Italian literature


Italian literature

Introduction

      the body of written works produced in the Italian language that had its beginnings in the 13th century. Until that time nearly all literary work composed in the Middle Ages was written in Latin. Moreover, it was predominantly practical in nature and produced by writers trained in ecclesiastical schools. Literature in Italian developed later than literature in French and Provençal, the languages of the north and south of France respectively. Only small fragments of Italian vernacular verse before the end of the 12th century have been found (although a number of legal documents contain sections in the vernacular), and surviving 12th- and 13th-century verse reflects French and Provençal influence.

Early vernacular literature

The influence of France
      French (French literature) prose and verse romances were popular in Italy from the 12th to the 14th century. Stories from the Carolingian and Arthurian (Arthurian legend) cycles, together with free adaptations from the classics, were read by the literate, while French minstrels recited verse in public places throughout northern Italy. By the 13th century a “Franco-Venetian” literature, for the most part anonymous, had developed; Italians copied French stories, often adapting and extending various episodes and sometimes creating new romances about characters from French works. In this literature, though the language used was purportedly French, the writers often consciously or unconsciously introduced elements from their own Northern Italian dialects, thus creating a linguistic hybrid. Writers of important prose works, such as the Venetian Martino da Canal and the Florentine Brunetto Latini (Latini, Brunetto)—authors, respectively, of Les estoires de Venise (1275; “The History of Venice”) and Livres dou trésor (c. 1260; “Books of the Treasure”)—were much better acquainted with French, while poets such as Sordello of Mantua wrote lyrics in Provençal (Provençal literature) revealing an exact knowledge of the language and of Provençal versification. Provençal love lyrics were, in fact, as popular as the French romances, and the early Italian poets carefully studied anthologies of the troubadour poetry.

      In the cultured environment of the Sicilian (Sicily) court of the Italian-born Holy Roman emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen, who ruled the Sicilian kingdom from 1208 to 1250, lyrics modeled on Provençal forms and themes were written in a refined version of the local vernacular. Poetry was considered an embellishment of the court and an escape from serious matters of life, and it is significant that it was the love poetry of Provence—and not the political poetry—that was imitated by the Sicilian school. The most important of these poets was the notary Jacopo da Lentini (Giacomo Da Lentini), reputed to have invented the sonnet form. By an accident of history, all the poetry of the Sicilian school was handed down in later Tuscan transcriptions, which make it look much closer to modern Italian than it really was. The first to be taken in by the manuscript tradition and to praise its “trans-regional” qualities was Dante Alighieri (Dante).

The Tuscan poets
      Sicilian poetry continued to be written after the death of Frederick II, but the centre of literary activity moved to Tuscany, where interest in the Provençal and Sicilian lyric had led to several imitations by Guittone d'Arezzo and his followers. Although Guittone experimented with elaborate verse forms, according to Dante in the De vulgari eloquentia, his language mingled dialect elements with Latinisms and Provençalisms and had none of the beauty of the southern school. In fact, Guittone was a vigourous and complex poet whose reputation fell victim to Dante's anxiety of influence.

The new style
      While Guittone and his followers were still writing, a new development appeared in love poetry, marked by a concern for precise and sincere expression and a new, serious treatment of love. It has become customary to speak of this new school of poets as the nuovo (dolce stil nuovo) (“sweet new style”), an expression used by Dante Alighieri in his Commedia (Purgatorio, Canto XXIV, line 27) in a passage where he emphasized delicacy of expression suited to the subject of love. The major stil novo poets were Guido Guinizelli of Bologna, Guido Cavalcanti (Cavalcanti, Guido), Dante (particularly in the poems included in Vita nuova), and Cino Da Pistoia, together with the lesser poets Lapo Gianni, Gianni Alfani, and Dino Frescobaldi.

      These poets were influenced by each other's work. Guido Guinizelli was best known for his canzone, or poem, beginning “Al cor gentil rempaira sempre amore” (“Love always finds shelter in the gentle heart”), which posed the question of the problematic relationship between love of woman and love of God. His poetry was immediately appreciated by Cavalcanti, a serious and extremely talented lyric poet. Most of Cavalcanti's poems were tragic and denied the ennobling effect of love suggested by Guinizelli. Dante greatly admired Cavalcanti, whom he dubbed his “first friend,” but his own concept of love, inspired by his love for Beatrice, who died young (in 1290), had much more in common with Guinizelli's. Dante's Vita nuova (c. 1293; The New Life) is the retrospective story of his love in previously composed poems linked together and to some extent reinterpreted by a framework of eloquent prose: God is the “root” of Beatrice, and she is able to mediate God's truth and love and inspire love of God—but her death is necessary for her lover to reach a state of purification. Cino da Pistoia used the vocabulary of the stilnovisti, as these poets were called, in an original way that in its melancholy psychological introspection looks forward to Petrarch. A comparison of the language of the stilnovisti with the earlier Tuscan poets reveals extensive refinement of the Tuscan dialect. Purely local characteristics were removed, and the standard nonrealistic literary language of Italy had been created.

Comic verse
      Poesia giocoso (realistic, or comic, verse) was a complete contrast to serious love poetry. The language was often deliberately unrefined, colloquial, and sometimes obscene, in keeping with the themes dealt with in the poetry. This kind of verse belongs to an ongoing European tradition, owing something to the satirical goliard poets of the 12th and 13th centuries, who wrote Latin verses in praise of pleasure or in vituperation of women, their personal enemies, or the church. Though their personae are often crude, even violent, the comic poets—whose usual verse form was the sonnet—were cultivated literary men and not the proletarian rebels that they were thought to be by Romantic critics. The earliest of them was Rustico di Filippo, who produced both courtly love poetry and coarse, sometimes obscene verse of the “realistic” kind. The best-known and most versatile was Cecco Angiolieri (Angiolieri, Cecco), whose down-to-earth mistress Becchina was a parody of the ethereal women of the stil novo and whose favourite subject was his father's meanness. Folgore di San Gimignano is often classified among these poets for convenience's sake. He is best known for his elegant sonnet cycles listing the aristocratic pleasures (reminiscent of the Provençal plazer) associated, for example, with the different months of the year. Far more conventional are the paradoxical negative responses (reminiscent of the Provençal enueg) of Cenne della Chitarra.

Religious poetry
      The famous Laudes creaturarum, or Cantico di Frate Sole (c. 1225; “Canticle of Brother Sun”), of St. Francis of Assisi (Francis of Assisi, Saint) was one of the earliest Italian poems. It was written in rhythmical prose that recalls the verses of the Bible and used assonance in place of rhyme. In the Umbrian dialect, God is praised through all the things of his creation. It is probable that St. Francis also composed a musical accompaniment, and after his death the lauda became a common form of religious song used by the confraternities of lay people who gathered on holy days to sing the praises of God and the saints and to recall the life and Passion of Christ. The one real poet of the laude tradition was Jacopone Da Todi, a Franciscan and a mystic. His laudi, in the form of ballads, were often concerned with the themes of spiritual poverty and the corruption of the church. His most intense composition (“Donna de Paradiso”) is a dialogue between the mother of Christ and a messenger who graphically describes Christ's Passion and death.

      In northern Italy religious poetry was mainly moralistic and pervaded by a pessimism rooted in heretical ideas derived from Manichaeism, which saw the world and the body as being evil and under Satan's control. The Milanese Bonvesin de la Riva (Bonvesin Da La Riva), whose Libro delle tre scritture (1274; “Book of the Three Scriptures”) anticipates Dante, and the Franciscan from Verona, Giacomino da Verona, author of De Jerusalem celesti (c. 1250; “On the Heavenly Jerusalem”) and De Babilonia civitate infernali (c. 1250; “On the Infernal Babylonian State”), were the liveliest and most imaginative of this group.

Prose
      Literary vernacular prose began in the 13th century, though Latin (Latin literature) continued to be used for writings on theology, philosophy, law, politics, and science.

      The founder of Italian artistic prose style, the Bolognese professor of rhetoric Guido Faba, illustrated his teaching with examples adapted from Latin. Guittone d'Arezzo, his most notable follower in epistolography, tended toward an ornate style replete with rhetorical figures. In contrast with Guittone's style is the clear scientific prose of Ristoro d'Arezzo's Della composizione del mondo (1282; “On the Composition of the World”) and the simple narrative style of the Florentine collection of tales Il novellino (written in the late 13th century, published in 1525 as Le ciento novelle antike; Il Novellino, the Hundred Old Tales). The masterpiece of 13th-century prose is Dante's Vita nuova. Though not yet completely at ease in vernacular prose, Dante combined simplicity with great delicacy and a poetic power that derived from the mysterious depth beneath certain key words.

Giovanni Aquilecchia Anthony Oldcorn

The 14th century
      The literature of 14th-century Italy dominated Europe for centuries to follow and may be regarded as the starting point of the Renaissance. Three names stand out: Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio (Boccaccio, Giovanni).

      Dante Alighieri is one of the most important and influential names in all European literature, but it was only after his exile from his native Florence at age 37 (1302) that he set out to write more ambitious works. Il convivio (c. 1304–07; “The Banquet”), revealing his detailed knowledge of scholastic philosophy, though incomplete, was the first great example of a treatise in vernacular prose: its language avoided the ingenuousness of popular writers and the artificiality of the translators from Latin. De vulgari eloquentia (“On Vernacular Eloquence”), written about the same time, but in Latin, contained the first theoretical discussion and definition of the Italian literary language. Both these works remained unfinished. In a later doctrinal work, also in Latin, De monarchia (written c. 1313; On World Government), Dante expounded his political theories, which demanded the coordination of the two medieval powers, pope and emperor.

      Dante's genius found its fullest development in his Commedia (written c. 1308–21; The Divine Comedy (Divine Comedy, The)), an allegorical poem in terza rima (stanzas of three lines of 11 syllables each, rhyming aba, bcb, cdc, etc.), the literary masterpiece of the Middle Ages and one of the greatest products of any human mind. The central allegory of the poem was essentially medieval, taking the form of a journey through the worlds beyond the grave, with, as guides, the Roman poet Virgil and the lady of the Vita nuova, Beatrice, who symbolize reason and faith, respectively. The poem is divided into three cantiche, or narrative sections: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Each section contains 33 cantos, with the very first canto serving as an overall prologue. Dante, through his experiences and encounters on the journey, gains understanding of the gradations of damnation, expiation, and beatitude, and the climax of the poem is his momentary vision of God. The greatness of the poem lies in its complex imaginative power of construction, inexhaustible wealth of poetry, and continuing significance of spiritual meanings. It is remarkable that Dante's reputation suffered a 400-year eclipse after enjoying immediate popularity. It was revived in the Romantic period, and his work continues to influence modern poets both inside and outside of Italy.

      The intellectual interests of Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca, died 1374) were literary and rhetorical rather than logical and philosophical; his political views were more opportunistic than Dante's and his poetic technique more elaborate though less powerful. Petrarch's influence on literature was enormous and lasting—stretching through the Italian humanists of the following century to poets and scholars throughout western Europe. He rejected medieval Scholasticism and took as his models the classical Latin authors and the Church Fathers (Church Father). This convergence of interests is apparent in his ethical and religious works. Humanist ideals inspired his Latin poem Africa (begun c. 1338) and his historical works, but the autobiographical dialogue Secretum meum (written 1342–58; Petrarch's Secret) is most important for a full understanding of his conflicting ideals. The Canzoniere—a collection of sonnets, songs, sestine, ballads, and madrigals, on which he worked indefatigably from 1330 until his death—gave these ideals poetic expression. Although this collection of vernacular poems intended to tell the story of his love for Laura, it was in fact an analysis and evocation not of present love but of passion that he had overcome. The main element of this poetry was therefore in the elaboration of its art, even if it always reflected the genuine spiritual conflicts exposed in the Secretum. In addition to the Canzoniere Petrarch wrote a vernacular allegorical poem, the Trionfi (1351–74; Triumphs), in the medieval tradition, but it lacked the moral and poetical inspiration of Dante's great poem.

      The literary phenomenon known as Petrarchism developed rapidly within the poet's lifetime and continued to grow during the following three centuries, deeply influencing the literatures of Italy, Spain, France, and England. His followers did not merely imitate but accepted his practice of strict literary discipline and his forms, including his preference for the sonnet—without which the European literary Renaissance would be unthinkable.

      Boccaccio's early writings, almost all of which are available in English translation, were purely literary, without any didactic implications. His first prose work, Il filocolo (c. 1336; “Love's Labour”), derived from the French romance Floire et Blancheflor, was an important literary experiment. Inability to write on an epic scale was evident in his two narrative poems in eight-line stanzas, Il filostrato (c. 1338; “Frustrated by Love”) and Teseida (c. 1340; The Book of Theseus), while his Ameto, or, more properly, Commedia delle ninfe fiorentine (1341–42; “Comedy of the Florentine Nymphs”), a novel written in prose and verse, and his Fiammetta (c. 1343; Amorous Fiammetta), a prose novel, showed the influence of classical literature on the formation of his style. The Decameron (1348–53), a prose collection of 100 stories recounted by 10 narrators—3 men and 7 women—over 10 days, was Boccaccio's most mature and important work. Its treatment of contemporary urban society ranged from the humorous to the tragic. Stylistically the most perfect example of Italian classical prose, it had enormous influence on Renaissance literature.

      As a disciple of Petrarch, Boccaccio shared the humanist interests of his age, as shown in his Latin epistles and encyclopedic treatises. An admirer of Dante, he also wrote a Trattatello in laude di Dante (written c. 1360; “Treatise in Praise of Dante”; Eng. trans. The Life of Dante) and a commentary on the first 17 cantos of the Inferno. He contributed to allegorical poetry with L'amorosa visione (written 1342–43).

Popular literature and romances
      During the second half of the 14th century, Florence remained a centre of culture, but its literature developed a more popular character. The best-known representative of this development was bellman and town crier Antonio Pucci (died 1388), whose vast verse production included poems on local Florentine lore, as well as historical and legendary verse narratives. Florentine narrative literature was represented by the Pecorone (c. 1378; “Dullard”), stories by Ser Giovanni Fiorentino after a pattern established by Boccaccio, and Franco Sacchetti (Sacchetti, Franco)'s Trecentonovelle (c. 1390; “Three Hundred Short Stories”), which provide colourful and lively descriptions of people and places.

      The recasting of the Carolingian and Arthurian cycles continued along lines established during the 13th century. Compilations in prose and verse became more common, and Franco-Venetian literature gained in literary value. Epic legends were turned into romantic stories, which appealed more to their illiterate audiences in town squares and other public places. Novels by Andrea da Barberino, cantari with legendary subjects by the above-mentioned Antonio Pucci, and the anonymous Pulzella gaia, Bel Gherardino, Donna del Vergiù, and Liombruno were written in a popular style combining irony and common sense.

Religious and historical literature
      The most important author of religious literature was Jacopo Passavanti, whose Specchio di vera penitenza (“The Mirror of True Penitence”) was a collection of sermons preached in 1354. Less polished, but of greater literary value, were the translations of Latin legends concerning St. Francis and his followers collected in the anonymous Fioretti di San Francesco (The Little Flowers of St. Francis).

