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The Revolt of the Scribe in Modern Italian Literature

The Revolt of the Scribe in Modern Italian Literature

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 384
  • Book Info
    The Revolt of the Scribe in Modern Italian Literature
    Book Description:

    The Revolt of the Scribe in Modern Italian Literatureoffers a perceptive re-assessment of Italian literary culture, focusing on the nature of modernity through the literature of those who revolt against established norms and expectations.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8617-5
    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
    (pp. 3-34)

    This is a study of personal revolt and literary conversion among selected Italian writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For these authors the writing process is critical to amutatio vitaethat coincides with a redirection of writerly practice away from established cultural norms. In personal terms, the writerly turn involves a reappraisal of one’s views about self, society, and self-expression. This process is heuristic in nature and begins with the author in the role of ‘native informant’ of a cultural group, subject to its linguistic and educational norms, its conventions and protocols. Here the author participates in the...


    • 1 Justice, Modesty, and Compassion in Ugo Foscolo’s Ajace
      (pp. 37-58)

      Whitehead’s discussion of ‘Understanding’ inModes of Thoughtidentifies the nineteenth century as the period of final resolution of Renaissance ideas, and consequently of Greek thought, a gathered edifice whose aesthetic limitations are too seldom remembered or applied critically to its historical recurrences.² If human understanding is to be expanded in the modern period, says Whitehead, the multiple as well the unitary, the confused and manifold as well as the singular and orderly, must be included in our intellectual and aesthetic models. ‘In the history of European thought,’ he adds, ‘the discussion of aesthetics has been almost ruined by the...

    • 2 Paradoxical Romanticism: Alessandro Manzoni’s Il Cinque maggio
      (pp. 59-80)

      If Romanticism is seen as a popular movement that frees the emotions, a school of radical political reform and denunciation of classical forms, the greatest Italian Romantics – Foscolo, Manzoni, Leopardi – only assume that label paradoxically. More elitist than populist, they embraced the values of patriotism, pathos, and personal freedom from a detached and complicated critical position. Alessandro Manzoni is perhaps the greatest embodiment of this paradox, since only for him did these values depend on the Catholic morality and the claim of truth for the Christian dispensation in history.¹ Like other Romantics, Manzoni sought to free himself from the rhetorical...

    • 3 Pascolian Intertexts in the Lyric Poetry of Attilio Bertolucci
      (pp. 81-96)

      As stated in the Introduction, the scribe is a kind of native informant who reports consistently about an ethos until such time as a deviation occurs in the form of innovation and culture change. Anthropologists know that reliable native informants are not ‘ordinary’ members of the group but possess unusual motivation and skill. To report on one’s ethos in writing is the role of the scribe who inherits a literary patrimony of considerable complexity and adapts it to one’s own era and individual needs. Intertextuality is the name given to this stylistic appropriation of sources. While this is a topic...

    • 4 The Ethics and Pathos of Giuseppe Ungaretti’s ‘Ragioni d’una poesia’
      (pp. 97-111)

      The text I discuss here, ‘Ragioni d’una poesia’ (Reasons for a Poetry), is a composite of articles, talks, and essays from the period 1922 to 1969 that Giuseppe Ungaretti used to introduce his collected poems,Vita d’un uomo(Life of a Man).² While the critical literature on the poetry is extensive, little has been written on the essays and almost nothing on this autoexegesis. Here Ungaretti assumes the stature of the ‘poeta di oggi,’ the poet of his day and of destiny; while such a claim is not unfamiliar to readers of such poets as Carducci and d’Annunzio, in Ungaretti’s...

    • 5 Diego Valeri: A Classic Poet in the Modern Era
      (pp. 112-128)

      Diego Valeri represents a twentieth-century continuation of the Italian lyric tradition in its purest form. Peripheral to contemporary ideological crises, his voice is imbued with the classical imagery of Petrarch, Poliziano, and Leopardi, and with their subject matter of nature and love, melancholy, anguish and struggle. Beneath the pristine surface of Valeri’s poems one finds a stylistic complexity rich in moral intonations that qualifies him as a poet of rectitude as well as melody and harmony. After receiving alaurea in lettereat the University of Padua in 1909, Valeri won a scholarship to the Sorbonne. He returned to Italy...


    • 6 The Typological Journey of Grazia Deledda’s Canne al vento
      (pp. 131-145)

      Self-trained as a writer, Grazia Deledda (1871–1936) slowly developed from an early period of fatalism and conventional formulaic works to the great novels of her maturity, which possess all the complexity and nuance of great literature. In the Sardinian author one sees the role women would have in mending the divisions in Italian society. An early defender of universal suffrage and the right to divorce, Deledda projects her feminine identity along with the ‘shadow labour’ of women throughout her career, from the early novelsLa via del male(1896),Elias Portolu(1900), andCenere(1904) to the great novels...

