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Les manuscrits ne devraient pas dcpa. These days the aesthetics of the reception of the literary text and neo-Marxist aesthetics join in the affirmation that correlations, correspon- dences, metrical figures, significant forms and figures of literary discourse — in short, every level of the so-called text, from the phonemic to the ideological- cultural— are comprehensible and appreciable not only thanks to their real- ization within a system and structure, but also for the relation and interaction that each of these elements establishes with something that is not text, or rather with what we call "reality," provided that we believe that the world is not a discourse and that a thing is not a word.
I want to reassure that clever girl right away, before we proceed any further: it is not only us. On the contrary, we believe at least I believe in poetry and in things. Having said this, I know that I have placed myself apart from those who, by identifying word and thought, deny substantial differences between the modes and the types of discourse as well as between verbal discourse and non-verbal communication.
Its identity is no more demonstrable than were the metaphysics of Aristotle or of St. Thomas, or the Kantian relation between phenomenon and essence. What do I mean, then, if I say "context"? The ensemble of the circumstances in which literary discourse offers itself Or as Van Dijk wrote many years ago, the ensemble of psychological, sociological, historical, and anthropological conditions, actions and functions of literary texts. And what is the meaning of "conditions, actions and functions"? At least two things: the first is the ensemble of pressures, forces, indexes, and vectors that, from the outside or from the context, move in the time and work of the author, determining his text; the second is the ensemble of pressures, forces, indexes and vectors that issue from the text to act upon the outside, or better, upon the context, constituted by the so-called consumers, by readers and listeners of today and tomorrow, and by their expectations.
If at this point, along with much cultural and literary sociology, we af- firm that what manifests itself in the literary work is an ensemble of social relations, there will be two ways of understanding this affirmation: either those relations coincide with the zone of existence and anthropological re- ality, which is by definition social, in which case to say "social relation" QUADERNI diialianislica Volume XI.
The first case dissolves the text within a mechanically objective totality. The second case dissolves the text within a mechanically subjective totality in the manner of idealist and nom- inalist critics. With the first position we would remain within the terms of a direct causality, mechanical and passive; there would be nothing more in the thing or in the text than what would have been in the "causes" or in the context, and thus the criticisms that dominate every vulgar determinism and sociologism would prove correct. Friedrich Engels spoke of this in an oft-cited letter to Heinz Starkenburg with regard to literary realism.
But even if we were to take into acount what Engels called "long periods" or cycles of greater amplitude , we could not avoid what occurs at every paralleling of the literary series and the socio-historical series.
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The circulation of literature would be equivalent to that of the stock market, not to the process of the creation of "surplus value. In other words: in every true poem and in every great narration are con- tained elements that, beginning from the verbal form of the text, aim to touch upon or implicate extratextual spaces different from those that contributed to its birth.
Here "true" and "great" signify precisely that addition or diversity, that coming from a faraway and barely-visible area, and also a going farther away, or rather towards something that is not yet visible.
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They present, in ad- vance, to the view of the world they manifest, they call upon those who will have to receive and interpret them. This is, above all, the point of departure of all methodological discourses that preoccupy themselves with interpreta- tion and reception. To allude to cycles even longer than those described by Engels is not the same, however, as carrying out a mere extension of the cycles that are discernable or at least knowable from human history, but it is rather to indicate that those cycles assume the characteristics of the eras or better: of the anthropological zones that see reconciled, and eventually superimposed, the history of man and the history of nature.
I now intend to touch upon a hypothesis that serves to individuate some of the extratextual elements understood as cultural levels of "extremely long duration" that are supposed present in the two moments of every text: that of production and that of reception or consumption. I assume a portion of a linguistic theory of the poetic function of language — that of Jakobson — and I parallel it with a famous philosophical myth that was intended to interpret a nodal moment of interhuman relations, a node that is at once metaphysical, anthropological and socio-historical.
Obviously, one would not at all want to detract from the decisive dignity of philological verification, which is always a verification of a prius. Nor, on the other hand, would one want to run the risk of the extreme position of reception aesthetics, that is, to consider the text as the very creation of its receivers. What I am saying certainly has to do with the Russian formalist thesis concerning the establishing of dominant elements or levels in literary texts, which, with the variation of conditions of interpretation, alternate command, so to speak.
