High Points in the History of Italian Literature

By Domenico Vittorini | Go to book overview

Pirandello and the Concept of Reality

THIS short chapter is primarily concerned with the meaning that such terms as real, reality, and realism assumed in the mind and art of Luigi Pirandello.

The meaning of these terms has varied throughout the ages. One of the first to focus his attention on the relationship between life and art was Aristotle, one of the great men of antiquity. In his famous booklet, Poetics, he defined poetry as "mimesis or imitation of nature." By nature, however, he meant the immutable and eternal pattern that underlies the phenomenical world. He followed the Platonically conceptual point of view that had blossomed in the perfect creations of the classical era, represented by Homer, Phidias, and Sophocles. Not much was added to this investigation during the centuries of the Renaissance, when the term verisimilitude, as applied to art, reflected the same attitude as that of the author of the Poetics.

Pirandello, as a teacher of Italian literature in the Istituto Femminile di Magistero, a sort of teachers' college in Rome, was very much interested in aesthetics and reacted against the Renaissance sense of realism as well as that of the naturalism of the late nineteenth century. He pronounced himself, with unmistakable clarity, against both the Humanistic trend in the Italian literature of the Renaissance and against the narrow sense that the naturalists of the late nineteenth century gave to the term realism.

Luigi Pirandello was born in Sicily in 1867 and died in Rome in 1936. He was awarded the Nobel prize in literature in 1934, a clear recognition of the universal appeal and significance of his art. Pirandello lived his not-too-happy life astride the last century and our own, bridging two very distinct ages, that of the objective naturalism of the late nineteenth century and that of the imaginative or subjective naturalism of our own. His early literary work,

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