      Vernacular historiography of this period could be described as popular literature, with Florence as its main centre. Florence's two principal chroniclers were Dino Compagni (Compagni, Dino) and Giovanni Villani (Villani, Giovanni). Compagni wrote his chronicle between 1310 and 1312, after having taken part in the political struggles of his town; his dramatic account of the episodes and the liveliness of his prose made it the most original work of medieval Italian historiography. Villani's Cronica (“Chronicle”) in 12 books, written from 1308 to 1348, was less personal; it followed the medieval tradition by beginning with the building of the Tower of Babel and included many apocryphal tales. The last six books, which cover the period from Charles II's Italian expedition (1265) to the author's own time, are of importance to historians. Villani's prose may lack the dramatic power of Compagni's, but his work can nevertheless be described as the greatest achievement of Italian vernacular historiography during the Middle Ages. His Chronicle was versified by fellow Florentine Antonio Pucci.

      From Boccaccio's death to about the middle of the 15th century, reflective Italian poetry suffered a decline. The poetry that survives is popular in nature and written to be accompanied by music. The following period was to be characterized by critical and philological activity rather than by original creative work.

Sheila Ralphs Anthony Oldcorn

The Renaissance

The age of humanism
      The European Renaissance (the “rebirth” of the classical past) really began in 14th-century Italy with Petrarch and Boccaccio (Boccaccio, Giovanni). The 15th century, devoid as it was of major poetic works, was nevertheless of very great importance because it was the century in which a new vision of human life, embracing a different conception of man, as well as more modern principles of ethics and politics, gradually found their expression. This was the result, on the one hand, of political conditions quite different from those of previous centuries and, on the other, of the rediscovery of classical antiquity. With regard to the first point, nearly all Italian princes competed with each other in the 15th century to promote culture by patronizing research, offering hospitality and financial support to literary men of the time, and founding libraries. As a consequence, their courts became centres of research and discussion, thus making possible the great cultural revival of the period. The most notable courts were that of Florence, under Lorenzo de' Medici “the Magnificent”; that of Naples, under the Aragonese kings; that of Milan, first under the Visconti and later the Sforza family; and finally the papal court at Rome, which gave protection and support to a large number of Italian and Byzantine scholars. To return to the second point, the search for lost manuscripts of ancient authors, begun by Petrarch in the previous century, led to an extraordinary revival of interest in classical antiquity: in particular, much research was devoted to ancient philosophy in general and in particular to Plato ( Aristotle had been the dominant voice in the Middle Ages), a fact that was to have profound influence on the thinking of the Renaissance as a whole.

      By and large, the new culture of the 15th century was a revaluation of man. Humanism opposed the medieval view of man as a being with relatively little value and extolled him as the centre of the universe, the power of his soul as linking the temporal and the spiritual, and earthly life as a realm in which the soul applies its powers. These concepts, which mainly resulted from the new interest in Plato, were the subject of many treatises, the most important of which were Giannozzo Manetti's De dignitate et excellentia hominis (completed in 1452; On the Dignity of Man) and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni, Conte Di Concordia)'s Oratio de hominis dignitate (written 1486; Oration on the Dignity of Man). The humanist vision evolved during this period condemned many religious opinions of the Middle Ages still widely prevalent: monastic ideals of isolation and noninvolvement in the affairs of the world, for example, were attacked by Leonardo Bruni (Bruni, Leonardo), Lorenzo Valla (Valla, Lorenzo), and Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini (Poggio Bracciolini, Gian Francesco). Forthright though these attacks were, humanism was not essentially anti-Christian, for it generally remained faithful to Christian beliefs, and the papal court itself regarded humanism as a force to be assimilated rather than defeated.

      In the first half of the century the humanists, with their enthusiasm for Latin and Greek literature, had a disdain for the Italian vernacular. They wrote for the most part in Latin prose. Their poetic production, inspired by classical models and written mostly in Latin and later Greek, was abundant but at first of little value. Writing in a dead language and closely following a culture to which they had enslaved themselves, they rarely showed originality as poets. Toward the end of the 15th century there were notable exceptions in Giovanni Pontano (Pontano, Giovanni), Michele Marullo Tarcaniota, Politian (Angelo Ambrogini Poliziano), and Jacopo Sannazzaro (Sannazzaro, Jacopo). These poets succeeded in creating sincere poetry in which conventional and less conventional themes were expressed with new, original intimacy and fervour.

The rise of vernacular literature
      Toward the middle of the 15th century Italian began to vie with Latin as the literary language. The Certame Coronario, a public poetry competition held in Florence in 1441 with the intention of proving that the spoken Italian language was in no way inferior to Latin, marked a definite change. In the second half of the century there were a number of works of merit written in Italian and inspired either by the chivalric legends of the Middle Ages or by the new humanist culture.

      The “matter of France” and the “matter of Brittany,” which had degenerated into clichés, were given a new lease on life by two poets of very different temperament and education: Matteo Maria Boiardo (Boiardo, Matteo Maria, Conte Di Scandiano), whose Orlando innamorato (1483; “Orlando in Love”) reflected past chivalrous ideals as well as contemporary standards of conduct and popular passions; and Luigi Pulci (Pulci, Luigi), whose broadly comic Morgante, published before 1480, was pervaded by a new bourgeois and popular morality.

      The new ideals of the humanists were most complete in Politian, Jacopo Sannazzaro, and Leon Battista Alberti (Alberti, Leon Battista), three outstanding figures who combined a wide knowledge of classical antiquity with a personal and often profound inspiration. Politian's most important Italian work is the incomplete Stanze cominciate per la giostra del Magnifico Giuliano de' Medici (1475–78; “Stanzas Begun for the Joust of the Magnificent Giuliano de' Medici”)—dedicated to Lorenzo's brother Giuliano de' Medici, assassinated in 1478 in the Pazzi conspiracy—which created a mythical world in which concepts of classical origin were relived in a new way. The same could be said of Sannazzaro's Arcadia (1504), a largely autobiographical pastoral work in verse and prose that remained widely influential up to the 18th century. A more balanced view of contemporary reality was given in Alberti's literary works, which presented a gloomy picture of human life, dominated by man's wickedness and the whims of fortune. As for Lorenzo de' Medici (Medici, Lorenzo de'), statesman and patron of many men of letters, he himself had a remarkably vast and varied poetic output.

      Pietro Bembo (Bembo, Pietro) of Venice published his Prose della volgar lingua (“Writings on the Vulgar Tongue”) in 1525. In this work, which was one of the first historical Italian grammars, Bembo demanded an Italian literary language based on 14th-century Tuscan models, particularly Petrarch and Boccaccio. He found Dante's work stylistically uneven and insufficiently decorous. He was opposed by those who thought that a literary language should be based on contemporary usage, particularly by Gian Giorgio Trissino (Trissino, Gian Giorgio), who developed Dante's theories on Italian as a literary language. In practice the problem was both linguistic and stylistic, and there were in the first half of the 16th century a great number of other contributors to the question, though it was Bembo's theories that finally triumphed in the second part of the century. This was largely due to the activities of the Florentine Accademia della Crusca (Crusca Academy), and this more scientific approach to the language question resulted in the academy's first edition of an Italian dictionary in 1612.

      During the first decades of the 16th century, treatises on poetry were still composed according to humanist ideas and the teachings of the Roman Augustan poet Horace. It was only after 1536, when the original classical Greek text of Aristotle's incomplete Poetics was first published, that a gradual development became apparent in aesthetic theory. The traditional principle of imitation was now better analyzed, in the twofold sense of the imitation of classical authors and that of nature. The three theatrical unities (time, space, action) were among the structural rules then reestablished, while much speculation was devoted to epic poetry. The classical conception of poetry as a product of imagination supported by reason was at the basis of 16th-century rhetoric, and it was this conception of poetry, revived in Italy, that triumphed in France, Spain, and England during the following century.

Political, historical, biographical, and moral literature
      Niccolò Machiavelli (Machiavelli, Niccolò)'s works reflected Renaissance thought in its most original aspects, particularly in the objective analysis of human nature. Machiavelli has been described as the founder of a new political science: politics divorced from ethics. His own political experience was at the basis of his ideas, which he developed according to such general principles as the concepts of virtù (“individual initiative”) and fortuna (“chance”). A man's ability to control his destiny through the exercise of virtù is contested by forces beyond his control, summed up in the concept of fortuna. His famous treatise Il principe (The Prince), composed in 1513, in which he states his conviction of the superiority of virtù, revealed the author's prophetic attitude, based on his reading of history and his observation of contemporary political affairs. Its description of a model ruler became a code for the wielding of absolute power throughout Europe for two centuries. Machiavelli's Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio (c. 1513–21; Discourse on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius), showed the same realistic attitude: public utility was placed above all other considerations, and political virtue was distinguished from moral virtue. His seven books on Dell'arte della guerra (1521; The Art of War), concerning the creation of a modern army, were more technical, whereas his historical works, including the Istorie fiorentine (1520–25; Florentine History), exemplified theories expounded in his treatises. Machiavelli also holds a place in the history of imaginative literature, above all for his play La Mandragola (1518), one of the outstanding comedies of the century.

      Although more of a realist (or pessimist) than Machiavelli, Francesco Guicciardini (Guicciardini, Francesco) was the only 16th-century historian who could be placed within the framework of the political theories he constructed. He drew attention to the self-interest of those involved in political action and made Machiavelli's theories appear idealistic by contrast. One of Guicciardini's main works, his Ricordi (1512–30; “Things to Remember”; Eng. trans. Maxims and Reflections of a Renaissance Statesman), has a place among the most original political writings of the century. Guicciardini was also the first, in his Storia d'Italia (1537–40), to compose a truly national history of Italy, setting it in a European context and attempting an impartial analysis of cause and effect.

      Giorgio Vasari (Vasari, Giorgio)'s Vite de' più eccellenti architetti, pittori et scultori italiani da Cimabue insino a' tempi nostri (1568; Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects) contained more than 200 biographies and was the first critical and historical appraisal of Italian art. The autobiography of the sculptor and goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini (Cellini, Benvenuto) (written 1558–66, published 1728) was remarkable for its vigorous spontaneity and its use of popular Florentine language.

      The highest moral aspirations of the Renaissance are expressed in Baldassare Castiglione (Castiglione, Baldassare)'s Cortegiano (published 1528; The Courtier), which deals with the perfect courtier, the noble lady, and the relationship between courtier and prince. It became one of the most influential books of the century. Giovanni della Casa (Casa, Giovanni Della) was the author of another famous treatise, the Galateo (c. 1551–54; Galateo is the name of the chief speaker; Eng. trans. Galateo), a book on courtesy in which the author's witty mind and the refinement of contemporary Italian society found full expression. The excesses of the period were also vividly reflected in the work of Pietro Aretino (Aretino, Pietro), a widely feared polygraph who was called “the scourge of princes” by Ludovico Ariosto (Ariosto, Ludovico). His Ragionamenti (1534–36; “Discussions”), a dialogue between a seasoned prostitute and a beginner, were written in a spontaneous style and showed a sensuous and unscrupulous nature.

Poetry
      Lyric poetry in the 16th century was dominated by the model of Petrarch mainly because of the acceptance of the Renaissance theory of imitation and the teaching of Bembo. Almost all the principal writers of the century wrote lyric poems in the manner of Petrarch. Surprising originality was to be found in Della Casa's poems, and Galeazzo di Tarsia stood out from contemporary poets by virtue of a vigorous style. Also worthy of note are the passionate sonnets of the Paduan woman poet Gaspara Stampa and those of Michelangelo.

      The tradition of humorous and satirical verse also was kept alive during the 16th century. Outstanding among its practitioners was Francesco Berni (Berni, Francesco), whose burlesque poems, mostly dealing with indecent or trivial subjects, showed his wit and stylistic skill. Didactic poetry, already cultivated by humanist writers, was also continued during this period, chiefly by Giovanni Rucellai, who recast in Le api (1539; “The Bees”) the fourth book of the Roman poet Virgil's Georgics, and by Luigi Alamanni, in six books on agriculture and rustic life called La coltivazione (1546).

      The most refined expression of the classical taste of the Renaissance was to be found in Ludovico Ariosto (Ariosto, Ludovico)'s Orlando furioso (1516; “Orlando Mad”; Eng. trans. Orlando Furioso), which incorporated many episodes derived from popular medieval and early Renaissance epics. The poem is in fact a continuation of Boiardo's Orlando innamorato and takes up all of its interwoven stories where Boiardo left off, but its unique qualities derive from Ariosto's sustained inspiration and masterful narrative technique and his detached, ironic attitude toward his characters. Orlando furioso was the most perfect expression of the literary tendencies of the Italian Renaissance at this time, and it exercised enormous influence on later European Renaissance literature. Ariosto also composed comedies that, by introducing imitation of Latin comedy, marked the beginning of Renaissance drama in the vernacular.

      There were also attempts to renew the epic by applying Aristotle's “rules” of composition. Gian Giorgio Trissino (Trissino, Gian Giorgio), a theorist on language, wrote his Italia liberata dai Goti (“Italy Liberated from the Goths”) according to the strictest Aristotelian rules, while Alamanni tried to focus the narrative on a single character in Girone il cortese (1548; “Girone the Courteous”) and Avarchide (1570), an imitation of the Iliad of Homer. Giambattista Giraldi (Giraldi, Giambattista), while more famous as a storyteller and a tragic playwright, was a literary theorist who tried to apply his own pragmatic theories in his poem Ercole (1557; “Hercules”).

      Two burlesque medley forms of verse were invented during the century. Fidenziana poetry derives its name from a work by Camillo Scroffa, a poet who wrote Petrarchan parodies in a combination of Latin words and Italian form and syntax. Macaronic poetry (macaronic), on the other hand, which refers to the Rabelaisian preoccupation of the characters with eating, especially macaroni, is a term given to verse consisting of Italian words used according to Latin form and syntax. Teofilo Folengo (Folengo, Teofilo), a Benedictine monk, was the best representative of macaronic literature, and his masterpiece was a poem in 20 books called Baldus (1517). The tendency to parody, ridiculing the impractical excesses of humanist literature, was present in both fidenziana and macaronic verse.

      Torquato Tasso (Tasso, Torquato), son of the poet Bernardo Tasso (Tasso, Bernardo), was the last great poet of the Italian Renaissance and one of the greatest of Italian literature. In his epic Gerusalemme liberata (1581; Jerusalem Delivered) he summed up a literary tradition typical of the Renaissance: the classical epic renewed according to the spiritual interests of his own time. The subject of the poem is the First Crusade to recapture Jerusalem. Its structure dramatizes the struggle to preserve a central purpose by dominating and holding in check centrifugal urges toward sensual and emotional indulgence. Its pathos lies in the enormous cost of self-control. L'Aminta (1573), a joyous and uninhibited drama, was the best example of Tasso's youthful poetry and belonged to the new literary genre of pastoral (pastoral literature) (dealing with idealized rural life). Gerusalemme liberata, however, was the result of a balance in the poet's conflicting aspirations: a Christian subject dealt with in a classical way. In the subsequent Gerusalemme conquistata (1593; “Jerusalem Vanquished”), Tasso imitated Homer and recast his poem according to more rigid Aristotelian rules and the ideals of the Roman Catholic church's reaction against the Protestant Reformation, known as the Counter-Reformation. Tasso's conflict had ended in the victory of the moralistic principle: poetically the new poem was a failure. Tasso also wrote shorter lyric verse throughout his life, including religious poems, while his prose dialogues show a style no longer exclusively dominated by classical models. His delicate madrigals were set to music by the age's most famous composers.