From this point of view what I am saying comes close, rather, to a theory of genres, indeed to a sort of "transcendental psychology" of genres, where, for example, "prose" and "poetry" instead of distinguishing themselves by different degrees of rhythm do so by different degrees of intensity and dominance of language's poetic function in Jakobson's sense over the other copresent functions; but also by other means of which I will soon speak.
As we know, Jakobson affirms that in the poetic function of language, equivalence and similarity prevail over contiguity, or rather over the norms of verbal succession. Where the prevalence of this function over the other functions of language is more intense, the more would every single text be, or tend to be, a space and time closed in upon itself, centripetal; an identity, an eternal return, constantly privileging symmetry, harmony, a calculated game of variables and invariables, tending towards tautology, towards the confir- mation of the initial given.
The language of poetry, like magical, religious and liturgical language, would reveal itself, we know, as the language of repetition, of doubling, of the return, of parallelism. Perhaps it is not useless to remember that this conception of poetry as lyric and of lyric as a tenden- tial unity turned in upon itself is only the projection of a well-determined aesthetic and social experience, that of the lyric of the moderns, from the origins of symbolism to the present; and I believe instead that one might as well look to Hegel's lessons on aesthetics where he writes: "But however far the work of art may form a world inherently harmonious and complete, still, as an actual single object, it exists not for itself, but for us, for a public which sees and enjoys the work of art" I, iii, 3.
And it is indeed from Hegel that I draw reference although conscious of altering, by interrupting it, the dialectical process of his thinking for what I called the philosophical myth to compare it with the Jakobsonian thesis of the two axes of language. I refer to the much celebrated pages of the Phenomenology of Spirit concerning the dialectic of master and slave. The servile labor of which Hegel speaks is a moment of the Spirit but it is also a phase of human history, and far from concluded. The present so-called post- industrial societies seem only to have interiorized that relation and that conflict within each of us while in their periphery there endures the servile condition 8 Franco Fortini of the suppliers of raw materials and of those condemned to repetitive labor.
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Labor — and even "artistic" labor, from the bricolage of the so-called prim- itives to the medieval and renaissance guild of artisans and finally to the modern writer seated at his personal computer — is a sequence of operations through which the slave defends himself from death and, in retrospect, eman- cipates himself. The production of discourse is formational. It gives birth to "forms. It will be so at least until the absolute — which is inherent in the form itself— does not induce behind its apparent serenity a frost of anxiety in the lords threatened by the labor of the slaves who have transferred, translated, their own strain against time into an object that inevitably announces the end of the masters of time.
Hence the Stendhalian "promise of happiness," of which Adorno speaks, can turn into a sinister promise of misfortune.
The servile time of labor even literary labor could be homologous, thus, to the syntagmatic axis of discourse, whether the anonymous peasant or Goethe himself were to follow it. Indeed, when the worker of words will want to sign his own pages perhaps at the foot of the page in the dedication to the most powerful lord or merchant, or in thanks for a contribution from this or that foundation he will reveal nothing so clearly as his own condition. Never has that illusion been so alive as in the poetry from Romanticism to the present, when following the ages and the societies in which sacerdotal and legislative functions did not distinguish themselves from literary ones poets considered themselves the unacknowledged legislators of humanity, and as Sartre shows in some pages of his Flaubert the writers made themselves up as feudal lords in order to eliminate their condition as wage-earners, as they were already called in the Manifesto in Even today the signature is the most economical form of social promotion.
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The temporal processuality of language finds its limit only in silence. We can thus call "prose" those texts in which the syntagmatic moment, of succession Opus servile 9 and of articulation along the temporal axis, tends to prevail over closed space and over the sphere of repetition, conclusion and return, which is metaphor- ical and "poetic" or, more properly, lyrical.
The reality of writing exists between these two poles: where the proccssuality or temporal movement inherent in any linguistic sequence opposes itself, with a high degree of coun- tertendency, against repetition, identity, circularity, immobility. Persuasive, rational, demonstrative or narrative discourse is pushed towards lordly otium and towards consumption, the suspension of work, recreation and rest. This need or exigency is satisfied, we know, even by the apparently most "hori- zontal" forms such as romance narratives; but actually even in those "servile" forms there is tension concerning the event, the "suspense," while what is "lordly," rather, is the reordering process of the narrative trajectory, which, beginning from the end, transforms what was at first arranged in unidirectional exegesis into a circle, or rather into a repetitive and closed process.
