Gabriele D’Annunzio and the Critic of Modernity International Interdisciplinary Conference ”Kinds and Styles of Criticism” Lodz, Poland, 16-18 May 2011 Marja Härmänmaa, University of Helsinki, Finland Part I D’Annunzio, a biography Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863-1938) D’Annunzio’s life • Born in Pescara in 1863 • Lived in Rome, Naples, Tuscany, France • Died in Gardone Riviera 1938 D’Annunzio, an overwiev • A prominent writer of the Italian decadentism • A politician • A public figure; an international ”dandy” D’Annunzio’s works • • • • • • 7 novels 8 plays 2 collections of short stories 9 collections of poems 4 autobiographical works Many articles D’Annunzio today • The founder and a key figure of Italian decadentism • One of the most important writers of the Italian 20th century literature – vocabulary twice bigger than Dante’s • A model for modern politics, politician and public figure Part II D’Annunzio and modernity D’Annunzio’s Italy • The kingdom of the united Italy in 1861 • The development of a modern country – Urbanization – Industrialization – Technological development (railways) • Transformation of Rome from a papal town to a cosmopolitan capital • Democratisation • Corruption D’Annunzio the escapist • In life avoided modern cities • In his works avoids modernity Modernity in the novels • Hardly present • Some sings on the background • Usually negatively presented Case study: The Pleasure • • • • • First novel Il Piacere in 1889 Located in Rome Aristocratic ambience Andrea Sperelli an aristocratic intellectual Detached from the ”real world” Sperelli and modernity •"He left the house Zuccari on foot. […] Around the fountain in Piazza Barberini, the lights were already burning with pale flames, like candles around a coffin, and the Tritone fountain threw no water, perhaps because of restoration or of cleaning. Down the hill came wagons pulled by two or three horses, in a row, and a crowd of workers returned from the new sites. Some of them, connected to the arms, swung and sang loudly immodest songs. He paused to let them pass. Two or three of those reddish and sinister figures made him a particular impression. He noticed that the carter had a hand banded and the band spotted with blood. Also, he noticed another carter on his knees on the wagon. He had a livid face, hollow eye sockets, and the mouth contracted as if he were poisoned. The words of the song mingled with guttural cries, with whiplashes, with jingling of bells, with insults, with cursing, and with harsh laughter. His sadness got worse. He was in a strange state of mind. "[Il Piacere, 80] Explicit critic of modernity in… • Maia (1903, poem) • Le vergini delle rocce (1895, novel) D’Annunzio and the modern society • • • • Ethical and political decadence Due to the ”moral of slaves” (Christianity) Modern society stupid, artificial and boring Capable of producing consuming goods and machines • Incapable of producing creativity D’Annunzio and Nietzsche • Nietzsche central in D’Annunzio’s ideology • D’Annunzio got to know Nietzsche at the beginning of the 1890s • D’Annunzio the most important divulgator of Nietzsche in Italy • Adapted Nietzsche in a superficial and functional way D’Annunzio and the Superman • Sublime idea of himself • Vitality • Sensuality and amorality: – ”il piacere è il più certo mezzo di conoscimento offertoci dalla natura” • • • • Freedom to act according to the proper will Cult of beauty Elitism and despise of middle-class Anti-Christianity D’Annunzio’s social statement • ”The world is the representation of the sensibility and thought of few superior men who have created it and amplified and ornated it in the past, and who will always amplify and ornate it in future. The world as it is today, is a magnificent gift given by few to many, by the Free to the Slaves: by those who think and feel, to those who need to work.” (Le vergini delle rocce, 1895) Modernity as… • Urbanization and technology • Mass culture • Democracy Part III The Headless Monster Birth of democracy ”E da presso e da lungi io udiva il clamore, io udiva gli ululi e i lagni orribili della gran doglia nella Città millenaria.” ”E il clamore era come di femmina partoriente che si torca in spasimo grande e morda la verde sua bava e dia del capo e dei pugni nelle mura e invochi soccorso alla doglia sua, vanamente, negli orrori suoi solitaria.” ”E dissi: «Ah quanto ti torci, misera, e quanta fai bava di vituperii e d'ire nelle tue mascelle di ferro! Ma dato non t'è partorire se non l'aborto cionco e monco, l'acèfalo mostro che ha il tronco di ciuco e la coda di verro.»” (Maia, 1903) The monster • Birth of democracy compared to a childbirth • Rome compared to a woman giving a birth in enormous pain • The result is ” the headless monster that has the trunk of a donkey and a tail of a boar” Part IV The Utopia of The Kingdom of Force Theorizing the Utopia • • • • • ”La Bestia elettiva” Il Mattino, 1892 Il Trionfo della morte (1894) Le Vergini delle rocce (1896) Il Fuoco (1900) Forse che sì, forse che no (1910) The Force • • • • The primary law of the iniqual Nature Human being is son of Nature Equality and justice are vain abstractions The world can be only constructed on Force The Pleb • Believes only in physical wellfare • Democracy becomes a fight of different egoisms • Lack of inner sense of freedom • Will always be slave • Humanity will be divided in 2 races The New Aristocracy • • • • • • ”Autocracy of consciousness” Elevated by its will Free man: the realization of freedom The feeling of the Force Beyond good and evil Personality is the greatest value Part V The Alternative World Styles of modernity’s critic • Implicit • Explicit Explicit critic • Condemning modernity • Polemical language • Powerful metaphors Alternative worlds • The impossibility to establish the Kingdom of Force • Cult of beauty and arts • Nature Nature as an antimodernist alternative • Nature as a topic of literary works • Nature / countryside as an alternative to the city • In fiction: the escape from the city to countryside of Claudio Cantelmo, Giorgio Aurispa and Tullio Hermil • In D’Annunzio’s life: the final isolation in lake Garda Thank you!