Drama
      Trissino's Sofonisba (written 1514–15; the title is the name of the female protagonist) was the first tragedy of Italian vernacular literature to follow classical precedent; its structure derived from Greek models, but its poetic qualities were somewhat mediocre. Toward the middle of the 16th century Giambattista Giraldi (Giraldi, Giambattista) (Cinzio) reacted against imitation of Greek drama by proposing the Roman tragedian Seneca (Seneca, Lucius Annaeus) as a new model, and in nine tragedies and tragicomedies—written between 1541 and 1549—he showed some independence from Aristotelian rules. He greatly influenced European drama, particularly the English theatre of the Elizabethan period. Perhaps the most successful tragedy of the century is Torquato Tasso (Tasso, Torquato)'s Re Torrismondo (“King Torrismondo”).

      The Italian comedies of the century, inspired by Latin models but also by the tradition of the novella, possessed greater artistic value than the tragedies, and they reflected contemporary life more fully: they could be considered as the starting point for modern European drama. To the comedies of Ariosto and Machiavelli should be added a lively play, La Calandria (first performed 1513; The Follies of Calandro), by Cardinal Bernardo Dovizi da Bibbiena, and the five racy comedies written by Pietro Aretino (Aretino, Pietro). Giordano Bruno (Bruno, Giordano), a great Italian philosopher who wrote dialogues in Italian on his new cosmology and antihumanist ideas, also wrote a comedy, Il candelaio (1582; The Candlemaker).

      Since the mid-20th century the actor Angelo Beolco (“Il Ruzzante”) has become generally recognized as one of the most powerful dramatists of the 16th century. His works, often monologues written in a rural Paduan dialect, treat the problems of the oppressed peasant with realism and profound seriousness. Another dialect playwright of the same century, now also more widely appreciated, is the Venetian Andrea Calmo, who showed a nice gift for characterization in his comedies of complex amorous intrigue.

Narrative
      The classicist trend established by Pietro Bembo also affected narrative literature, for which the obvious model was Boccaccio's Decameron. Originality and liveliness of expression were to be found in the 22 stories called Le cene (written after 1549; “The Suppers”) of the Florentine apothecary Anton Francesco Grazzini (Grazzini, Anton Francesco). The worldly monk Agnolo Firenzuola produced several stories, including the fable Asino d'oro (1550), a free adaptation of Apuleius (Apuleius, Lucius)'s Golden Ass. The cleric and short-story writer Matteo Bandello (Bandello, Matteo) started a new trend in 16th-century narrative with 214 stories that were rich in dramatic and romantic elements while not aiming at classical dignity. This trend was partially followed also by Giambattista Giraldi (Giraldi, Giambattista) in his collection of 112 stories called (with a Greek etymology) Gli ecatommiti (1565; “The Hundred Stories”).

Giovanni Aquilecchia Anthony Oldcorn

17th-century literature
      The 17th century in Italian literature was traditionally described as a period of “decadence” in which writers who were devoid of sentiment resorted to exaggeration and tried to cloak the poverty of their subject matter beneath an exuberance of form. (In this period, it is said, freedom of thought and expression was fettered by the Counter-Reformation, by the political supremacy of Spain, and by the conservatism of the Accademia della Crusca, whose aim it was to ensure the hegemony of Florence by promoting the “purity” of the Tuscan language. The “baroque” style of writing was not, however, simply an Italian phenomenon. It was at this time that Gongorism (the ingenious metaphorical style of the poet Luis de Góngora (Góngora y Argote, Luis de)) flourished in Spain and the witty “conceits” of the Metaphysical poets were popular in England. Far from being exhausted, indeed, this was an extremely vital period, so much so that in the last decades of the 20th century a new and more comprehensive understanding of the literature of the Italian Baroque has been formulated by scholars conversant with the changing attitude toward this phase of civilization in Germany, France, and England.

Poetry and prose
      The popularity of satire was a reaction against prevailing conditions. Prominent in this genre was the Neapolitan Salvator Rosa (Rosa, Salvator), who attacked in seven satires the vices and shortcomings of the age. The Modenese Alessandro Tassoni (Tassoni, Alessandro) acquired great fame with La secchia rapita (1622; The Rape of the Bucket), a mock-heroic poem that is both an epic and a personal satire. The most serious poet of the period was Tommaso Campanella (Campanella, Tommaso), a Dominican friar, who spent most of his adult life in prison as a subversive. Campanella is perhaps less well known for his rough-hewn philosophical verse than for the Città del sole (1602; Campanella's City of the Sun), a vision of political utopia, in which he advocated the uniting of humanity under a theocracy based on natural religion.

      The most successful and representative poet during this period was Giambattista Marino (Marino, Giambattista), author of a large collection of lyric verse (La lira [1608–14; “The Lyre”] and La sampogna [1620; “The Syrinx”]) and a long mythological poem, Adone (1623), in which the Ovidian myth of the love of Venus and Adonis, told by Shakespeare in 200 stanzas, is inflated by Marino to more than 8,000. Marino derived inspiration from the poetry of the late 16th century, but his aim—typical of the age—was to excite wonder by novelty. His work is characterized by “conceits” of fantastic ingenuity, far-fetched metaphor, sensuality, extreme facility, and a superb technical skill. His imitators were innumerable, and most 17th-century Italian poets were influenced by his work.

      Gabriello Chiabrera (Chiabrera, Gabriello), soberer in style than Marino, was successful in imitating the metres of classical poetry (especially of the Greek Pindar) and excelled in the composition of musical canzonette (rhymed poems with short lines modeled on the French Pléiade (Pléiade, La)'s adaptation of the Greek verse form known as the anacreontic). Toward the end of the century a patriotic sonneteer, Vincenzo da Filicaia, and Alessandro Guidi, who wrote exalted odes, were hailed as major poets and reformers of the excesses of the Baroque. Though they retained much of the earlier bombast, their consciousness of the need for rational reform led to the foundation of the Accademia dell'Arcadia (Arcadia, Academy of).

      Among prose writers of the period, the satirist Traiano Boccalini (Boccalini, Traiano) stood out with Ragguagli di Parnasso (1612–13; Advertisements from Parnassus) in the fight against Spanish domination. A history of the Council of Trent (Trent, Council of) (which defined Catholic doctrines in reaction to the Reformation) was written by Paolo Sarpi (Sarpi, Paolo), an advocate of the liberty of the Venetian state against papal interference, and a history of the rising of the Low Countries against Spain was written by Guido Bentivoglio (Bentivoglio, Guido). The Venetian novels of Girolamo Brusoni are still of interest, as are the travels of Pietro della Valle (Valle, Pietro della) and the tales of the Neapolitan Giambattista Basile (Basile, Giambattista). All the restless energy of this period reached its climax in the work of Galileo, a scientist who laid the foundations of mathematical philosophy and earned a prominent place in the history of Italian literature through the vigour and clarity of his prose.

Music drama and the Accademia dell'Arcadia (Arcadia, Academy of)
      With the rise of the music drama and the opera, Italian authors worked to an increasing extent with the lyric stage. Librettos written by poets such as Ottavio Rinuccini were planned with dramatic and musical artistry. During the 17th century a popular spirit entered the opera houses: intermezzi (short dramatic or musical light entertainments) were required between the acts, a practice that undermined the dramatic unity of the performance as a whole, and toward the end of the century every vestige of theatrical propriety was abandoned. The spread of Marino's influence was felt by many to be an abuse. In 1690 the Accademia dell'Arcadia was founded in Rome for the express purpose of eradicating “bad taste.” The purpose of the academy was in tune with a genuinely felt need. Many of its members were rationalist followers of René Descartes (Descartes, René) with severe classical sympathies, but their reaction consisted mainly in imitating the simplicity of the nymphs and shepherds who were supposed to have lived in the Golden Age, and thus a new artifice replaced an old one. A typical exponent of the Arcadian lyric was Pietro Metastasio (Metastasio, Pietro), the 18th-century reformer of the operatic libretto.

Giovanni Pietro Giorgetti Anthony Oldcorn

18th-century developments

Reform of the tragic theatre
      In 1713 Francesco Scipione Maffei (Maffei, Francesco Scipione, Marchese di), an antiquary of Verona, produced Merope—a tragedy that met with great success and pointed the way toward reform of the Italian tragic theatre. Between 1726 and 1747 Antonio Conti—an admirer of Shakespeare—wrote four Roman tragedies in blank verse. It was not until 1775 and the success of his Cleopatra, however, that an important Italian tragedian finally emerged in the person of Vittorio Alfieri (Alfieri, Vittorio, Conte). In strong contrast with Metastasio's and Paolo Rolli's melodrammi—librettos set to music or sometimes performed as plays in their own right—Alfieri's tragedies are harsh, bitter, and unmelodious. He chose classical and biblical themes, and through his hatred of tyranny and love of liberty he aspired to move his audience with magnanimous sentiments and patriotic fervour. He is at his most profound in Saul (1782) and Mirra (1786). Alfieri's influence in the Romantic period and the Risorgimento was immense, and, like Carlo Goldoni (Goldoni, Carlo), he wrote an important autobiography, which gives a revealing account of his struggles to provide Italy with a corpus of drama comparable to that of the other European nations.

Goldoni's reform of the comedy
      Metastasio's reform of the operatic libretto was paralleled in the mid-18th century by Goldoni's reform of comedy. Throughout the 17th century the commedia dell'arte—a colourful pantomime of improvisation, singing, mime, and acrobatics, often performed by actors of great virtuosity—had gradually replaced regular comedy, but by the early 18th century it had degenerated into mere buffoonery and obscenity with stereotyped characters (maschere, “masks”) and mannerisms. The dialogue was mostly improvised, and the plot—a complicated series of stage directions, known as the scenario—dealt mainly with forced marriages, star-crossed lovers, and the intrigues of servants and masters. Goldoni succeeded in replacing this traditional type of theatre with written works whose wit and vigour are especially evident when the Venetian scene is portrayed in a refined form of the local dialect. Perhaps because of his prolific output his work has sometimes been thought of as lacking in depth. His social observation is acute, however, and his characters are beautifully drawn. La locandiera (1753; “The Innkeeper”; Eng. trans. Mirandolina), with its heroine Mirandolina, a protofeminist, has things to say about class and the position of women that can still be appreciated today. Goldoni's rival and bitter controversialist, fellow Venetian Carlo Gozzi (Gozzi, Carlo, Conte) (the reactionary brother of the more liberal journalist Gasparo), also wrote comedies, satirical verse, and an important autobiography. His Fiabe teatrali (1772; “Theatrical Fables”) are fantastic and often satirical. Among them are L'amore delle tre melarance (The Love for Three Oranges), later made into an opera by Sergey Prokofiev (Prokofiev, Sergey), and the original Turandot, later set to music by Giacomo Puccini (Puccini, Giacomo).

The world of learning
      Giambattista Vico (Vico, Giambattista), Ludovico Antonio Muratori (Muratori, Lodovico Antonio), Apostolo Zeno (Zeno), and the already mentioned Scipione Maffei were writers who reflected the awakening of historical consciousness in Italy. Muratori collected the primary sources for the study of the Italian Middle Ages; Vico, in his Scienza nuova (1725–44; The New Science), investigated the laws governing the progress of the human race and from the psychological study of man endeavoured to infer the laws by which civilizations rise, flourish, and fall. Giovanni Maria Mazzuchelli and Gerolamo Tiraboschi devoted themselves to literary history. Literary criticism also attracted attention; Gian Vincenzo Gravina, Vico, Maffei, Muratori, and several others, while advocating the imitation of the classics, realized that such imitation should be cautious and thus anticipated critical standpoints that were later to come into favour.

The Enlightenment (Enlightenment) (Illuminismo)
      With the end of Spanish domination and the spread of the ideas of the Enlightenment from France, political reforms were gradually introduced in various parts of Italy. The new spirit of the times led men—mainly of the upper middle class—to enquire into the mechanics of economic and social laws. The ideas and aspirations of the Enlightenment as a whole were effectively voiced in such organs of the new journalism as Pietro Verri (Verri, Pietro)'s periodical Il Caffè (1764–66; “The Coffeehouse”). A notable contributor to Il Caffè was the philosopher and economist Cesare Beccaria (Beccaria, Cesare), who in his pioneering book Dei delitti e delle pene (1764; On Crimes and Punishments) made an eloquent plea for the abolition of torture and the death penalty.

      More than anyone else, Giuseppe Parini (Parini, Giuseppe) seems to embody the literary revival of the 18th century. In Il giorno (published in four parts, 1763–1801; “The Day”), an ambitious but unfinished social satire of inherited wealth and nobility, he describes a day in the life of a young Milanese patrician and reveals with masterly irony the irresponsibility and futility of a whole way of life. His Odi (1795; “Odes”), which are imbued with the same spirit of moral and social reform, are among the classics of Italian poetry.

      The satire in the Sermoni (1763; “Sermons”) of Gasparo Gozzi (Gozzi, Gasparo, Count) (elder brother of Carlo) is less pungent, though directed at similar ends, and in his two periodicals—La Gazzetta veneta and L'Osservatore—he presented a lively chronicle of Venetian life and indicated a practical moral with much good sense. Giuseppe Baretti—an extremely controversial figure who published a critical journal called La Frusta letteraria (“The Literary Whip”), in which he castigated “bad authors”—had learned much through a lengthy sojourn in England, where his friendship with Samuel Johnson (Johnson, Samuel) helped to give independence and vigour, if not always accuracy, to his judgments. The Viaggi di Enrico Wanton (1749–64; “Travels of Enrico Wanton”), a philosophical novel by the Venetian Zaccaria Seriman, which tells of an imaginary voyage in the manner of Jonathan Swift (Swift, Jonathan) and Voltaire, was the most all-embracing satire of the time.

Anthony Oldcorn

Literary trends of the 19th century
      The 19th century was a period of political ferment leading to Italian unification, and many outstanding writers were involved in public affairs. Much of the literature written with a political aim, even when not of intrinsic value, became part of Italy's national heritage and inspired not only those for whom it was written but all who valued freedom.

      Foremost among writers in the early struggles for his country's unity and freedom from foreign domination was Ugo Foscolo (Foscolo, Ugo), who reconciled passionate feeling with a formal perfection inspired by classical models. His Ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis (1802; The Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis) was an epistolary story, reminiscent of Goethe's Werther, of a young man forced to suicide by frustrated love for both a woman and his fatherland. It was extremely moving and popular, as was a poem, “Dei sepolcri” (1807; “On Sepulchres”), in which, in fewer than 300 lines, he wrote lyrically on the theme of the inspiration to be had from contemplating the tombs of the great, exhorting Italians to be worthy of their heritage. This poem influenced the Italian Risorgimento, or national revival, and a passage in which Florence was praised because it preserved in the church of Santa Croce the ashes of Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo is still very popular in Italy. Two odes celebrating the divine quality of beauty, 12 sonnets ranking with the best of Petrarch's and Tasso's, and an unfinished poem, “Le grazie” (“The Graces”), also testified to Foscolo's outstanding poetic merit. As an exile in England from 1816 until his death in 1827, he wrote remarkable critical essays on Italian literature for English readers.

