- The Cambridge Companion to the Italian Novel
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Debenedetti, who had been associated with Solaria, was a brilliant critic who never achieved a permanent university position.
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He had been responsible for introducing critical methodologies Freudian psychoanalysis, as well as the methods of the French disciples of Freud and ideas taken from anthropology, linguistics, etc. Retracing the story of the Italian novel from verismo to the s, Debenedetti created what amounts to a literary canon of Italian modernist prose, 7 Giacomo Debenedetti, Il romanzo del Novecento. Quaderni inediti, with a preface by Eugenio Montale Milan: Garzanti, ; new edn Numerous Italian writers recognized the economic and cultural upheaval that took place around the end of the s in the industrially advanced part of the world.
Moreover, since postmodernism is characterized by a revitalized and strengthened interest in the problems of narration and representation, as well as by a cultivated revisitation of literary genres once considered too popular or kitschy such as the detective novel, science fiction, or the sentimental novel , the absence of a serious debate in Italy on these aspects of contemporary literature runs the risk of keeping the novel in its subordinate position.
On the other hand, interesting signs of a renewed interest in the study, if not the theory, of the novel have come from Italian universities where newly opened disciplines of comparative literature and literary theory have directed critical attention in that direction. By borrowing the techniques of the popular novel misplaced identities, melodramatic scenes, portentous adventures and combining them with the high literary tradition, Nievo achieved an astounding modernity but condemned himself to a long critical disregard.
This masterpiece, a pitiless allegory of the historical and existential malaise of the world, does not leave any space for a reading in a lyrical key. The coherent pessimism of Mastro-don Gesualdo Master Don Gesualdo, , which was close to the models of Flaubert, could not win the favor either of the Crocean critics who searched only for lyrical fragments , or of the neorealists who desired positive and progressive messages , or even those who privileged linguistics or stylistics who appreciated the fine narrative technique of I Malavoglia but rejected the more traditional structure of the second work.
Naturally, the popular novel — especially when sentimental and feminine, as was the case in the works of Matilde Serao — , or, in recent years, in La storia History, by Elsa Morante —85 — has been another victim of Italian canon. Both women novelists and the major writers of the nineteenth century are often systematically ignored by the reading lists of Italian schools or overlooked by the backlists of Italian publishers.
His third novel and masterpiece, La coscienza di Zeno The Confessions of Zeno, , published after a long creative silence and influenced by the most advanced experiments of Central European culture Freudian psychoanalysis , found Italian criticism completely unprepared for its originality. Pirandello reached a large audience not with his novels but with his short stories and plays.
Tozzi was considered a minor writer until Debenedetti reevaluated him. The polarization in the critical opinion on Verga, divided between ideological and stylistic approaches to his prose, presents an accurate picture of the general tone of the debate on the novel in Italy during the first few years after the end of the Second World War. On one side, the critics of the Gramscian School, sometimes influenced by the cultural politics of the Italian Communist Party, continued down to the very end of the s to uphold a model of politicized neorealism, which subjected any specific aspect of literature to a program of cultural hegemony.
On the other hand, a sensitive critic such as Gianfranco Contini —90 , who combined philological expertise with stylistics and a great capacity for reading, proposed a canon for the novel that was the opposite of the one proposed by neorealism.
In the modern period, it ran from the Scapigliati in the nineteenth century to Carlo Emilio Gadda — in our times. Gadda and Fenoglio have meanwhile been enduringly, if grudgingly, admitted into the canon of the twentieth-century Italian novel, while many once-popular neorealists have been devalued and excluded. Moravia or Calvino enjoy or enjoyed tremendous prestige abroad, but within Italy they have not always been so popular.