    • 7 Iconicity and Social Thought in Elsa Morante’s ‘Lo scialle andaluso’
      (pp. 146-161)

      When Elsa Morante died in 1985, Italy lost a great and popular artist. President Pertini, a friend of Morante and her former husband Alberto Moravia, had visited her and seen to it that her medical costs were absorbed by the state. This ad hoc arrangement recalled another anomaly: the extraordinary success of Morante’s penultimate novel,La storia: un romanzo (History: A Novel, 1974), which had sold nearly a million copies. Previous novels had enjoyed critical acclaim, but her complex ‘artistic’ personality had been too forbidding for mass appeal; the most frequent word for her prose had been ‘poetic.’

      Morante bears...

    • 8 Of the Barony: Anna Banti and the Time of Decision
      (pp. 162-180)

      Anna Banti was for many years an editor atParagone, the prestigious journal of literary and art criticism. Though she set out to have a career as an art historian, as the student and young wife of Roberto Longhi, her major accomplishments were as a writer of historical fiction. In her famous novelArtemisia, about the social ostracism of a seventeenth-century painter, Artemisia Gentileschi, who was raped and then labelled a prostitute, Banti funnelled her art historical passion into a compelling depiction of the interiority of this victim of a masculine baronial order.Artemisiastands as a vivid statement of...

    • 9 The Religious Experimentalism of Amelia Rosselli
      (pp. 181-194)

      The goal of this chapter is to present an overview of Amelia Rosselli’s poetry and poetics, to analyse a single ten-line lyric (‘Il soggiorno in inferno era di natura divina’), and to conclude by examining the poet’s use of the rose topos throughout her opus. This approach will show how through the diverse stages of Rosselli’s career certain features remain constant. On a thematic plane, perhaps the most important feature – though one that has been largely overlooked – is the poet’s Christian practice through poetry; this thematics is underscored by the dialogic nature of the poems, which often assume the form...


    • 10 From Z to A: Italo Svevo’s Corto viaggio sentimentale
      (pp. 197-217)

      Written over a three-year period and published in 1923,Svevo’s La coscienza di Zeno(hereafterZeno) did not receive major critical attention until 1925. Eugenio Montale’s review in that year and the acclaim of the French critics Valery Larbaud and Benjamin Crémieux in 1926 launched Svevo’s European and Italian reputation, after three decades of obscurity. Svevo’s late recognition as a literary great – what he called his ‘resurrection of Lazarus’ – made him, in the words of Renato Poggioli, ‘humbly grateful and innocently happy’ about an event seen as a ‘wonder and a miracle, an act of grace and an act of...

    • 11 The Pains of the Prophet: Guido Morselli and the Problem of Evil
      (pp. 218-252)

      Guido Morselli was born in Bologna in 1912 and died a suicide in Varese in 1973, at which time his only published books were a study of Proust,Proust o del sentimento(Proust, or On Sentiment, 1943), andRealismo e fantasia(Realism and Imagination, 1947), a sequence of nine philosophical dialogues.¹ Morselli’s literary popularity began eighteen months after his death with the publication of the first of seven novels with Adelphi. Most discussion of Morselli has focused on these novels. In addition to the two works mentioned above, the non-fiction includes a religious essay,Fede e critica(Faith and Criticism,...

    • 12 Vasco Pratolini’s Il quartiere as a Calque of Purgatorio
      (pp. 253-275)

      Coming of age in the 1930s in Florence under the single party system, Vasco Pratolini was drawn to theStrapaesemovement, which stood for the virtues of the agricultural heartland as against the economic elites of a more technologically advanced Europe. His writings in the journalIl Bargelloshowed the populist, revolutionary direction of the Fascist left, its anti-bourgeois identity and program of action. When Mussolini established an alliance with Franco and entered as a partner in his war against the Spanish Republic in 1936, Pratolini and many other artists and intellectuals, like his friends Alfonso Gatto and Elio Vittorini,...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 276-288)

    Section 1 of this Conclusion returns to the concept of revolt, distinguishing it from rebellion and connecting it to a particular historical perspective, which is the Vichian idea that history and literature, as human products, are closely interrelated. The idea that the literary work can offer an ‘alternative’ history or lead one to reformulate one’s views about the past is followed through in a brief recapitulation of the book’s three parts. Section 2 of the Conclusion presents a more detailed summary of the authors; by placing them in the order of their birth, we allow a direct comparison of authors...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 289-336)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 337-350)
  11. Index
    (pp. 351-359)