And, nat- urally, the epic and the romance made use of techniques of retardation and of repetition which lyric, especially modern lyric, has eminently privileged as Bakhtin has shown us , such as the iteration of epithets, metrical structures, the rhythmic recurrences of characters, situations and sentences, the so-called "style" of the narration.
Not accidentally, the Soviet critic related what he called the "carnivalesque moment" to the "polyphony" of romance; not acci- dentally, historically, the passage from the epic a "high" genre and, through its metrical foundations, very close to the de-realizing processes of "poetry" to the "novel" was perceived, in many places and times, as a descent towards the lowly along the scale of social classes.
Excess and disharmony emerge from the servile moment when it wants to advance on the long process of emancipation by means of carnival or of plebeian revolt and, much like these, excess and disharmony are ephemeral. When, as is normal in the history of literature and frequent in political revolution, nothing more occurs than that the leopards overturn the sacred urns, as Kafka says, one enters into liturgy. According to an extreme interpretation of Jakobson 's thought which I cannot share completely but which is useful in order to make evident that which serves the present discourse the poetic function would correspond, then, to the "already formed," where time is subtracted, reduced to a minimum or folded into a circle.
It is a product; but among products it is the one that best conceals its own origin. IVir singen wie die Vogel singen, says the singer of a Goethean ballad, before the King and his knights and ladies. And, as an associate member of the lordly class, he can refuse the golden chain, preferring a simple glass of wine; but it was not this way when he composed this ballad of his along the dusty and muddy road or in the tavern populated by rogues and wenches.
And what is more, he forgets, or does not want to know, that the apparent gratuitousness of his song was helping to establish always greater possibilities of lordly domination over companions of his own sort. For this, according to the times, he will now be sent to eat with the 10 Franco Fortini servants, now be associated with the throne, sharing a little bit of power, maligned or loaded with benefices, buried in communal graves or in the pantheons of schools and deluxe editions.
And the "dilettante" will instead be the one who wants to participate in the concrete life of creative work without relinquishing lordly consumption. This relation between art and domination, like that between eros and dom- ination, ensures that literary writings appear continually divided between a "poetic" identity — which ever moves towards completeness and inviolability and, at its limits, becomes echolalia and ecstasy — and a "prosaic" identity which is the uninterrupted exploration and elaboration of the unordered and of things to come, whence challenge and research.
At least this is the pattern of the last two centuries of western literature. Thus the question long dis- cussed by T. Adorno reasserts itself: that of the "conciliatory" character of poetry, conciliatory if and because intransitive. Because Adorno views that "conciliatory" character of poetry as always inseparable from that of refusal, rupture, denunciation, negation, transgres- sion. For this reason he believed in avant-garde art or in the avant-gardism of art and poetry. This, he wrote, is like Achilles' spear: it wounds and heals. But we who have experienced, much more than Adorno could have foreseen, the enormous development of the culture industry as the extreme form of modern slavish domination, are brought rather to believe that, how- ever inadequate it may be, the only honorable way for poetry to proceed in our own times certainly does not consist in its resistance to "conciliation" nor in a forward flight in order to save its own capacities of denial.
In contrast to Adorno, we have discerned in the spirit of the most recent avant-gardes but also, to a certain degree, in those of our entire century an objective complic- ity with oppression, which only those slaves enlisted to repress the revolts of other slaves know how to develop. The culture industry and mass nihilism are responsible for furnishing negations at a discount. As Jameson has written, we can overcome this, if we believe it necessary to do so, only by putting into crisis its premises and procedures.
Because, that is, by "imitating" nature and history it tends also to imitate its unlimited ambiguity and polysemy and thus to present itself— however much times and readers rotate and change, in the history of fortune and criticism — with a wealth of Opus servile 11 contradictory meanings; indeed, just as nature and history do around us and in us.
Usually, in the ncoplatonic tradition, we associate the poicin with liberty and the praiicin with necessity; here we suggest, instead, that every work, even "poetic" work, is in the order of necessity and servile and that not even birds sing in "liberty. Only thus is the contradiction apparent between servile condition and intellectual status attributed by many societies and civilizations to the poet, co-opted from the caste of scribes and priests by means of the privilege of writing.
In fact, the author is also the first consumer of himself, and he thus shares in the unavoidable duplicity of freed men. From here we can return to the historical and sociological description, or better, the philological description, of works, which can only prove to us the changeable and extremely variable realities that manifest themselves between the two extreme poles that we have discussed.