      In Foscolo patriotism and classicism united to form a single fixed passion, but the eclectic Vincenzo Monti (Monti, Vincenzo) was outstanding for mobility of feeling. He saw danger to his country in the French Revolution and wrote Il pellegrino apostolico (1782; “The Apostolic Pilgrim”) and In morte di Ugo Bassville (1793; The Penance of Hugo), usually known as La bassvilliana; Napoleon's victories aroused his praise in Prometeo (c. 1805; “Prometheus”), Il bardo della selva nera (1806; “The Bard of the Dark Wood”), and La spada di Federico II (1806; “The Sword of Frederick II”); in Il fanatismo and La superstizione (1797) he attacked the papacy; later he extolled the Austrians. Thus every great event made him change his mind, through lack of political conviction, yet he achieved greatness in La bellezza dell'universo (1781; “The Beauty of the Universe”), in the lyrics inspired by domestic affections, and in a translation of the Iliad, a masterpiece of Neoclassical beauty.

Opposing movements
      Melchiorre Cesarotti (Cesarotti, Melchiorre) occupied a prominent position in the world of learning at the end of the 18th century, and his translations of James Macpherson (Macpherson, James)'s Ossian poetry, Poesie di Ossian (1763–72), influenced Foscolo, Giacomo Leopardi (Leopardi, Giacomo), and others by their mysterious and gloomy fantasy, so alien to the classical inspiration; Saggio sulla filosofia delle lingue (1785; “Essay on the Philosophy of Languages”) was an important essay in the dispute on the Italian language. The trend was toward pedantic classicism as a reaction against an excessive Gallicism favoured by some 18th-century writers. Among the purists was Antonio Cesari, who brought out a new enlarged edition of the Vocabolario della Crusca (the first Italian dictionary, published by the Accademia della Crusca (Crusca Academy) in 1612). He wrote Sopra lo stato presente della lingua italiana (1810; “On the Present State of the Italian Language”) and endeavoured to establish the supremacy of Tuscan and of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio as models. But a Lombard school opposed this Tuscan supremacy. Monti, its leader, issued Proposta di alcune correzioni ed aggiunte al vocabolario della Crusca (1817–26; “Proposal for Some Corrections and Additions to the Crusca Dictionary”), which attacked the Tuscanism of the Crusca. By contrast, the patriot Pietro Giordani—for a time a journalistic colleague of Monti—was a great exponent of purismo. His views did not stem from literary pedantry, however, but from a concern that all social groups throughout Italy should have a common means of communication. In this respect he was linguistically opposed to the great Romantic poet Carlo Porta, who lampooned the aristocracy and clergy and expressed sympathy with the humble and wretched in narrative poems composed not in Italian but in a lively Milanese dialect. All Italy took part in the disputes about language, literature, and politics.

      An artificial form of classicism was associated with the Napoleonic (Napoleon I) domination of Italy, so that when Napoleon fell, forces antagonistic to classicism arose. Literary Romanticism had already won favour with the French, who erroneously thought themselves akin to the German Romantics. Between 1816 and 1818 a battle was fought for Romanticism, particularly in Milan, where a Romantic periodical, Il Conciliatore (1818–19; “The Peacemaker”), was published. Giovanni Berchet (patriotic poet whose Lettera semiseria di Grisostomo al suo figliuolo [1816; “Half-Serious Letter from Grisostomo to His Son”] is an important manifesto of Italian popular romanticism), Silvio Pellico (Pellico, Silvio), Ludovico di Breme, Giovita Scalvini, and Ermes Visconti were among its contributors. Their efforts were silenced in 1820 when several of them were arrested by the Austrian police because of their liberal opinions; among them was Pellico, who later wrote a famous account of his experiences, Le mie prigioni (1832; My Prisons).

      Alessandro Manzoni (Manzoni, Alessandro) (grandson of reformer Cesare Beccaria (Beccaria, Cesare)) was the chief exponent of Italian Romanticism, but perhaps an even higher claim to fame was his contribution to the resolution of the language problem. In 1821 he started working on a panoramic novel about the lives of simple people placed against a background of major historical events, and, in order that this should be accessible to a wide readership, he decided to write it in an idiom as close as possible to modern educated Florentine speech. This was a formidable enterprise for someone whose first languages were French and Milanese dialect—and to whom spoken Florentine was virtually a foreign tongue—and for the first draft (completed in 1823) he had to resort to Francesco Cherubini's Italian-Milanese dictionary. The second draft was published in 1825–27 under the title I promessi sposi (The Betrothed); and the final definitive edition came out in 1840–42 after a long, painstaking process of revision aimed at making the text conform more closely with colloquial Florentine usage. The result of this effort was clear, expressive prose—neither pretentious nor provincial—and the way in which the novel caught the public's imagination attested to Manzoni's success in addressing the sort of people to whom conventional literary Italian was almost as remote as Latin. Ironically, Manzoni the innovator became, in his turn, the model for a new kind of purism, with “Manzonians” composing works in an affected Tuscan, and it required authors with fresh ideas—not poor imitators—to continue the task of disencumbering and modernizing written Italian.

      Manzoni's genius as a poet showed in the odes Il cinque maggio (1821; “The Fifth of May”), written on the death of Napoleon, and Marzo 1821 (1821; “March 1821”) and in passages of his Inni sacri (1812–22; Sacred Hymns), five poems in celebration of church holy days, describing human affections. His tragedies, Il conte di Carmagnola (performed 1820; “The Count of Carmagnola”) and Adelchi (1822), about the Frankish conquest of Italy, marked a victory of Romanticism over classicism; they contained passages of great lyrical beauty but lacked strong dramatic power.

      The foremost Italian poet of the age was Giacomo Leopardi (Leopardi, Giacomo), an outstanding scholar and thinker whose philological works together with his philosophical writings, Operette morali, would alone place him among the great writers of the 19th century. Embittered by solitude, sickness, and near penury, he realized from age 20 the vanity of hope. Though he developed a doctrine of universal pessimism, seeing life as evil and death as the only comfort, the poetry based on these bitter, despairing premises was far from depressing. Most of Leopardi's poems were contained in one book, I canti (“Songs”; Eng. trans. The Poems of Leopardi), first published in 1831. Some were patriotic and were once very popular; but the most memorable came from deeper lyrical inspiration. Among them were “L'infinito,” a meditation on infinity; “A Silvia,” on the memory of a girl who died when he was 20; Le ricordanze, an evocation of his childhood; “Il passero solitario,” comparing the lonely poet with the bird that sings in isolation; and “La quiete dopo la tempesta” and “Il sabato del villaggio,” two pictures of village life. They balance depth of meaning and formal beauty, simplicity of diction, intensity, and verbal music.

The Risorgimento and after
      Circumstances made it inevitable that Italian Romanticism should become heavily involved with the patriotic myths of the Risorgimento; yet, while this served a useful civic purpose at the time, it did not encourage literature of consistent artistic merit or enduring readability. Of the writings produced by figures associated in some way with Italy's struggle for nationhood, it tends to be the less typical ones that attract attention today: the dialect poetry of Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli (Belli, Giuseppe Gioacchino) describing the life of contemporary papal Rome; compositions by Giuseppe Giusti (Giusti, Giuseppe) satirizing petty tyrants, political turncoats, and coarse parvenus; or the works of the republican Roman Catholic from Dalmatia, Niccolò Tommaseo. The undoubted masterpiece of Risorgimento narrative literature is Ippolito Nievo's Confessioni di un italiano (published posthumously in 1867; “Confessions of an Italian”; Eng. trans. The Castle of Fratta), which marks Nievo as the most important novelist to emerge in the interval between Manzoni and Giovanni Verga (Verga, Giovanni). Giuseppe Mazzini (Mazzini, Giuseppe)'s letters can still be studied with profit, as can the memoirs of Luigi Settembrini (Ricordanze della mia vita [1879–80; “Recollections of My Life”]) and Massimo D'Azeglio (Azeglio, Massimo Taparelli, Marquess d') (I miei ricordi [1868; Things I Remember]). D'Azeglio's historical novels and those of Francesco Guerrazzi now have a rather limited interest; and Mazzini's didactic writings—of great merit in their good intentions—are generally regarded as unduly oratorical. Giovanni Prati and Aleardo Aleardi (Aleardi, Aleardo, Conte), protagonists of the “Second Romanticism,” wrote poetry of a sentimentality that helped to provoke a variety of reactive movements, including scapigliatura and verismo.

      Giosuè Carducci (Carducci, Giosuè) was an outstanding figure whose enthusiastic support for the national cause during the struggle of 1859–61 was changed to disillusionment by the difficulties in which the new kingdom was involved. The bitterness of some of his poetry revealed frustration and rebelliousness. Rime nuove (The New Lyrics) and Odi barbare (The Barbarian Odes), both of which appeared in the 1880s, contained the best of his poetry: memories of childhood, evocations of landscape, laments for domestic sorrows, an inspired representation of historical events, an ambitious effort to resuscitate the glory of Roman history, and an anachronistic but sincere cult of pagan civilization. He tried to adapt Latin prosody to Italian verse, which sometimes produced good poems, but his opposition to Romanticism and his rhetorical tirades provoked a strong reaction, and his metrical reform was short-lived. He was also a scholarly historian of literature, and his literary essays had permanent value, although philosophical criticism such as that of Francesco De Sanctis (De Sanctis, Francesco) was uncongenial to him. Both his poetry and his criticism were cited when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for 1906.

      De Sanctis himself was connected politically with the Risorgimento, but he is remembered chiefly for his critical writings. His most important works were various critical essays and Storia della letteratura italiana (1870–71; History of Italian Literature). His main tenet was that literature was to be judged not on its intellectual or moralistic content so much as by the spirit of its “form,” and the role of the critic was to discover how this form had been unconsciously and spontaneously conceived by studying its creator's temperament and background and the age in which he lived. De Sanctis was not properly appreciated in his day but came into his own at the turn of the century when Benedetto Croce (Croce, Benedetto) rescued his works from oblivion.

      While Carducci was still alive, Giovanni Pascoli (Pascoli, Giovanni) acquired a reputation and succeeded him in the chair of Italian literature at the University of Bologna. His art was often impressionistic and fragmentary, his language occasionally laborious, but his lyricism, at first timid in inspiration in Myricae (1891; “Tamarisks”), rose to fuller tones when he attempted the loftier themes of antiquity: Roman heritage and greater Italy. His original vein still found expression in Canti di Castelvecchio (1903; “Songs of Castelvecchio”) and in the classicism of Poemi conviviali (1904; “Convivial Poems”). Later he produced—both in humanistic Latin and in self-consciously elaborate Italian—heroic hymns in honour of two sacred cities, Rome and Turin.

The veristi and other narrative writers
      The patriotic niceties and sentimental Romanticism of much Risorgimento writing inevitably provoked a reaction. The first serious opposition came from the scapigliati (scapigliatura) (literally, “disheveled,” or “bohemians”), adherents of an antibourgeois literary and artistic movement that flourished in the northern metropolises of Milan and Turin during the last four decades of the 19th century and whose declared aim was to link up with the most advanced Romantic currents from abroad. Unfortunately the movement—perhaps by its very nature—lacked intellectual cohesion and tended to cultivate the eccentric as an end in itself. The scapigliati, however, made a useful contribution in social criticism and in their informal linguistic approach. Among the foremost scapigliati were Giuseppe Rovani, whose monumental novel about Milanese life, I cento anni (The Hundred Years), was issued in installments (1856–58 and 1864–65); Emilio Praga, a poet tormented by contradictions; and Arrigo Boito (Boito, Arrigo), poet, musician, and librettist for Giuseppe Verdi's Falstaff and Otello.

      A more lasting and fruitful successor to conventional Italian Romanticism was verismo (“realism”; first theoretically expounded by Luigi Capuana (Capuana, Luigi) in 1872), a movement initially inspired by the French Naturalist writers and influenced by positivist and determinist ideas. The veristi were not concerned with sermons or noble sentiments but with observable phenomena. When they dealt with the Italy of the Risorgimento, they showed it warts and all. The greatest of verismo narrators was without a doubt Giovanni Verga (Verga, Giovanni), who explained in a preamble to a short story, "L'amante di Gramigna" (1880; Eng. trans. "Gramigna's Lover" ), that in a perfect novel the sincerity of its reality would be so evident that the hand of the artist would be absolutely invisible and the work of art would seem to have matured spontaneously without any point of contact with its author. At times Verga almost seems to have achieved this unattainable goal, and in his two great narrative works dealing with the victims of social and economic change, I Malavoglia (1881; “The Malavoglia Family”; Eng. trans. The House by the Medlar Tree) and Mastro-don Gesualdo (1889), the reader often has the sensation of being put down in an unfamiliar milieu and—as would happen in real life—left to pick up the threads from gossip and chance remarks. Another verista, Federico De Roberto, in his novel I vicerè (1894; The Viceroys), has given a cynical and wryly funny account of an aristocratic Sicilian family that adapted all too well to change. Capuana, the founder of verismo and most rigorous adherent to its impersonal method of narration, is known principally for his dramatic psychological study, Il marchese di Roccaverdina (1901; “The Marquis of Roccaverdina”).

      In their search for documentary exactitude the veristi paid close attention to regional background. For Verga, De Roberto, and Capuana, this was Sicily. Matilde Serao (Serao, Matilde), on the other hand, has given a detailed and colourful reportage of the Neapolitan scene, while Renato Fucini conveyed the atmosphere of traditional Tuscany. Emilio De Marchi, another writer in the realist mold, has Milan for his setting and in Demetrio Pianelli (1890) has painted a candid but essentially kindly portrait of the new Milanese urban middle class. Antonio Fogazzaro (Fogazzaro, Antonio) was akin to the veristi in his powers of observation and in his descriptions of minor characters; but he was strongly influenced by Manzoni, and his best narrative work, Piccolo mondo antico (1895; The Little World of the Past), is a nostalgic look back to a supposedly less individualistic age when inner tranquillity was seemingly achieved by devotion to a shared ideal. The veristi had a leavening effect on Italian literature generally, and their influence can be discerned, for example, in the early novels of the Sardinian Grazia Deledda (Deledda, Grazia) (awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for 1926) and to some extent in the narrative works of the Sienese writer Federigo Tozzi, including Con gli occhi chiusi (1919; “With Closed Eyes”) and Tre croci (1920; Three Crosses). Tozzi, however, belongs psychologically and stylistically to the 20th century.

