism in Italy: An Introduction
    (pp. 3-32)

    In introducing a special volume of the journalAnnali di Italianisticaon postmodernism in Italy, the editor Dino Cervigni noted the difficulty of dealing with such a category from the perspective of a cultural tradition in which modernism remains at best a vague and underdetermined concept. Obviously, the issue is not that Italian culture has not gone through a ‘modernist’ phase -though the terms of that ‘modernism’ are precisely what need to be addressed -but rather that the word, if not the phenomenon itself, has until recently had very little purchase in the context of Italian arts and letters. In...


    • 1 Italy and Modernity: Peculiarities and Contradictions
      (pp. 35-62)

      New attitudes among historians are slowly changing our perception and interpretation of the historical events of the last two centuries. According to this general shift in historical interpretation, two great transformations radically altered the social and cultural life of Europe: one at the turn of the eighteenth century, the other in the 1950s and 1960s. While their impact and timing varied slightly from country to country, these epochal changes altered both European cultural life and literary production. Many smaller changes and transformations have, of course, also occurred, including the beginning of industrialization in France during the 1830s and the subsequent...


    • 2 Sensuous Maladies: The Construction of Italian Decadentismo
      (pp. 65-85)

      In this essay I will consider ItalianDecadentismoas a critical and historiographic category, in the light of the literary criticism which generated and defined it. I will begin with its first formulations in the context of French late-Romanticism, and then turn to the articulations of - and reactions to - the notions of decadence provided by such protagonists of the Italian cultural scene in the 1890s as Vittorio Pica, Arturo Graf, and Gian Pietro Lucini. I will conclude by discussing the reappropriation of the ideas of decadence and Decadentism by Idealist and Marxist thought in the works of Benedetto...

    • 3 D’Annunzio, Duse, Wilde, Bernhardt: Author and Actress between Decadence and Modernity
      (pp. 86-129)
      LUCIA RE

      At the end of the nineteenth century and in the first decade of the twentieth, the actress, more than the actor, assumed a fundamental role in the theatre. It was the figure of the prima donna that attracted crowds and galvanized critics at a time when the theatre was still (indeed, more than ever) the principal form of mass spectacle and entertainment. Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) and Eleonora Duse (1858-1924) in particular achieved fame of mythic proportions. The triumphant era of Bernhardt and Duse coincided with the years in which suffragism and organized feminism developed in Europe, while the role of...

    • 4 Omnes velut aqua dilabimur: Antonio Fogazzaro, The Saint, and Catholic Modernism
      (pp. 130-166)

      Mysticism - its definition, and the appropriation of its power - is at the heart of the modernist crisis. This is the crucial intuition that literary modernism, in particular in its decadent and symbolist roots, brings to religious modernism.³ For in the years before the turn of the twentieth century in Western Europe, literature and poetics became the locus of a sustained reflection on the ‘death of God’ and on the need for a new mystical practice severed from dogma and from philosophical abstraction. And Antonio Fogazzaro (his own sense of antagonistic respect for the Church notwithstanding)⁴ stands at a...

    • 5 Overcoming Aestheticism
      (pp. 167-190)

      Some ninety years after it was written, Georg Lukács’s’ Aesthetic Culture’ (1910) has at last appeared in English. The importance of this essay lies not only in its pointed critique of fin-de-siècle European aestheticism, but also in its defence of a strange new art which never took hold. Almost contemporaneous to the more egregious pronouncement of F.T. Marinetti (1909), the Hungarian manifesto had no real disciples -unless, of course, we read them into it, gathering under the Lukcásian aegis an unlikely assortment of figures who hardly had an inkling of what he wrote: such disparate writers as Giuseppe Ungaretti and...

    • 6 Transtextual Patterns: Guido Gozzano Between Epic and Elegy in ‘Goa: “La Dourada”’
      (pp. 191-218)

      Quipping about George Orwell’s ‘equals’, Gerard Genette once argued that if all literary works are hypertextual, some are definitely more so than others (9). Defined as ‘any relationship uniting a text B [...] to an earlier text A’ (5), hypertextuality is, in Genette’s taxonomy, a subcategory of transtextuality, which he more broadly identifies as ‘the textual transcendence of the text [...] all that sets the text in a relationship, whether obvious or concealed, with other texts’ (1).¹ Guido Gozzano’s Indian narratives, with their wealth of direct and indirect references to a common literary patrimony, belong to Genette’s category of quintessentially...


    • 7 Modernism in Florence: The Politics Avant-Garde Culture in the Early Twentieth Century
      (pp. 221-242)

      Nineteenth-century bourgeois societies emancipated art in the sense that experience no longer had to be forced into a priori genres and period styles but was allowed to give birth to artistic form. This emancipation made possible an oppositional art, but it also unleashed a process of commodification which, by the century’s close, threatened to redefine art as entertainment and to integrate it even more effectively than in pre-bourgeois societies. Thus arises the paradox of an art freed in principle and yet neutralized in practice. It is this paradox which provides the context for, and in a general way defines, the...