A particularly revealing case is that of Il Gattopardo The Leopard, In Italy, however, the novel encountered the opposition of the Marxists for obvious reasons; but those who supported the expressionistic tendency in the novel, as well as the neo-avant-garde, also attacked it. Hailed abroad, especially in Germany and the United States, as a masterpiece of postmodern literature, and as such studied in the universities and commented upon in endless articles, books, and conferences, Il nome della rosa in Italy, on the contrary, is often considered a curious, inexplicable case of editorial success.
What seems to be typical of all these strange literary judgments that have gone into the formation of a contemporary canon of Italian novels is the absence of any explicit discussion on a sophisticated theoretical level. Choices are too often made without any serious theoretical debate. It is difficult to find in Italy anything like the recent American revisions of the literary canon based upon political, gender, or cultural grounds. People may be asked to provide a list of their top ten favorite Italian novels, but a true discussion of the meaning and the functioning of the Italian novelistic canon has so far been sadly lacking.
Were such a serious debate to be staged, it would be obvious that the two main lines of the development of the Italian novel that are supposedly juxtaposed by warring critical camps — the defenders of the Manzonian realist canon and the proponents of the Gaddian expressionistic anticanon — are not really in conflict, but represent two aspects of the same literary tradition.
The Cambridge Companion to the Italian Novel
From its origins, in fact, Italian literature has embodied the multilinguistic style of Dante as well as the stylistic selectivity preferred by Petrarca and Petrarchism. The basic difference is that while Dante needed a variety of styles to narrate his adventurous encounters during his imaginary journey through Hell, Petrarca did not require such linguistic variety to write his love poems. Both canon and anticanon can therefore be traced back to a high literary tradition, and they inform both the Manzonian and the Gaddian narrative threads.
In like manner, both Calvino and Pasolini were perfectly integrated, although in different ways, into the Italian literary establishment.
Yet the numbers are not so extraordinary: copies in twenty days! Nievo did not sell. The history of the novel in Italy is also the history of a dull market, in which customs barriers hindered the circulation of books until national unification. It is also the history of an often difficult relationship between writers and publishers and of a mediocre public that preferred the much more enticing products of foreign literatures, while the sophisticated and cultivated reading public disparaged the novel altogether. Even in the twentieth century, the transformation of the Italian publishing world into a true industrial activity was slower than in most Western 10 11 12 Carla Benedetti, Pasolini contro Calvino.
Per una letteratura impura Turin: Bollati Boringhieri, Quoted by Alberto Cadioli, Il romanzo adescatore. I lettori e il romanzo nel dibattito del primo Ottocento Milan: Arcipelago, , pp.
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In Italy, the small one-man or family publishing business was much more common than in other industrialized nations. In some cases Einaudi of Turin, for example , these small enterprises have developed into large capitalist enterprises. One reason for the relatively small size of Italian publishers was that the reading public was smaller and the retail market still very backward. The first true Italian best-seller was really Il Gattopardo in , more than a century after Manzoni!
The book sold more than a hundred thousand copies in a few months. Both works have encountered great difficulty in obtaining critical recognition and canonization. Even Eco, once a member of the neo-avant-garde, wrote disparagingly of Lampedusa, although now that he has become a successful novelist he seems to have a better opinion of successful writers. It seems that, in the early twenty-first century, the novel — both native Italian products and numerous translations from other national literatures — has at long last found a large and stable literary public in Italy.
In addition, the Italian publishing industry appears to have aligned itself, for better or worse, with the standards of the other major European nations. However, the theory of the novel seems more at risk than ever.
The laws of the publishing industry and the cultural market have drastically reduced the space and role of possible critical mediation between writers and their public. The opportunities for public debates and discussions on the nature and future of 18 The belated development of a theory of the novel the novel seem less and less numerous. It remains to be seen if the Italian novel can develop into the new century in interesting and original ways without such a healthy theoretical underpinning. The New Italian Novel. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Calabrese, Stefano.