Giovanni Carsaniga Anthony Oldcorn

The 20th century

Gabriele D'Annunzio (D'Annunzio, Gabriele)'s nationalism
 After unification the new Italy was preoccupied with practical problems, and by the early 20th century a great deal of reasonably successful effort had been directed toward raising living standards, promoting social harmony, and healing the split between church and state. It was in this prosaic and pragmatic atmosphere that the middle classes—bored with the unheroic and positivist spirit of former decades—began to feel the need for a new myth. Thus, it is easy to understand how imaginations across the political spectrum came to be fired by the extravagant personality of aesthete Gabriele D'Annunzio (D'Annunzio, Gabriele)—man of action, nationalist, literary virtuoso, and (not least) exhibitionist—whose life and art seemed to be a blend of Jacob Burckhardt's “complete man” and the superman of Friedrich Nietzsche. At a distance from those times, it should be possible to evaluate D'Annunzio more clearly. There is, however, no critical consensus about his writings, although he is generally praised for his autobiographical novel, Il piacere (1889; The Child of Pleasure); for the early books of his poetic Laudi del cielo, del mare, della terra, e degli eroi (1904–12; “Praises of the Sky, of the Sea, of the Earth, and of the Heroes”), especially the book titled Alcyone (1903; Halcyon); for the impressionistic prose of Notturno (1921; “Nocturne”); and for his late memoirs.

Benedetto Croce (Croce, Benedetto)'s criticism
 Although D'Annunzio's fame was worldwide, the function of modernizing intellectual life fell mainly to Benedetto Croce (Croce, Benedetto) in almost 70 books and in the bimonthly review La Critica (1903–44). Perhaps his most influential work was his literary criticism, which he expounded and continually revised in articles and books spanning nearly half a century.

      Croce's beliefs implied condemnation of fascism's ideology, but he was not seriously molested by the fascist regime, and through the darkest days La Critica remained a source of encouragement to at least a restricted circle of freedom-loving intellectuals. Unfortunately, his highly systematized approach to criticism led to a certain rigidity and a refusal to recognize the merits of some obviously important writers, and this was undoubtedly one reason why after World War II his authority waned. His monumental corpus of philosophical, critical, and historical works of great scholarship, humour, and common sense remains, however, the greatest single intellectual feat in the history of modern Italian culture.

Literary trends before World War I
 While Croce was starting his arduous task, literary life revolved mainly around reviews such as Leonardo (1903), Hermes (1904), La Voce (1908), and Lacerba (1913), founded and edited by relatively small literary coteries. The two main literary trends were crepuscolarismo (the Twilight School), which, in reaction to the high-flown rhetoric of D'Annunzio, favoured a colloquial style to express dissatisfaction with the present and memories of sweet things past, as in the work of Guido Gozzano (Gozzano, Guido) and Sergio Corazzini, and Futurismo (Futurism), which rejected everything traditional in art and demanded complete freedom of expression. The leader of the Futuristi was Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso), editor of Poesia, a fashionable cosmopolitan review. Both Crepuscolari and Futuristi were part of a complex European tradition of disillusionment and revolt, the former inheriting the sophisticated pessimism of French and Flemish Decadents (Decadent), the latter a fundamental episode in the history of the western European avant-garde as it developed from the French poets Stéphane Mallarmé (Mallarmé, Stéphane) and Arthur Rimbaud to Guillaume Apollinaire (Apollinaire, Guillaume) and the Cubist, Surrealist, and Dada movements. Both trends shared a feeling of revulsion against D'Annunzian flamboyance and magniloquence, from which they attempted to free themselves. Paradoxically, both also derived many elements of their style from D'Annunzio: the “crepuscular” mood of D'Annunzio's Poema paradisiaco (1893; “Paradisiacal Poem”) can be found in each movement, and most Futuristic “new theories”—the identification of art with action, heroism, and speed; the free use of words—were implied in D'Annunzio's Laus Vitae (1903; “In Praise of Life”).

The “return to order”
      The end of World War I saw a longing for the revival of tradition, summed up in the aims of the review La Ronda, founded in 1919 by the poet Vincenzo Cardarelli (Cardarelli, Vincenzo) and others, which advocated a return to classical stylistic values. This led to an excessive cult of form in the narrow sense—as exemplified by the elegant but somewhat bloodless essays (elzeviri) published in Italian newspapers on page three—and obviously fitted in with the stifling of free expression under fascism. The sterility of this period, however, should not be exaggerated. The 20 years of fascist rule were hardly conducive to creativity, but in the dark picture there were a few glimmers of light. With 1923 came the publication of Italo Svevo (Svevo, Italo)'s Coscienza di Zeno (The Confessions of Zeno), a gem of psychological observation and Jewish humour, which a few years later was internationally “discovered” in Italy by Eugenio Montale (Montale, Eugenio) and in France through the mediation of James Joyce (Joyce, James). The surreal writings of Massimo Bontempelli (Bontempelli, Massimo) (Il figlio di due madri [1929; “The Son of Two Mothers”]) and of Dino Buzzati (Buzzati, Dino) (Il deserto dei Tartari [1940; The Tartar Steppe]) were perhaps in part an escape from the prevailing political climate, but they stand up artistically nonetheless. Riccardo Bacchelli (Bacchelli, Riccardo), with Il diavolo a Pontelungo (1927; The Devil at the Long Bridge) and Il mulino del Po (1938–40; The Mill on the Po), produced historical narrative writing of lasting quality. Aldo Palazzeschi, in Stampe dell'Ottocento (1932; “Nineteenth-Century Engravings”) and Sorelle Materassi (1934; The Sisters Materassi), reached the height of his storytelling powers. Meanwhile, the Florentine literary reviews Solaria, Frontespizio, and Letteratura, while having to tread carefully with the authorities, provided an outlet for new talent. Carlo Emilio Gadda (Gadda, Carlo Emilio) had his first narrative work (La Madonna dei filosofi [1931; “The Philosophers' Madonna”]) published in Solaria, while the first part of his masterpiece, La cognizione del dolore (Acquainted with Grief), was serialized between 1938 and 1941 in Letteratura. Novelists such as Alberto Moravia (Moravia, Alberto), Corrado Alvaro (Alvaro, Corrado) (Gente in Aspromonte [1930; Revolt in Aspromonte]), and Carlo Bernari had to use circumspection in stating their views but were not completely silenced. The controversial Ignazio Silone (Silone, Ignazio), having chosen exile, could speak openly in Fontamara (1930). Antonio Gramsci (Gramsci, Antonio), an unwilling “guest” of the regime, gave testimony to the triumph of spirit over oppression in Lettere dal carcere (1947; Letters from Prison).

Luigi Pirandello (Pirandello, Luigi)
 Drama, which a few playwrights and producers were trying to extricate from old-fashioned realistic formulas and the more recent superhuman theories of D'Annunzio, was increasingly dominated by Luigi Pirandello (Pirandello, Luigi). His own experience of the “unreal,” through his calamitous family life and his wife's insanity, enabled him to see the limitations of realism. From initial short-story writing, in which he explored the incoherence of personality, the lack of communication between individuals, the uncertain boundaries between sanity and insanity or reality and appearance, and the relativity of truth, he turned to drama as a better means of expressing life's absurdity and the ambiguous relationship between fact and fiction.

      To multiply the fragmentation of levels of reality, Pirandello tried to destroy conventional dramatic structures and to adopt new ones: a play within a play in Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore (1921; Six Characters in Search of an Author) and a scripted improvisation in Questa sera si recita a soggetto (1930; Tonight We Improvise). This was a way of transferring the dissociation of reality from the plane of content to that of form, thereby achieving an almost perfect unity between ideas and dramatic structure. Pirandello's plays, including perhaps his best, Enrico IV (1922; Henry IV), often contain logical arguments: several critics, including Croce, were misled into thinking that he intended to express in this way a coherent philosophy, whereas he used logic as a dramatic symbol. Pirandello was awarded the 1934 Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Hermetic (Hermeticism) movement
      Poetry in the fascist period underwent a process of involution, partly influenced by French Symbolism (Symbolist movement), with its faith in the mystical power of words, and partly under the stress of changed political conditions after World War I, during which literature had declined. Many poets of the wartime generation, weary of tradition and rhetoric, had been seeking new expression: some, like the Futuristi, had tried to work rhetoric out of their system by letting it run amok; others, such as Camillo Sbarbaro (Pianissimo [1914], Trucioli [1920; “Shavings”]), cultivated a style purified of unessential elements. Out of those efforts grew a poetry combining the acoustic potentialities of words with emotional restraint and consisting mainly of fragmentary utterances in which words were enhanced by contextual isolation and disruption of syntactic and semantic links. The resultant obscurity compensated poets for loss of influence in a society subservient to dictatorship by turning them into an elite and allowed some, notably Eugenio Montale (Montale, Eugenio) (who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1975), to express their pessimism covertly. The name of this movement, Ermetismo (“ Hermeticism”), hinted at both its aristocratic ambitions and its esoteric theory and practice. The model for these poets was Giuseppe Ungaretti (Ungaretti, Giuseppe). Born, like the Futurist Marinetti, of Italian parents in the cosmopolitan Egyptian seaport of Alexandria, Ungaretti studied in Paris, where among his friends were the avant-garde poet Guillaume Apollinaire (Apollinaire, Guillaume) and the painters Pablo Picasso (Picasso, Pablo) and Georges Braque (Braque, Georges). He came of age in the trenches of World War I, and in his first book of poems, L'Allegria (1914–19; “Joie de Vivre”), he confronted that harrowing experience in verse that is stripped of all its traditional amenities. In these poems each word is pronounced in isolation, as if a petrified, shell-shocked language had to be invented from scratch. In Sentimento del tempo (1933; “Sentiment of Time”) Ungaretti exhibited what is considered his second Symbolist manner; it is, in contrast with his earlier work, luxuriant, rich, and strange. This allusive and hieratic poetry recovers many elements of the tradition and couches them in a splendid but opaque diction. Thus, what in the 1920s had appeared revolutionary proved later to be only another facet of the formalistic Petrarchan tradition. Against this background of refinement, obscurity, and unreality, only the simple and moving poems of the Triestine poet Umberto Saba (Saba, Umberto) preserved an immediate appeal.

Social commitment and the new realism (Neorealism)
      During World War II the walls of the Hermetic ivory tower began to crumble. Ungaretti's style became so intricate as to be almost unrecognizable as his own. Salvatore Quasimodo (Quasimodo, Salvatore) adopted a new engagé, or committed, style, which won critical admiration, including the 1959 Nobel Prize for Literature, and others followed suit in a drift toward social realism.

      This development had been foreshadowed by some writers under fascism. In 1929 Alberto Moravia (Moravia, Alberto) had written a scathing indictment of middle-class moral indifference, Gli indifferenti (1929; Time of Indifference). Carlo Bernari wrote a novel about the working classes, Tre operai (1934; “Three Workmen”); Cesare Pavese (Pavese, Cesare) produced Paesi tuoi (1941; “Your Lands”; Eng. trans. The Harvesters); and Elio Vittorini (Vittorini, Elio) wrote Conversazione in Sicilia (1941; Conversation in Sicily); all definitely promised a new literary development. From these and from the discovery of American literature (William Faulkner (Faulkner, William), Erskine Caldwell (Caldwell, Erskine), John Steinbeck (Steinbeck, John), John Dos Passos (Dos Passos, John), and Ernest Hemingway (Hemingway, Ernest), translated mainly by Elio Vittorini and Pavese), postwar writing took its cue. Certain English authors, the homegrown veristi, and the ideas of Marxism were also an influence on postwar authors, to whom in varying degrees the rather imprecise label of Neorealism (applied also to postwar Italian cinema) was attached. It was a stimulating time in which to write, with a wealth of unused material at hand. There were the social and economic problems of the south, described by Carlo Levi (Levi, Carlo) in his poetic portrait of Lucania, Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (1945; Christ Stopped at Eboli), and by Rocco Scotellaro (Contadini del sud [1954; “Peasants of the South”]) and Francesco Jovine (Le terre del Sacramento [1950; “The Lands of the Sacrament”; Eng. trans. The Estate in Abruzzi]). Vivid pictures of the Florentine working classes were painted by Vasco Pratolini (Pratolini, Vasco) (Il quartiere [1945; “The District”; Eng. trans. The Naked Streets] and Metello [1955; Eng. trans. Metello]) and of the Roman subproletariat by Pier Paolo Pasolini (Pasolini, Pier Paolo) (Ragazzi di vita [1955; The Ragazzi] and Una vita violenta [1959; A Violent Life]). There were memories of the north's struggle against fascist and Nazi domination from Vittorini and from Beppe Fenoglio (Fenoglio, Beppe) (I ventitrè giorni della città di Alba [1952; The Twenty-three Days of the City of Alba]). There were sad tales of lost war by Giuseppe Berto (Il cielo è rosso [1947; The Sky Is Red] and Guerra in camicia nera [1955; “A Blackshirt's War”]) and by Mario Rigoni Stern (Il sergente nella neve [1952; The Sergeant in the Snow]). By contrast, there were humorous recollections of provincial life under fascism—for example, Mario Tobino's Bandiera nera (1950; “Black Flag”) and Goffredo Parise's Prete bello (1954; “The Handsome Priest”; Eng. trans. The Priest Among the Pigeons). In contrast to the more topical appeal of these writings, the great virtue of Pavese's narrative was the universality of its characters and themes. Among his finest works may be numbered La casa in collina (1949; The House on the Hill) and La luna e i falò (1950; The Moon and the Bonfires). Also of lasting relevance is Primo Levi (Levi, Primo)'s moving account of how human dignity survived the degradations of Auschwitz (Se questo è un uomo [1947; If This Is a Man]).

Other writings
      Literary tastes gradually became less homogeneous. On the one hand, there was the rediscovery of the experimentalism of Carlo Emilio Gadda (Gadda, Carlo Emilio), whose best works had been written between 1938 and 1947. On the other, there was the runaway success of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (Tomasi di Lampedusa, Giuseppe)'s Il gattopardo (1958; The Leopard), an old-fashioned historical novel that presents a soft-focused, flattering view of a family similar to the one described so pitilessly by Federico De Roberto in I vicerè. For this reason, it is easier to see Italian writing in terms of individual territory rather than general trends.

      Carlo Cassola (Cassola, Carlo)'s most memorable novels use the stillness of rural Tuscany as a background to the interior reality of its inhabitants, and in this his lineage can be traced to other Tuscan writers such as Romano Bilenchi (La siccità [1941; “The Drought”]) and Nicola Lisi (Diario di un parroco di campagna [1942; “Diary of a Country Priest”]) or in some respects back to Federigo Tozzi. Especially typical of Cassola's works are Il taglio del bosco (1953; The Felling of the Forest), Un cuore arido (1961; An Arid Heart), and Un uomo solo (1978; “A Man by Himself”).