    • 8 Back to the Future: Temporal Ambivalences in F.T. Marienetti’s Writings
      (pp. 243-266)

      There is still a widespread and commonly accepted notion in much of the critical literature on Italian Futurism that deals with Futurism’s relationship to the category of time. According to this view, which is well summarized by Stephen Kern, Futurists ‘Voiced the most passionate repudiations of the past ... celebrated the here and now and created an art that was perishable and ephemeral’, ‘Their most energetic spokesman. [...] F.T. Marinetti’, continues Kern, ‘Vowed to mock everything consecrated by time’ and ‘in 1914 [...] announced the funeral of allpasséistebeauty, including its nefarious ingredients of memory, legends, and ruins’ (57)....

    • 9 Ungaretti, Reader of Futurism
      (pp. 267-293)

      On more than one occasion, and in particular in the decade between 1920 and 1930, Ungaretti expressed his opinions on Futurism, each time with the clear intention of redefining the fundamental lines of his poetics. In almost all of his writings of those years -the years in which the revision ofAllegria di naufragi[The Happiness of Shipwrecks] coincided with the preparation ofSentimento del tempo[The Sentiment of Time] -the expressive results and the theoretical elaborations of the Marinettian avant-garde undeniably appear as Ungaretti’s implicit frame of reference, even when he is not explicitly concerned with them. In 1919,...

    • 10 Of Thresholds and Boundaries: Luigi Pirandello between Modernity and Modernism
      (pp. 294-306)

      This disquieting statement comes from one of Luigi Pirandello’s most engaging essays, ‘Arte e coscienza d’oggi’ (1893).¹ In fairly apocalyptic terms, the Sicilian author discusses the nature of consciousness as it approaches the end of the nineteenth century and experiences one of most devastating crises. He also reviews, and eventually rejects, both the philosophical outcomes of such a crisis and the new artistic models generated by it, models which, as stated by Pirandello himself, are best exemplified by Ibsen and Wagner. The author then proceeds provide his own definition of modernity, quoted above. For Pirandello, modern consciousness is characterized by...


    • 11 Modernism and the Quest for the Real: On Massimo Bontempelli’s Minnie la candida
      (pp. 309-350)

      In this, our postmodern condition, the categories of ‘modernity’ and ‘modernism’ may have lost some of their topicality, obscured by the fortune of their more up-to-date successor, but they have certainly not ceased to be sites of contested meaning, signifiers whose relationship with the construction of a certain historical period and cultural production is subject to periodic shifts and redefinitions. Linked by the dictionary,¹ if not by the vagaries of history, on whose stage they appear at very different moments, ‘modernity’ and ‘modernism’ thus find themselves locked in a complex dance in which the dislocations of one reflect and respond...

    • 12 De Chirico’s Heroes: The Victors of Modernity
      (pp. 351-377)

      In this essay I enter into the subject of modernism as it appears in the literary works and paintings of Giorgio de Chirico through an analysis of the theme of heroism in general and the figure of the gladiator in particular. As a founder of the Italian Metaphysical School of painting in the first decades of the twentieth century, de Chirico is known for his strange atmospheres, dislocated spaces, and hybrid characters, from the mannequin to the androgyne. His uncanny works engage, it would seem, a modern ‘alienation’ in which epic thematics have little place. At the same time, however,...

    • 13 Gender, Identity, and the Return to Order in the Early Works of Paola Masino
      (pp. 378-400)

      What happens to literary writing and intellectual reflection in Italy when, in the wake of the modernist epistemological and metaphysical crisis in Europe, the external universe increasingly appears to be a subjective and unstable concept? When the objective reality of time and space and even identity seem to collapse? What happens when philosophy, traditionally dedicated to the examination of ideas like truth, existence, history, and reality, determines these to be nothing other than mythic constructs? Where - in a vacuum not convincingly filled by either science or religion - can one turn for a semblance of truth and order?



    • 14 Representing Repetition: Appropriation in de Chirico and After
      (pp. 403-450)

      Appropriation represents one of the strongest trends in the practice of visual arts of the last thirty years.¹ Artworks operating under this artistic strategy are often understood as manifesting the belated legacy of the work of Marcel Duchamp, best remembered for his 1917 readymade sculptureFountain,the inverted urinal that he deemed a sculpture by christening it with the fictitious signature ‘R. Mutt’ (figure 14.1). Art historians have nominated Duchamp as the principal father of appropriation, thus baptizing him into the critical discourse as the progenitor of an entire legion of artistic producers.² Many contemporary artists interested in strategies of...

  12. Name Index
    (pp. 451-459)