Academic journal article Annali d'Italianistica

Maria Ginanni vs. F. T. Marinetti: Women, Speed, and War in Futurist Italy

Academic journal article Annali d'Italianistica

Maria Ginanni vs. F. T. Marinetti: Women, Speed, and War in Futurist Italy

Article excerpt

Experimentation, Gender, Time, Space, and Speed in Wartime Futurism

Even before it was published as a volume, F. T. Marinetti's Come si seducono le donne became the object of a lively debate on the pages of L 'Italia futurista, the principal wartime Futurist journal, published in Florence from June 1, 1916 to February 11, 1918. The debate was stirred by previews and publicity, and included reactions by Futurist women that were hardly positive. (1) The need was generally felt among the contributors to appear undivided in time of war, and loyal to the Futurist leader who was then at the front (or in the hospital recovering from wounds); yet a number of interventions published by L'Italia futurista, including articles by Rosa Rosa and Enif Robert, were openly critical of Marinetti's book. The controversy soon turned into a wider discussion on woman, gender, and war, which took off on its own and became a prominent feature of the journal. Not only was there a semi-regular column devoted to the "woman question," but issues of gender emerged often on the journal's pages over the three years during which it was published. This was due in part to the participation of women, a new phenomenon in the cultural history of Italy.

A reading of the articles by Rosa and Robert, and of the multiple other clashing interventions, indicates that interpreters of L'Italia futurista have underestimated or misrepresented the journal's richly conflictual and multifaceted nature in the context of the war years. Critics have tended to emphasize cohesiveness and a "group spirit" among the editors and contributors of L 'Italia futurista, but this was really only a front. (2) At the same time, they have minimized the importance of women's interventions, and of the debate on woman, which has usually been seen as marginal or uninteresting. (3) A non-conflictual, homogenizing reading of L'Italia futurista is indeed possible only if women's contributions and the question of gender are ignored or cut out of the picture. Other critics instead have objected to the journal's lack of cohesiveness, its eclecticism, and its failure to be rigorous and selective in terms of literary quality. (4) The latter is an argument that--only thinly disguised--resuscitates standard objections in Italian culture to women's writing, whose value was traditionally thought to be inferior, appropriate only for popular or "mass" literature. Yet the intention of L'Italia futurista was precisely to distance itself from traditional notions of art and even from previous forms of elitist experimentalism by opening up to a wide variety of contributors and readers, including women, common soldiers, and members of the youngest generations. The significance and originality of L'Italia futurista can in fact be fully grasped only by highlighting the question of gender, for it was a central rather than marginal aspect of the journal, and it had key repercussions on several levels involving the social and political meaning of the war as well as the cultural history of the avant-garde.

The journal displayed the heightened and new creative interdisciplinarity of Futurism, and promoted the formation of new gender configurations as well as new genres, and the contamination of the esthetic with other codes. Drawings and texts by well-known first-generation Futurists such as Balla, Boccioni, Soffici, Cangiullo, Balilla Pratella and Folgore were published in L'Italia futurista along with those of new, younger Futurists, as well as works by rising stars, such as Depero, who were unknown and previously unpublished at the time, from different social classes and backgrounds, and (although the journal was published in Florence) from all over Italy, including the South. The journal is often referred to as the organ of second-wave "Florentine futurism," yet of the founding editors only Emilio Settimelli (and almost none of the contributors) was from Florence. Mario Carli was from near Foggia (in the Puglie region of southern Italy), Remo Chiti was from Staggia Senese, and the Ginanni-Corradini brothers (futuristically nicknamed Bruno Corra and Arnaldo Ginna) were from Ravenna. …

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