      Giorgio Bassani (Bassani, Giorgio)'s domain is the sadly nostalgic world of Ferrara in days gone by, with particular emphasis on its Jewish community (Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini [1962; The Garden of the Finzi-Continis]). Italo Calvino (Calvino, Italo) concentrated on fantastic tales (Il visconte dimezzato [1952; The Cloven Viscount], Il barone rampante [1957; The Baron in the Trees], and Il cavaliere inesistente [1959; The Nonexistent Knight]) and, later, on moralizing science fiction (Le cosmicomiche [1965; Cosmicomics] and Ti con zero [1968; t zero]). Paolo Volponi's province is the human consequences of Italy's rapid postwar industrialization (Memoriale [1962], La macchina mondiale [1965; The Worldwide Machine], and Corporale [1974]). Leonardo Sciascia (Sciascia, Leonardo)'s sphere is his native Sicily, whose present and past he displays with concerned and scholarly insight, with two of his better-known books—in the format of thrillers—covering the sinister operations of the local Mafia (Il giorno della civetta [1963; The Day of the Owl] and A ciascuno il suo [1966; “To Each His Own”; Eng. trans. A Man's Blessing]). After a Neorealistic phase, Giuseppe Berto plunged into the world of psychological introspection (Il male oscuro [1964; “The Dark Sickness”] and La cosa buffa [1966; “The Funny Thing”; Eng. trans. Antonio in Love]). Natalia Ginzburg (Ginzburg, Natalia)'s territory is the family, whether she reminisces about her own (Lessico famigliare [1963; Family Sayings]), handles fictional characters (Famiglia [1977; Family]), or ventures into historical biography (La famiglia Manzoni [1983; The Manzoni Family]). Giovanni Arpino excelled at personal sympathies that cross cultural boundaries (La suora giovane [1959; The Novice] and Il fratello italiano [1980; “The Italian Brother”]). Fulvio Tomizza also tackled this theme in L'amicizia (1980; “The Friendship”).

      Meanwhile, Alberto Moravia and Mario Soldati defended their corners as never less than conspicuously competent writers. Moravia generally plowed a lone furrow. Of his mature writings, Agostino (1944; Eng. trans. Agostino), Il conformista (1951; The Conformist), and La noia (1960; “The Tedium”; Eng. trans. Empty Canvas) stand out as particular achievements. Soldati, in works such as Le lettere da Capri (1953; The Capri Letters) and Le due città (1964; “The Two Cities”)—and in a later novel, L'incendio (1981; “The Fire”), which takes a quizzical look at the modern art business—showed himself to be a consistently skilled and entertaining narrator. There are many other accomplished authors who could be classified in this way, including Elsa Morante (Morante, Elsa), who with L'isola de Arturo (1957; Arturo's Island) and La storia (1974; History) carved a unique niche for herself. Set in Rome during the years 1941–47, the combination of fact and allegory is a tour de force and one of the most remarkable narrative works that came out of Italy after World War II.

      Calvino's fascinating later works, Le città invisibili (1972; Invisible Cities), Il castello dei destini incrociati (1973; The Castle of Crossed Destinies), Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore (1979; If on a Winter's Night a Traveler), and Palomar (1983; Eng. trans. Mr. Palomar), continue to explore the possibilities and limitations of literature and its attempt to represent our world. An ironic, detached, but deeply responsible rationalist, analyzing and recombining the elements of fiction in a rigorously precise “classical” prose style (which lends itself to translation into other languages), Calvino is without a doubt the most important Italian writer of the second half of the 20th century.

The end of the century
Poetry after World War II
      Paradoxically, of all the forms of writing, poetry seems to be the form that was most vibrant during the second half of the 20th century, although one late 20th-century critic remarked that there might have been more poets in Italy than readers of poetry. An authoritative 1,200-page anthology by two experts in the field, poet Maurizio Cucchi and critic of contemporary literature Stefano Giovanardi, Poeti italiani del secondo Novecento, 1945–1995 (1996; “Italian Poets of the Second Half of the 20th Century, 1945–1995”), introduced a useful taxonomy. Cucchi and Giovanardi recognized that, in talking about the new poetry, they had to take into account the older, established poets who continued to write and publish verse in their mature years and who inevitably influenced the emerging poets. Included among these prewar “masters” were Attilio Bertolucci (Bertolucci, Attilio), an autobiographical narrative poet from the countryside near Parma and the father of the movie director Bernardo; Mario Luzi (Luzi, Mario), a pillar of ivory-tower Hermeticism before the war who in the politically committed 1960s turned to more existential and ultimately religious themes; the delicate and deceptively facile Giorgio Caproni (Caproni, Giorgio), whose simplicity, psychological introspection, and nostalgia for a hidden God may remind the reader at times of Umberto Saba (Saba, Umberto); Vittorio Sereni (Sereni, Vittorio), a sensitive intellectual who dramatized the sympathies and hesitations of the nondoctrinaire reformer; the mercurial nonconformist Pier Paolo Pasolini (Pasolini, Pier Paolo); the Brechtian Franco Fortini, who was the conscience of a generation; and the ironical social observer Roberto Roversi. All of these poets, and a few of those mentioned below, were already represented in Pier Vincenzo Mengaldo's standard anthology of 20th-century poetry, Poeti italiani del Novecento (1978; “Italian Poets of the 20th Century”).

      Poets of the so-called Fourth Generation—from the title of a 1954 anthology of postwar verse edited by Pietro Chiara and Luciano Erba—include Erba himself and the poet and filmmaker Nelo Risi, both of them Milanese, as well as the Italian Swiss Giorgio Orelli. All three are from northern Italy and, along with Roberto Rebora and others, have been seen as the continuers of a hypothetical linea lombarda (“Lombard line”) of sober moral realism that, according to critic Luciano Anceschi, originated with Giuseppe Parini. Other Fourth Generation poets of note are epigrammatist Bartolo Cattafi; Rocco Scotellaro, poet of the southern peasant and the most convincing practitioner of Neorealism in verse; the eloquent soliloquist and elegant metricist Maria Luisa Spaziani; Umberto Bellintani, who, though he continued to write, quit publishing in 1963; and the hypersensitive Alda Merini, for whose work critics find the oxymoron (Christian paganism, joyful grief, religious eroticism, mortal liveliness) a useful figure.

      Both the linguistically inventive Andrea Zanzotto (see below Experimentalism and the new avant-garde (Italian literature)) and the wry confessional autobiographer (or “autobiologist”) and macabre humorist Giovanni Giudici had an impact, as did colloquialist Giovanni Raboni, who was also linked with the sobriety and moral concerns of the linea lombarda; Giancarlo Majorino, who progressed from Neorealism to Sperimentalismo (“Experimentalism”); Giampiero Neri (pseudonym of Giampiero Pontiggia), influenced in his descriptive narratives by Vittorio Sereni; Giorgio Cesarano, another poetic narrator who abandoned poetry in 1969, before his subsequent suicide (1975); and Tiziano Rossi, whose dominant moral concern led to comparisons with the expressionist poets of the pre-World War I periodical La Voce.

      Four notable mavericks whose isolated and idiosyncratic poetic activity claimed allegiance to no movement, generation, or school are the Sicilian aristocrat Lucio Piccolo, cousin of novelist Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, who in 1954 forwarded Piccolo's then unpublished poems to an appreciative Eugenio Montale; the Calabrian Symbolist Lorenzo Calogero, who has been compared to Stéphane Mallarmé (Mallarmé, Stéphane), Rainer Marie Rilke (Rilke, Rainer Maria), Dino Campana (Campana, Dino), and Friedrich Hölderlin (Hölderlin, Friedrich); experimentalist Fernando Bandini, who was equally at home in Italian and Latin, to say nothing of his ancestral Veneto dialect; and Michele Ranchetti, who between 1938 and 1986 produced a single book of philosophic poetry, La mente musicale (1988; “The Musical Mind”).

      During the 1970s several younger poets began publishing. Among them were the scandal-seeking “Roman” poets Dario Bellezza and Valentino Zeichen. Trained as a psychoanalyst, Cesare Viviani made a Dadaist debut, but he went on to express in his later work an almost mystical impulse toward the transcendent. Patrizia Cavalli's work suggests the self-deprecating irony of crepuscolarismo. Maurizio Cucchi was another Milanese poet and critic assimilable to the linea lombarda; when faced with the collapse of the greater constructs, he found solace in little things. Other poets of the era include the “neo-Orphic” (or “neo-Hermetic”) Milo De Angelis and Giuseppe Conte; Gregorio Scalise, a paradoxical rationalizer of the irrational who has been compared to Woody Allen; the mysteriously apodictic and enigmatic Giuseppe Piccoli; antilyrical self-ironist Paolo Ruffilli; and Vivian Lamarque, whose childlike fairy-tale tone occasionally makes way for a mischievous home truth. Also notable are Mario Santagostini, whose early work described the drab outskirts of his native Milan but who moved on to more metaphysical monologues, and Biancamaria Frabotta, who combined militant feminism with an elevated lyric diction tending toward the sublime.

      Of the poets born after 1950, mention should be made of the precocious Valerio Magrelli; Patrizia Valduga, whose poems take advantage of the rigidity of traditional metres to control otherwise rebelliously sensual subject matter; Roberto Mussapi, the melancholy meditator of transcendent mythologies; and, finally, Gianni D'Elia, whose antecedents have been traced to poets as remote from each other as the rapt and timeless Sandro Penna (Penna, Sandro) and the “realists” Pasolini and Roversi, the latter poets and their urgent and timely literary program associated with the periodical Officina.

Experimentalism and the new avant-garde
      In 1961 there appeared the important anthology-manifesto I Novissimi: poesie per gli anni '60 (“The Newest Poets: Poems for the '60s”), edited by Alfredo Giuliani. In addition to the editor, the poets represented were Elio Pagliarani, author of La ragazza Carla (1960; “The Girl Carla”), a longish poem incorporating found materials and dramatizing the alienation of a working woman in the modern industrial world; the poet-critic Edoardo Sanguineti, author of disconcertingly noncommunicative works such as Laborintus (1956) and Erotopaegnia (1960) and thereafter a prolifically undeterred creative experimentalist; Nanni Balestrini, who would subsequently publish the left-wing political collage Vogliamo tutto (1971; “We Want It All”); and Antonio Porta (pseudonym of Leo Paolazzi), whose untimely death at age 54 cut short the career of one of the less abstractly theoretical of these poets. At a subsequent meeting held near Palermo in 1963 this group was joined by, among others, aesthetic philosopher Luciano Anceschi, founder of the periodical Il Verri; literary and art critic Renato Barilli; semiotician Umberto Eco (Eco, Umberto), destined for later worldwide fame as a best-selling novelist and Italy's intellectual voice; manneristic prose stylist Giorgio Manganelli; cultural critic, antinovelist, and vitriolic essayist Alberto Arbasino, whose Fratelli d'Italia (the title, meaning “Brothers of Italy,” alludes ironically, not to say derisively, to the Italian national anthem), first published in 1963, had a second, amplified edition in 1976 and a third, running to 1,371 pages, in 1993; and Luigi Malerba, an original and linguistically inventive writer with a taste for satire, whose first work of fiction, the witty and paradoxical La scoperta dell'alfabeto (1963; “The Discovery of the Alphabet”), was published in the same year as the Palermo encounter. Malerba after a time distanced himself from the group's more extremist positions, and he proved to be one of the most interesting writers of his generation.

      As with previous avant-garde movements, starting with Futurism, the members of the enlarged Gruppo 63, who insisted on the inseparability of literature and politics, proposed to subvert the inertia of a repressive tradition through a revolution in language. The traditional literary language, they claimed, was the medium of bourgeois hegemony, and a radical change in the language of literature would somehow shake off the oppression of the military-industrial complex and lead to a general social and political liberation. This does not seem to have happened, and with the passage of time the members of the group dispersed, going off in different individual directions as their concerns became less public and more personal. Although his link to Gruppo 63 is tenuous, the above-mentioned Andrea Zanzotto shared their suspicion of the “language of the tribe.” His poetry, from Dietro il paesaggio (1951; “Behind the Landscape”) to La Beltà (1968; “Beauty”) to Idioma (1986; “Idiom”), may suggest the automatic writing of the Surrealists (see automatism), but it reveals itself on close study to be a subtle combination of inspiration and calculation. The search for an authentic language led Zanzotto, a student of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (Lacan, Jacques), to compose the verse collected in Filò (1976) and Mistieroi (1979) in petèl, the regressive dialect baby talk in which peasant mothers in the Veneto imitate their infants' first attempts to speak. He first experimented in this direction when he was invited by Federico Fellini to collaborate on the screenplay of Casanova (1976).

      Another isolated experimental poet was polyglot Amelia Rosselli, who was born in Paris and was a resident of London and New York City before living in Rome. A musician who developed a complex metrical theory based on notions derived from musical theory, Rosselli published a volume of poetry in English (Sleep [1992]) in addition to her work in Italian. After her suicide in 1996, the reputation of this troubled poet continued to grow. Poets who achieved prominence at the end of the 20th century include Alba Donati (La repubblica contadina [1997; “The Peasant Republic”]), the sculptor Massimo Lippi (Passi il mondo e venga la grazia [1999; “Let the World Pass Away and Let Grace Come”]), Franco Marcoaldi (L'isola celeste [2000; “The Sky-Blue Island”]), Paolo Febbraro (Il secondo fine [1998; “Ulterior Purpose”]), Alessandro Fo (Giorni di scuola [2000; “School Days”]), and Riccardo Held (Il guizzo irriverente dell'azzurro [1995; “The Irreverent Flicker of Blue”]). Poet and fiction writer Tommaso Ottonieri (Elegia sanremese [1998; “San Remo Elegy”]) was one of the sponsors of a symposium that announced (with a year's advance notice) the birth of yet another literary group; its papers were collected as Gruppo 93 (1992).

Dialect poetry
      A remarkable aspect of 20th-century poetry composed in Italy was the proliferation of cultivated poets who rejected what they saw as the pollution, inauthenticity, and debased currency of the national language. They chose to express an up-to-the-minute nonfolkloristic content, not in supraregional standard Italian but in a local dialect, seen as purer or closer to reality. Italy has always had a tradition of dialect poetry. The first “school” of poetry in Italy wrote in a polished form of Sicilian. For another, paradoxical example, one might point to the vernacular Florentine of the “plurilinguistic” Dante, far from the “illustrious vernacular” prescribed by his linguistic theories. During the 19th century two of the greatest writers of the period of romantic realism, Carlo Porta and Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, made the oppressed common people of Milan and of Rome, respectively, the protagonists of their works. Early 20th-century precursors of the modern boom in dialect poetry were the melancholy Salvatore Di Giacomo, who composed the words of many popular Neapolitan songs; the Milanese expressionist Delio Tessa; the Triestine Virgilio Giotti (pseudonym of Virgilio Schönbeck), a musical poet who evoked simple, everyday events and relationships; and two Veneto poets, the elegiac Biagio Marin and the antifascist Giacomo Noventa (pseudonym of Giacomo Ca' Zorzi), who expressed in a literary variant of the Venetian dialect a virile nostalgia for the values of the world of the past.

      The modern reevaluation of the dialect tradition owes everything to the indefatigable and multitalented Pier Paolo Pasolini who—after making his own literary debut at age 20 with Poesie a Casarsa (1942; “Poems at Casarsa”), written in his mother's Friulian dialect—edited in 1952 (with Mario Dell'Arco) a groundbreaking anthology of poetry in dialect with an important historical and critical introduction. Other major dialect poets are Albino Pierro, a native of Tursi in the far southern region of Basilicata, who wrote intense lyric verse in an archaic, previously unrecorded language; Tonino Guerra, a screenwriter and collaborator of Fellini's who wrote down-to-earth poems in the dialect of Santarcangelo di Romagna; Franco Loi, a native of Genoa, who put a personal imprint on his adopted Milanese dialect; Franco Scataglini, from Ancona in the Marches, whose verse, though contemporary in its sensibility, harks back to medieval models; and Raffaello Baldini, another poet from Romagna, whose poetry shows narrative verve and a gift for characterization. Remarkable among later dialect poets is Amedeo Giacomini, whose Antologia privata (1997) is composed, like Pasolini's maiden volume, in the dialect of the northeastern Friuli region.

