"Futurism, imagism, and neorealism" : three avant-garde models of Impegno, 1909-1959
- This dissertation, "Futurism, Imagism, and Neorealism: Three Avant-Garde Models of Impegno, 1909-1959" examines those three different modes of politically engaged art in the historical periods surrounding, and including, the fascist era. Within the field of modern Italian Studies, as in the broader disciplines that encompass literary and art-historical studies, the major theoretical paradigm for understanding the overlap of politics and literature is inflected by the general sociological turn of the latter half of the twentieth-century. In this framework, literature and art, as institutions, are understood to be innately politicized in a progressive direction, especially when writers and artists employ non-representational and abstract, or avant-garde, aesthetics. This is obviously not the case for the historical avant-garde of Futurism in Italy, but the continued use of this paradigm has left us unable to accommodate an intellectual history of politicized aesthetic categories, especially in Italy: how they come to be, and how they shape the cultures out of which they grow. The major premise of the dissertation is that by looking at Italy's difficult experience with the historical avant-garde, embodied by the close relationship between the Futurist movement and fascism, we can illuminate and understand these continuing critical questions about the relationship between literature, art, and the political. I contend that Futurism's fusion of literature, art, and politics represents the first major attempt at departing from idealist aesthetics in the Italian tradition: such a departure is the origin of 'the avant-garde' as an historical form. I have identified the writings on Futurism of Antonio Gramsci, the Marxist thinker and co-founder of the Italian Communist Party, as a starting point for re-evaluating the relationship among politics, art, and culture in the first half of the twentieth-century in Italy. Following the specific commentary elaborated by Gramsci, the dissertation goes on to closely examine the political writings of F.T. Marinetti, the founder of the Futurist movement. I argue that the Italian 'imagist' (or immaginismo) movement of the 1920s continues an attempt begun by the Futurists to merge art and life, but from a politically progressive rather than conservative perspective. In this light, I then consider the theoretical writings of Umberto Barbaro, a film critic who participated in the Futurist and Italian imagist movements and became the first to write extensively about the neorealist movement after World War II. The first chapter situates Antonio Gramsci's writings on Italian Futurism, from his pre-prison newspaper articles through the Prison Notebooks (Quaderni del carcere), in the context of his views on aesthetics. I argue that Gramsci's insistence on a properly materialist view of language leads him to reject a view of literary aesthetics in which a 'political' work is reducible to, or judged on the basis of, its ideological content; this chapter forms the theoretical bedrock of the dissertation. The second chapter analyzes F.T. Marinetti's Futurist Democracy: Political Dynamism (Democrazia futurista: dinamismo politico) and the pamphlet's insistence on the figure of the Futurist poet as simultaneously autonomous from and integral to the empirical-political world—a contradiction, I argue, which is mediated by Marinetti's materialist poetics. Marinetti's proto-fascist political program, couched in materialist terms, gives the lie to the dominant view of an artist's work and politics as completely coincident. In the third chapter, I present the work of the Italian imagist circle in 1920s Rome, which began as an offshoot of a Futurist subgroup interested in leftist politics and Soviet experimentation. The chapter analyzes the major plays and visual art produced by the movement. The work of the imagists serves as a case study in how the specific lineage of historical avant-garde experimentation in Europe and Russia was brought to bear on the early years of the fascist regime through the borrowing of techniques and ideas pioneered by the Surrealists, Dadaists, Constructivists, and Suprematists. The fourth chapter provides a detailed reading of Umberto Barbaro's writings on film theory and aesthetics to chart the emergence of neorealism and Italian national cinema, in the postwar period, as a continuation of the attempt to create and sustain a new culture through shared aesthetic experience. Barbaro was one of the Futurists-turned-imagists, and his intellectual trajectory offers a new way of understanding the rediscovery of a realist aesthetic after the experience of fascism, given his long passage through an aesthetics of abstraction.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Stanford University, Department of French & Italian.
|Fuller, Mia, 1958-
|Fuller, Mia, 1958-
|Statement of responsibility
|Submitted to the Department of French and Italian.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2017.
- © 2017 by Nicole Mara Gounalis
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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