Intrecci italiani. Una teoria e una storia del romanzo — Bologna: Il Mulino, Dombroski, Robert S. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, Guglielmi, Guido. La prosa italiana del Novecento II. Tra romanzo e racconto. Turin: Einaudi, Lavagetto, Mario. Turin: Einaudi, ; new edn Lucente, Gregory L.go site
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Mazzacurati, Giancarlo. Pirandello nel romanzo europeo. M A N C I N I The forms of long prose fiction in late medieval and early modern Italian literature An overview of the early Italian novel might well begin with the observation that Italian writers never felt too comfortable with the novel as a literary form before the nineteenth century. Yet so vast a literary output cannot fail to stimulate the curiosity of the reader interested in the history of the genre and in the relationship between literature and the society that produced it.
The fourteenth century Giovanni Boccaccio is generally considered to be the founder of modern narrative as it emerged in postmedieval Europe. He stands out in the history of modern European culture as a reviver of the literary tradition, of the pastoral allegory and biography as well as the various forms of fiction: the novella, the longer narrative poem, and long prose fiction. Just as his friend Francesco Petrarca created the language of the new lyric, so Boccaccio, gathering up the entangled but vigorous threads of the medieval tale and novel, established the types and prose style of European narrative.
Although he is best known for The Decameron, his major contributions to the 1 Il Settecento. II Milan: Vallardi, , 6th edn , p. The two protagonists grow up together at the court of Spain and fall in love. The king and queen, believing the orphaned girl to be of low birth, send Florio, heir to the throne, away and treat Biancofiore cruelly. Accused of attempting to poison the king, she is condemned to be burned at the stake, but, after being rescued by Florio, she is sold to merchants who trade with the Orient.
The core of the narrative relates the adventures of Florio in quest of his beloved. There are thirteen such questions. Finally, after many adventures at sea and on land, Florio, aided by the ancient pagan gods, succeeds in freeing Biancofiore from captivity in the tower in Alexandria where her Arab master keeps her; finally reunited, the two young people can marry.
Later on, Florio, his companions and family, are converted to Christianity, the religion of his beloved, who is recognized as the child of descendants of Scipio murdered during a pilgrimage to Spain. At the death of his father, Florio and Biancofiore are crowned king and queen. The scope of the Filocolo, constructed around a simple love story supposedly set in early Christian times, is amplified by ambiguous experiential and autobiographical material, crammed with lengthy allusions to convoluted episodes of contemporary history e.
Yet twentieth-century criticism has recognized its 21 a l b e rt n.
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Fiammetta first sees Panfilo in a church. She is attracted by him and at social gatherings takes pleasure in luring him to love her. Panfilo promises to come back, but some time later Fiammetta hears that he has married. Fiammetta is thus remembered as the heroine of ill-starred love and unconditional faithfulness. Alternatively, some critics read the text as a tale of erotic frustration, a parody of the whole courtly love tradition, a comedy rather than a tragedy.
Others still, in quite a different reading, have seen Fiammetta as a proto-feminist because it is rare in premodern literature to have such an active and outspoken female protagonist. The work circulated widely in manuscript form and went through thirty-four editions between and It is an amalgam of the Filocolo and The Decameron, a mixture of genres and styles held together by a frame narrative of social gatherings featuring cultural events and games which have as protagonists prominent Florentine figures.
Book I describes an imaginary journey by the author along the coast of Italy and Sicily to Cyprus, with many digressions on mythological lore and learned conversations on love. In the Paradiso sessions, storytelling modeled on The Decameron alternates with philosophical and political-historical arguments that proved of crucial interest to the Renaissance. Explicit and conscious links with both the Filocolo and the Fiammetta can also be found in one of the three major romantic novels written at the end of the fifteenth century, the Libro del Peregrino The Book of Peregrino by Iacopo Caviceo — Dedicated to Lucrezia Borgia, the novel first appeared in Parma in , reached at least nineteen editions in the first half of the sixteenth century, and was translated into Spanish and French and In it, the author relates the tragic love story of the dead protagonist, Peregrino, who appears to him in a dream.