      Actor-playwright Eduardo De Filippo was a prolific author who came into his own after World War II with a series of plays, which included Napoli milionaria! (1945, film 1950; "Naples Millionaire!"; Eng. trans. Napoli Milionaria) and Filumena Marturano (1946, film 1951; Eng. trans. Filumena), which, though written in his native Neapolitan dialect, paradoxically achieved international success. Among the last champions of the primacy of the written theatrical text were Pasolini and the Milanese expressionist Giovanni Testori, an uncompromising extremist who progressed from narrative fiction to the theatre and from subproletarian Neorealism to violent Roman Catholic mysticism. Otherwise, late 20th-century Italian theatre was dominated more by innovative directors and performers than by noteworthy new plays. Outstanding directors included Giorgio Strehler, animator of Italy's first repertory theatre, the Piccolo Teatro di Milano (founded 1947); Luchino Visconti (Visconti, Luchino), internationally known for his films; Luigi Squarzina; and Luca Ronconi, who in 1968 memorably staged Ludovico Ariosto (Ariosto, Ludovico)'s Orlando furioso in an adaptation by Edoardo Sanguineti. Among the performers was radical political satirist and reviver of the spirit of the commedia dell'arte Dario Fo (Fo, Dario), whose 1997 Nobel Prize for Literature knocked the conservative Italian literary world on its ear. Those with the necessary stamina can admire the intense presence of Carmelo Bene (who died prematurely in 2002) in the episodic tableaux and declamatory voice-over of the antinarrative film version of his Nostra signora dei Turchi (1966; “Our Lady of the Turks”). Bene, Fo, and Fo's talented wife, Franca Rame, are examples of the phenomenon of the author-performer.

Women writers
      The feminine condition (both contemporary and historical), autobiography, female psychology, and family history and relationships are among the insistent themes of the remarkable number of accomplished women writers active in Italy throughout the 20th century. Among those whose writing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries laid the groundwork for subsequent women writers were Milanese popular novelist Neera (pseudonym of Anna Zuccari); Neapolitan journalist Matilde Serao (Serao, Matilde), the best of whose 16 social novels is Il paese di cuccagna (1891; The Land of Cockayne); humanitarian socialist poet and fiction writer Ada Negri; and anticonformist feminist activist Sibilla Aleramo (pseudonym of Rina Faccio), best known for her autobiographical novel Una donna (1906; A Woman). Their successors include Florentine Anna Banti (Banti, Anna) (pseudonym of Lucia Lopresti), whose Artemisia (1947) is based on the life of the 17th-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi (Gentileschi, Artemisia); Fausta Cialente, several of whose novels were inspired by her lengthy stay in the Egyptian city of Alexandria but whose best works, Le quattro ragazze Wieselberger (1976; “The Four Wieselberger Girls”) and Interno con figure (1976; “Figures in an Interior”), are existential in nature; fastidious stylist Gianna Manzini, an admirer of Virginia Woolf (Woolf, Virginia) who is at her best in the autobiographical Ritratto in piedi (1971; “Full-Length Portrait”); and Alba De Céspedes, whose Nessuno torna indietro (1938; “There's No Turning Back”) was banned by fascist censors.

      Until her death in 2001, the dean of women writers was the precise and evocative stylist Lalla Romano, a painter by training, whose autobiographical explorations include La penombra che abbiamo attraversato (1964; The Penumbra) and the poetic analyses of her father's family photographs, Romanzo di figure (1986; “Novel of Figures”). Anna Maria Ortese, after a Neorealist debut with Il mare non bagna Napoli (1953; The Bay Is Not Naples), proceeded to create a mysterious fantasy world of suffering beings in such novels as L'Iguana (1965; The Iguana) and the extraordinary Il cardillo addolorato (1993; The Lament of the Linnet). Antifascist Natalia Levi (Ginzburg, Natalia) wrote under the last name of her husband, the critic Leone Ginzburg, who died in a fascist jail not long after they were married. Her fiction, best exemplified by Lessico famigliare (1963; Family Sayings), explores the memories of childhood and middle-class family relationships. Francesca Sanvitale won acclaim for her apparently autobiographical novels, such as Madre e figlia (1980; “Mother and Daughter”), though her Il figlio dell'impero (1993; “The Son of the Empire”) is a historical novel set in 19th-century France. Rosetta Loy, who had evoked a collective memory of the past in Le strade di polvere (1987; The Dust Roads of Monferrato), combined autobiography and social history in the memoir La parola ebreo (1997; “The Word ‘Jew' ”; Eng. trans. First Words: A Childhood in Fascist Italy). Francesca Duranti writes about a male character's recollections of a house in La casa sul lago della luna (1984; The House on Moon Lake). Fabrizia Ramondino, in such novels as Althénopis (1981; Eng. trans. Althenopis) and L'isola riflessa (1998; “The Inward-Looking Island”), is also concerned with memory and its vagaries as well as with the cultural loss brought about by so-called social progress.

      The international success of the first novel, L'età del malessere (1963; The Age of Malaise), of Florentine feminist Dacia Maraini was confirmed by the translation of several subsequent works, notably La lunga vita de Marianna Ucría (1990; The Silent Duchess). In such later novels as Voci (1994; Voices) and Buio (1999; Darkness) she turned to the popular genre of detective fiction to explore the problem of violence against women. In 1973 in Rome, Maraini founded the feminist theatre collective La Maddalena, for which she subsequently composed more than 60 plays. Triestine Giuliana Morandini set her first novel, I cristalli di Vienna (1978; Bloodstains), in the time of the German occupation of Vienna, and in La prima estasi (1985; “The First Ecstasy”) Elisabetta Rasy, moving on from criticism to fiction, endeavoured to re-create the mystic and ascetic consciousness of St. Thérèse of Lisieux (Thérèse of Lisieux, Saint). The spirit of Edgar Allan Poe (Poe, Edgar Allan) lives on in the precisely related but arcane and enigmatic tales of La grande Eulalia (1988; “The Great Eulalia”), the first of many successful books by Paola Capriolo. Best-selling and widely translated author Susanna Tamaro achieved overnight commercial success with the sentimental Va' dove ti porta il cuore (1994; Follow Your Heart), which she adapted for a film of the same name directed by Cristina Comencini.

Fiction at the turn of the 21st century
      The competitive world of the media- and market-driven culture of the late 20th century thrived on self-promotion, provocation, “discoveries,” and “revelations.” Publishers and their talent scouts were eager to add “new voices.” The Sardinian Salvatore Satta, for example, was a professor of law whose considerable literary production—his best-known novel is Il giorno del giudizio (1979; The Day of Judgement)—was not revealed until after his death. Meanwhile, Stefano D'Arrigo was being supported by publisher Arnoldo Mondadori to compose his ambitious modern epic, Horcynus Orca (1975), 20 years in the making, which narrates the 1943 homecoming through the Strait of Messina (site of the mythical Scylla and Charybdis) of a Sicilian fisherman to an ogre-plagued Sicily. The whole narrative is couched in a language that combines precious hyperliterary Italian, Sicilian dialect, and nonce words à la James Joyce.

      The case of Gesualdo Bufalino is not dissimilar to that of Satta. Bufalino's first novel, Diceria dell'untore (1981; The Plague-Sower), which he published after a lifelong career in teaching, won the 1981 Campiello Prize for fiction awarded by the industrialists of the Veneto region. He went on to publish several other novels. Il sorriso dell'ignoto marinaio (1976; The Smile of the Unknown Mariner) consolidated the reputation of Vincenzo Consolo, who has been compared to authors as different as fellow Sicilian Leonardo Sciascia (Sciascia, Leonardo) (for his rational lucidity) and Carlo Emilio Gadda (Gadda, Carlo Emilio) (for his stylistic experiments).

 A truly postmodern phenomenon is that of Umberto Eco (Eco, Umberto), a University of Bologna professor, philosopher, and semiotician who progressed from analyzing genres and deconstructing texts composed by others to synthesizing and constructing his own. His medieval detective story Il nome della rosa (1980; The Name of the Rose), which was widely translated and also made into a movie (1986), has probably been read by more willing readers than Dante's The Divine Comedy. It no doubt tickled Eco's lively sense of humour that the film version of his book starred Sean Connery (Connery, Sir Sean), an actor identified with the role of James Bond, a fictional character on whom Eco had written one of his more famous semiological essays. Eco's later novels include Baudolino (2000; Eng. trans. Baudolino) and La misteriosa fiamma della regina Loana (2004; The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana). Eco's nearest literary heirs are four former students of the University of Bologna who wrote under the collective pseudonym Luther Blissett. Their novel Q (1999; Eng. trans. Q) narrates the clash between Roman Catholic and Protestant religious extremists (and opportunists) in 16th-century Reformation Europe.

      Among younger voices, two extremely professional authors—cosmopolitan minimalist Andrea De Carlo and painstaking observer and stylist Daniele Del Giudice—were “discovered” in the early 1980s by Italo Calvino. In novels such as Macno (1984; Eng. trans. Macno) and Yucatan (1986; Eng. trans. Yucatan), De Carlo, a cinematographic recorder of surfaces, deliberately created and manipulated characters without depth, while Del Giudice, in Lo stadio di Wimbledon (1983; “Wimbledon Stadium”), Atlante occidentale (1985; Lines of Light), and Staccando l'ombra da terra (1994; Takeoff: The Pilot's Lore), described speculative intellectual encounters against a background of hyperrealistically observed technology.

      Other successes include the hilarious comic novels of Stefano Benni and of AIDS-generation author Pier Vittorio Tondelli, who burst upon the literary scene with the “on the road” stories of Altri libertini (1980; “Other Libertines”). Tondelli's demotic language and characters caused the book to be briefly banned. His career culminated with the reflections on grief, sickness, and death of Camere separate (1989; Separate Rooms). Also notable are the short stories and short novels of Antonio Tabucchi—for example, Notturno indiano (1984; Indian Nocturne) and Piccoli equivoci senza importanza (1985; Little Misunderstandings of No Importance). His Sostiene Pereira (1994; Pereira Declares: A Testimony) is the story of the 1938 crisis of conscience of a Lisbon journalist under the regime of António Oliviera de Salazar (Salazar, António de Oliveira). Conscientiously constructed are Roberto Pazzi's pseudo-historical novels Cercando l'imperatore (1985; Searching for the Emperor) and La principessa e il drago (1986; The Princess and the Dragon).

      One of the funniest, if not the most tasteful, of the younger writers of the last decades of the 20th century was the outrageous Aldo Busi, author of Seminario sulla gioventù (1984; Seminar on Youth) and the pertly titled Vita standard di un venditore provvisorio di collant (1985; Standard Life of a Temporary Pantyhose Salesman). Two of the most disinterested and earnestly reflective of the younger writers were Sebastiano Vassalli and especially Gianni Celati. Vassalli gradually distanced himself from the more radical experimentalism of Gruppo 63 so as to better exploit his gift for storytelling. La notte della cometa (1984; The Night of the Comet) is a fictionalized biography of the early 20th-century Orphic poet Dino Campana (Campana, Dino), while in the Strega Prize-winning La chimera (1990; The Chimera), perhaps taking a cue from historian Carlo Ginzburg as well as from Alessandro Manzoni (Manzoni, Alessandro), he reconstructs a 17th-century witch trial. Celati's early works paradoxically (for a writer so concerned with orality) took as their model the silent-film comedies of Buster Keaton (Keaton, Buster), though in the minimalist stories of Narratori delle pianure (1985; Voices from the Plains) and Quattro novelle sulle apparenze (1987; Appearances) and in his later melancholic, evocative nonfiction Celati strikes a more pensive, lyrical note. The work of antic surrealists Ermanno Cavazzoni and Daniele Benati, who collaborated with Celati on the periodical Il semplice, combines Keaton, Franz Kafka (Kafka, Franz), and echoes of the fantastic world of the romances of Ariosto and Matteo Boiardo (Boiardo, Matteo Maria, Conte Di Scandiano) and the macaronic parodies written by Teofilo Folengo (Folengo, Teofilo). Fellini's last film, La voce della luna (1990; The Voice of the Moon), was inspired by the picaresque Il poema dei lunatici (1987; “The Poems of the Lunatics”) of Cavazzoni. (As if to underline the predominance of visual media over the written word, the title of the novel's English translation is that of the movie version.) In the 21st century Benati would go on to write the novel Cani dell'inferno (2004; “Hounds of Hell”), set in a mysterious American city that doubles as the Netherworld and is inhabited by a series of deported Italians, all of whose names happen to begin with the letter P.

      With the late 20th century's global questioning of the literary canon and of inherited literary prejudices came a realignment of genres. Previously marginal genres such as the giallo (literally, “thrilling”)—detective fiction—moved to centre stage. Crime, seen from the point of view of the perpetrator, the victim, the avenger, or the investigator, formed the backbone of much Italian narrative at the turn of the 21st century. So popular was the formerly spurned giallo that many “serious” authors began to adapt its mechanisms to their heuristic purposes. Delitti di carta (“Paper Crimes”), an important literary periodical devoted wholly to the detective story, was founded in 1998. An English and American invention, the genre was, however, not without its classical Italian practitioners. But the distinction made by Graham Greene (Greene, Graham) between his “novels” and his “entertainments” reflected the general view in Italy that the thriller belonged to a minor genre. The movie Pulp Fiction (1994) by American director Quentin Tarantino provided a conspicuous rallying point for a surprisingly large group of antiestablishment writers, though it cannot be said to have sparked the formation of this group; among Tarantino's own influences was classic Italian horror film director Dario Argento. Generically referred to as pulpisti, these writers preferred to be known as the Giovani Cannibali (“Young Cannibals”), a name borrowed from the title of a collection of stories edited by Daniele Brolli (1996). The volumes of abstract theorization subsequently produced by defenders of the new style often reflected the fact that in Italian the loanword pulp does not bring with it the English connotations of the facile, shoddy, and cheap potboiler.

