Academic journal article Annali d'Italianistica

Dangerous Appetites: Sex and the Inorganic in F. T. Marinetti's Erotic Short Stories

Academic journal article Annali d'Italianistica

Dangerous Appetites: Sex and the Inorganic in F. T. Marinetti's Erotic Short Stories

Article excerpt

"La morte forse non e che un punto dell'infinito dove si comincia a gustare la vita" F. T. Marinetti ("La locomotiva blu" in Novelle 256)

"Things do not exist without being full of people" Bruno Latour (cited in Brown 12)

As Domenico Cammarota's implicitly suggests in his informative introduction to the most recent edition of F. T. Marinetti's Novelle colle labbra tinte (1930) (from now on: Novelle), the contribution of Italian Futurism to the literary trend of the "social-erotic" novel--a popular genre of consumer fiction widely published in the early decades of the twentieth century--is substantial. So far, however, few scholars have critically addressed the subject and, similarly, not many publishers have been interested in reprinting almost anything but those texts which Marinetti himself authored or co-authored. As a consequence, while his Novelle and his earlier collection of short stories Scatole d'amore in conserva (1927), his "didactic, 'hygienic' treatise" (Blum 90) Come si seducono le donne (1917), his novels Isola dei baci (with Bruno Corra) (1918) and L'alcova d'acciaio (1921) have all enjoyed recent re-publications, other representative examples of this futurist narrative sub-genre--for example, Emilio Settimelli's Donna allo spiedo (1921), Francesco Cangiullo's Nini Champagne. Romanzo vivo (1920), Fillia's L'uomo senza sesso (1927) and Lussuria radioelettrica (1925) or Angelo Rognoni 's Carne (1918)--are still waiting to be rediscovered.

Regardless of their critical or publishing status, the revealing titles above confirm the general tendency of Futurism to understand woman as a sexual object to be seduced and possessed. Moreover, romantic love is viewed as a quickly disappearing sensation, to be substituted with one which, like food, can be possibly put "in conserva." Finally, sexuality is considered a function which emblematically oscillates between the spheres of the organic and the inorganic --or, just to follow the suggestions of the titles, between "carne" and "champagne" on the one hand, and "acciaio," "spiedo," and "radioelettric[ita]," on the other.

Not surprisingly, Cinzia Sartini Blum, one of the scholars who has written influential pages on the social-erotic genre as an important part of the Futurist discourse on love and war, observed that "the most revealing emblem of Marinetti's attitude toward reality is the recurrence of alimentary imagery." (1) (With some distinctions, this statement also applies to many of Marinetti's companions.) She thus suggests that the "erotic scenarios" provided by these narratives, in which "gustatory and alimentary metaphors are stock material" (93-94) are a privileged context for examining the close link among sex, food, identity, and aesthetic creativity.

Blum's analysis, in this particular section of her study, makes use of feminist and psychoanalytical theory and the methodological lens of gender in order to demonstrate how Marinetti's and Futurism's aggressive, assimilative, carnivorous rhetoric is a mechanism which simultaneously betrays an anxiety and reacts to the threat that "the engulfing feminine" (82) represents for male identity and power. As she puts it, "the increasingly active role played by women in modern society was a persistent source of concern for the futurists" and, therefore, "a healthy, ego-boosting 'diet' of seduced women [was deemed necessary] to sustain [contemporary man's] masculine identity" (81, 89).

Her observations cover several contexts and times in which Marinetti addressed "questions of sexual politics" (81) but, as far as the specifics of the erotic genre are concerned, focus mostly on Bruno Corra and Emilio Settimelli's preface to Marinetti's Come si seducono le donne and, with regard to his Novelle, on "La carne congelata" (a.k.a. "Come si nutriva l'ardito"). Blum convincingly illustrates both the connection among ingestion, assimilation, identity, and the cycle of artistic production and consumption on the one hand, and the "ambivalent effects of desire" which, playing out through opposite dynamics of objectification and idealization, end up "dissolving the boundaries of [male] identity" (97). …

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