Academic journal article Italica

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Venezianella E Studentaccio

Academic journal article Italica

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Venezianella E Studentaccio

Article excerpt

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Venezianella e Studentaccio. A cura di Patrizio Ceccagnoli e Paolo Valesio. Milano: Mondadori, 2013.

Culled from the Marinetti Archives deposited at the Beinecke Library at Yale University and written in the heat of the annus horribilis 1943-44, Venezianella e Studentaccio (V & S) is a difficult text to read primarily because it can be considered an unfinished work, the author being ill and, in fact, dying a short time thereafter. Credit goes to Paolo Valesio and Patrizio Ceccagnoli for re-constructing a near Definitive Version of this extraordinary text from the extant manuscripts, written in part by hand, in part dictated to his daughter, and with many interpolations.

But V & S is a difficult text to read for two additional and obvious reasons: one is that readers would immediately tend to consider it a last installment in a series of novels that had made the reputation of the author as a violent unscrupulous proto--and pro-fascist writer--from Mafarka to Gli indomabili and Come si nutriva l'ardito; and the other is that Marinetti's writing being un-conventional (I am trying a word that is not a critical term), that is to say, an aesthetic construct, it has caused critics of all stripes all sorts of problems. This kind of experimentalism feels distant, "untimely," these days.

But the two critical currents or issues cannot be separated, for the first line of thought ends up reading art and literature as essentially denotative and therefore as if they were documents of an intentional, referential politics or ethos, which is often erroneous if not myopic: this applies to propaganda literature, and does not do justice to the broad range of images, ideas, and critical stimuli that a work evokes and often germinates. In other words, one has to consider rather that the second issue, that of V & S being primarily a work of art, is the larger and more originary category of which the political and the material are a later, regional subset. In his thorough Introduction, Valesio repeats in various places that of course the aesthetic contains an ethic dimension, suggesting that the novel may serve as an interpretive pathway toward an understanding of the society in which it is produced, but the relationship should never be thought in terms of cause and effect, sign and referent, or, worse, word = thing.

And yet, aware of the tendency in some quarters of the academy to read literary words as intrinsically partisan with whatever political organization happens to run a country or culture, I can claim, and in agreement with the editor of the volume, that, 1) in this novel there is no escapism, but plenty of clues, references, and symbolizations of the civil war raging in Italy at the time; and 2) that indeed if there is a re-consideration of the obscenity of fascism, and implicitly of his earlier work, then V & S is clearly a palinode, not necessarily a retraction but something more akin to a reconfiguration of earlier aesthetic-political conventions.

This would require a lengthy explanation. Let me simply state that Marinetti's Venice is still replete with nobles and ogres, opportunists and scoundrels which may represent not only the fascists, but the greater social haute bourgeois reality that continues to erect museums, sends Hallmark cards and waxes poetically if pathetically in the glories of the past, a past for which since antiquity each nation sings the great deeds of blood and valor and achievement and so on. (I am reminded of Simone Weil's thoughts on the Iliad as "the poem of force," and that we made of power and mayhem supreme values in Western civilization). For the danger with a great deal of academic criticism is that it tends, unbeknownst to itself, to be moralizing, and there is no greater curse on interpretation than moralizing over actions past, writing as if Monday morning quarterbacks telling whoever is within earshot what should have been done in the game, what went wrong and who's the culprit. …

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