      Among the authors who made their debut in the stylized, blood-splattered, sadomasochistic world of the Cannibali—several of whom later curbed their early excesses (without, one hopes, compromising their principles) for the tamer successes of the market—are Niccolò Ammaniti, Tiziano Scarpa, Isabella Santacroce, Aldo Nove (pseudonym of Antonello Satta Centanin), Simona Vinci, Daniele Luttazzi, Silvia Ballestra, Luisa Brancaccio, Francesca Mazzucato, Matteo Galiazzo, and Carlo Lucarelli. Ammaniti's Io non ho paura (2001, film 2003; I'm Not Scared) chronicles a young boy's loss of innocence after he encounters the brutality of the adult world. No evidence of innocence exists in the microcosm described by Simona Vinci. Her Dei bambini non si sa niente (1997; Eng. trans. What We Don't Know About Children, or A Game We Play) opens a disturbing window onto the perverse and ultimately deadly private world of a group of children abandoned by their families to their own devices. Carlo Lucarelli's thriller Almost Blue (1997; the original and the English translation carried the same English-language title) was made into a film by Alex Infascelli in 2000. Its soundtrack—the music of Miles Davis (Davis, Miles), Chet Baker (Baker, Chet), and Coleman Hawkins (Hawkins, Coleman)—was already implicit in the book's title. The novel is set in Bologna, where police inspector Grazia Negro tracks a serial murderer who, chameleon-like, takes on the characteristics of his victims. She is aided in her investigation by the blind Simone Martini (his name is that of an early Italian painter) who with his ham radio is able to tune into the frequencies of the killer's thoughts.

Facing the new millennium
      The year 2000 came and went without apocalypse. The “Millennium Bug”—the threat that computers would be unable to recognize the year 2000—turned out to be just another urban legend, a media-generated nonevent; those in charge of the world's fragile economic superstructures congratulated themselves on their foresight and know-how. Meanwhile, in Italy a chain—the great chain, so to speak, of the centuries of civilization—had been broken. The sequence of designations for the centuries—Duecento, Trecento, Quattrocento, and so on—that had accompanied and defined the phases of classical Italian culture since its late medieval stirrings reached its terminus with the close of the Novecento, or 20th century. The first century of the new millennium would have no such convenient and reassuring label. Literary and artistic historians, as they snipped 100-year lengths from the chain and displayed their common characteristics, were always careful to stress the seamless continuity that actually underlay this segmenting and the artificiality of these convenient chronological divisions, which had been introduced, they were at pains to point out, for purely didactic purposes.

      In the eyes of a number of cultural commentators at the beginning of the 21st century, however, the new millennium promised to give these reassurances the lie. There would be no continuity between the 20th and 21st centuries. Many concurred with the sentiments of William Butler Yeats (Yeats, William Butler)'s poem "The Second Coming" (1921): “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” One such catastrophist was the critic and novelist Franco Ferrucci. His intelligent essay "La fine delle letterature nazionali" (“The End of National Literatures”)—which caps the first of two supplemental volumes (Scenari di fine secolo [2001; “End-of-Century Scenarios”]) of the monumental Storia della letteratura italiana (“History of Italian Literature”), begun in 1965 by editors Emilio Cecchi (Cecchi, Emilio) and Natalino Sapegno—is an acerbically witty and nostalgic farewell to literature and criticism as it was known in the 20th century.

Anthony Oldcorn Ed.

Additional Reading

General surveys
Histories of Italian literature include Francesco de Sanctis, History of Italian Literature, trans. by Joan Redfern, 2 vol. (1930, reissued 1968; trans. from Italian new ed., 1912), the classic 19th-century interpretation; Robert Anderson Hall, A Short History of Italian Literature (1951); Ernest Hatch Wilkins, A History of Italian Literature, rev. by Thomas G. Bergin (1974); and J.H. Whitfield and J.R. Woodhouse, A Short History of Italian Literature, 2nd ed. (1980). The most reliable guide is Peter Brand and Lino Pertile (eds.), The Cambridge History of Italian Literature, rev. ed. (1999). Hermann W. Haller, The Other Italy: The Literary Canon in Dialect (1999), treats dialect literature. Peter Bondanella, Julia Conaway Bondanella, and Jody Robin Shiffman (eds.), Dictionary of Italian Literature, rev., expanded ed. (1996), is an alphabetically arranged guide to authors, genres, schools, and periods. Also useful is Rinaldina Russell (ed.), Italian Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook (1994).Standard reference works in Italian are Vittore Branca (ed.), Dizionario critico della letteratura italiana, 2nd ed., 4 vol. (1986, reprinted 1992); Enciclopedia della letteratura Garzanti, 3rd ed., updated and enlarged (1997); Marco Drago and Andrea Boroli, L'enciclopedia della letteratura (1997); and Giulio Ferroni, Storia della letteratura italiana, 4 vol. (1991). Nino Borsellino and Lucio Felici (eds.), Il Novocento: scenari di fine secolo, 2 vol. (2001), is an exhaustive treatment of Italian literary culture.

Poetry anthologies
Among the anthologies of Italian poetry in translation, arranged in chronological order of publication, are St. John Lucas (compiler), The Oxford Book of Italian Verse: XIIIth Century–XIXth Century, 2nd ed. rev. (1952, reissued 1968); L.R. Lind (ed.), Lyric Poetry of the Italian Renaissance: An Anthology with Verse Translations (1954, reissued 1976); George R. Kay (ed.), The Penguin Book of Italian Verse (1958, reissued 1972); Thomas G. Bergin (trans.), Italian Sampler: An Anthology of Italian Verse (1964); G. Singh (trans. and compiler), Contemporary Italian Verse (1968); L.R. Lind (ed.), Twentieth Century Italian Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology (1974); Joseph Tusiani (trans. and compiler), From Marino to Marinetti: An Anthology of Forty Italian Poets (1974); Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann (eds.), Italian Poetry Today: Currents and Trends (1979); Alessandro Perosa and John Sparrow (compilers and eds.), Renaissance Latin Verse: An Anthology (1979); Beverly Allen, Muriel Kittel, and Keala Jane Jewell (eds.), Italian Feminist Poems from the Middle Ages to the Present: A Bilingual Anthology (1986); Lawrence R. Smith (ed. and trans.), The New Italian Poetry, 1945 to the Present: A Bilingual Anthology (1981); Adriano Spatola and Paul Vangelisti (eds.), Italian Poetry, 1960–1980: From Neo to Post Avant-Garde (1982); Alessandro Gentili and Catherine O'Brien (eds.), The Green Flame: Contemporary Italian Poetry with English Translations (1987); Hermann W. Haller (compiler and trans.), The Hidden Italy: A Bilingual Edition of Italian Dialect Poetry (1986); Arturo Vivante (compiler and trans.), Italian Poetry: An Anthology from the Beginnings to the Present (1996); and Laura Anna Stortoni (ed. and trans.) and Mary Prentice Lillie (trans.), Women Poets of the Italian Renaissance: Courtly Ladies and Courtesans (1997).

Historical periods and authors
The 13th century (Duecento)
Useful works in English on the 13th century include Ezra Pound, The Spirit of Romance (1910, reprinted 1968); Joseph Tusiani (trans. and compiler), The Age of Dante: An Anthology of Early Italian Poetry (1974); Christopher Kleinhenz, The Early Italian Sonnet: The First Century (1220–1321) (1986); Frede Jensen (ed. and trans.), The Poetry of the Sicilian School (1986); H. Wayne Storey (Wayne Storey), Transcription and Visual Poetics in the Early Italian Lyric (1993); Frede Jensen (ed. and trans.), Tuscan Poetry of the Duecento: An Anthology (1994); Peter Dronke, The Medieval Lyric, 3rd ed. (1996); Olivia Holmes, Assembling the Lyric Self: Authorship from Troubadour Song to Italian Poetry Book (2000); and Dana E. Stewart and Alison Cornish (eds.), Sparks and Seeds: Medieval Literature and Its Aftermath (2000).

The 14th century (Trecento)
The 14th century is the age of three of Italy's greatest writers: Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio (Boccaccio, Giovanni). Books on these authors will be found in the individual articles devoted to them. Of interest is Louis Green, Chronicle into History: An Essay on the Interpretation of History in Florentine Fourteenth-Century Chronicles (1972).

The 15th century (Quattrocento)
Works on the 15th century include David Marsh, The Quattrocento Dialogue: Classical Tradition and Humanist Innovation (1980); Thomas M. Greene, The Light in Troy: Imitation and Discovery in Renaissance Poetry (1982); Martin L. McLaughlin, Literary Imitation in the Renaissance: The Theory and Practice of Literary Imitation in Italy from Dante to Bembo (1995); Charles Trinkaus, In Our Image and Likeness: Humanity and Divinity in Italian Humanist Thought, 2 vol. (1970, reissued 1996); Jill Kraye (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism (1996); Stephen Murphy, The Gift of Immortality: Myths of Power and Humanist Poetics (1997); Vittore Branca (ed.), Merchant Writers of the Italian Renaissance from Boccaccio to Machiavelli, trans. from Italian by Murtha Buca (1999); Lauro Martines, Strong Words: Writing & Social Strain in the Italian Renaissance (2001); and William J. Connell (ed.), Society and Individual in Renaissance Florence (2002).

The 16th century (Cinquecento)
Literary studies of the period include Bernard Weinberg, A History of Literary Criticism in the Italian Renaissance, 2 vol. (1961, reprinted 1974); Baxter Hathaway, The Age of Criticism: The Late Renaissance in Italy (1962, reissued 1972); Thomas M. Greene, The Descent from Heaven: A Study in Epic Continuity (1963, reissued 1975); Robert M. Durling, The Figure of the Poet in Renaissance Epic (1965); A. Bartlett Giamatti, The Earthly Paradise and the Renaissance Epic (1966, reissued 1989); Harry Levin, The Myth of the Golden Age in the Renaissance (1969, reissued 1972); Peter V. Marinelli, Pastoral (1971); Renato Poggioli, The Oaten Flute: Essays on Pastoral Poetry and the Pastoral Ideal (1975); Peter Hainsworth et al. (eds.), The Languages of Literature in Renaissance Italy (1988); Jon R. Snyder, Writing the Scene of Speaking: Theories of Dialogue in the Late Italian Renaissance (1989); Alison Brown (ed.), Language and Images of Renaissance Italy (1995); Dennis Looney, Compromising the Classics: Romance and Epic Narrative in the Italian Renaissance (1996); and Deanna Shemek, Ladies Errant: Wayward Women and Social Order in Early Modern Italy (1998).Works on drama, including the commedia dell'arte, are Marvin T. Herrick, Tragicomedy: Its Origin and Development in Italy, France, and England (1955, reissued 1962), Italian Comedy in the Renaissance (1960, reissued 1970), and Italian Tragedy in the Renaissance (1965); Douglas Radcliff-Umstead, The Birth of Modern Comedy in Renaissance Italy (1969); Thomas F. Heck, Commedia dell'Arte: A Guide to the Primary and Secondary Literature (1988); Louise George Clubb, Italian Drama in Shakespeare's Time (1989); Kenneth Richards and Laura Richards, The Commedia dell'Arte: A Documentary History (1989); and Richard Andrews, Scripts and Scenarios: The Performance of Comedy in Renaissance Italy (1993).Prominent Italian women writers of the Renaissance are discussed in Ann Rosalind Jones, The Currency of Eros: Women's Love Lyric in Europe 1540–1620 (1990); Constance Jordan, Renaissance Feminism: Literary Texts and Political Models (1990); Marilyn Migiel and Juliana Schiesari (eds.), Refiguring Woman: Perspectives on Gender and the Italian Renaissance (1991); Juliana Schiesari, The Gendering of Melancholia: Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Symbolics of Loss in Renaissance Literature (1992); and Letizia Panizza (ed.), Women in Italian Renaissance Culture and Society (1998).

The 17th century (Seicento)
Aldo Scaglione and Gianni Eugenio Viola (eds.), The Image of the Baroque (1995), is a collection of essays on the literature of the period. The origins of opera are traced in Robert Donington, The Rise of Opera (1981); Ellen Rosand, Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice: The Creation of a Genre (1991); David Kimbell, Italian Opera (1991); and F.W. Sternfeld, The Birth of Opera (1993).

The 18th century (Settecento)
A major study of Italian intellectual history in the age of the Enlightenment is Dino Carpanetto and Giuseppe Ricuperati, Italy in the Age of Reason, 1685–1789 (1987).

The 19th century (Ottocento)
General works include F.W.J. Hemmings (ed.), The Age of Realism (1974); and Carolyn Springer, The Marble Wilderness: Ruins and Representation in Italian Romanticism, 1775–1850 (1987). Lucienne Kroha, The Woman Writer in Late-Nineteenth-Century Italy: Gender and the Formation of Literary Identity (1992); and David Del Principe, Rebellion, Death, and Aesthetics in Italy: The Demons of Scapigliatura (1996), are specialized studies.

The 20th century (Novecento)
Italian fiction of the 20th century is examined in Donald Heiney, Three Italian Novelists: Moravia, Pavese, Vittorini (1968); Sergio Pacifici (ed.), From Verismo to Experimentalism: Essays on the Modern Italian Novel (1969); John Gatt-Rutter, Writers and Politics in Modern Italy (1978); Gregory L. Lucente, The Narrative of Realism and Myth: Verga, Lawrence, Faulkner, Pavese (1981), and Beautiful Fables: Self-Consciousness in Italian Narrative from Manzoni to Calvino (1986); Michael Caesar and Peter Hainsworth (eds.), Writers & Society in Contemporary Italy: A Collection of Essays (1984, reissued 1986); Zygmunt G. Barański and Lino Pertile (eds.), The New Italian Novel (1993); and Robert S. Dombroski, Properties of Writing: Ideological Discourse in Modern Italian Fiction (1994). Augustus Pallotta (ed.), Italian Novelists Since World War II, 1945–1965 (1997), and Italian Novelists Since World War II, 1965–1995 (1999), together constitute a comprehensive historical survey.Women's prose is the subject of Bruce Merry, Women in Modern Italian Literature: Four Studies Based on the Work of Grazia Deledda, Alba De Céspedes, Natalia Ginzburg, and Dacia Maraini (1990); Santo L. Aricò, Contemporary Women Writers in Italy: A Modern Renaissance (1990); Sharon Wood, Italian Women's Writing, 1860–1994 (1995); Maria Ornella Marotti and Gabriella Brooke (eds.), Gendering Italian Fiction: Feminist Revisions of Italian History (1999); and Rita Wilson, Speculative Identities: Contemporary Italian Women's Narrative (2000).The cinematic adaptation of works of prose fiction is treated in Millicent Marcus, Filmmaking by the Book: Italian Cinema and Literary Adaptation (1993). The pulp-fiction phenomenon is discussed in Stefania Lucamante (ed. and trans.), Italian Pulp Fiction: The New Narrative of the Giovani Cannibali Writers (2001); and Ellen Nerenberg, “Pulp Fiction, ‘Italian Style,' ” in Robert S. Dombroski (ed.), Italy: Fiction, Theater, Poetry, Film Since 1950 (2000). Jane House and Antonio Attisani (eds.), Twentieth-Century Italian Drama: An Anthology: The First Fifty Years (1995), is the first volume of a representative collection of Italian plays in English translation.General studies in 20th-century Italian poetry include F.J. Jones, The Modern Italian Lyric (1986); Joseph Cary, Three Modern Italian Poets: Saba, Ungaretti, Montale, 2nd ed. (1993); and Thomas E. Peterson, The Rose in Contemporary Italian Poetry (2000). Two useful collections of biographical essays are Giovanna Wedel De Stasio, Glauco Cambon, and Antonio Iliano (eds.), Twentieth-Century Italian Poets: First Series (1992), and Twentieth-Century Italian Poets: Second Series (1993). Anthony Oldcorn Ed.

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Universalium. 2010.

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