Academic journal article Annali d'Italianistica

Elsa Morante's la Storia: A Posthumanist, Feminist, Anarchist Response to Power

Academic journal article Annali d'Italianistica

Elsa Morante's la Storia: A Posthumanist, Feminist, Anarchist Response to Power

Article excerpt

Following the publication of La storia in 1974, Morante was attacked by representatives of all political persuasions who took issue with those parts of her message that did not coincide with their own ideology. (1) A group of leftist intellectuals went so far as to write an article for II Manifesto, "Contro il romanzone della Morante," and even her close friend Pier Paolo Pasolini publicly denounced her novel, claiming that she wrote "senza tuttavia (a mio parere) aver meditato abbastanza su tale ideologizzazione e di conseguenza sul proprio progetto narrativo" 77 ("without having [in my view] sufficiently meditated on such an ideologization and consequently on her own narrative project"). It would be more accurate to say, however, that Morante's meditation led her to distrust the prevailing ideologies of the period. (2) Her political vision cannot be understood by applying the narrow, horizontal categories of Left vs. Right since it tends to move in a different spatial direction altogether, a vertical axis in which state power is opposed to freedom. As she states in her 1970 letter "Piccolo manifesto dei comunisti (senza classe ne partito)," the true struggle of humanity is that of liberty against power--"il disonore dell'uomo e il Potere" ("the dishonor of mankind is Power")--whereas "l'onore dell'uomo e la liberta dello spirito" (7-8; "the honor of mankind is liberty of the spirit"; emphasis in the original). The title of this brief work clarifies right from the start that although Morante employs the term communist--whether to engage head-on with the Left or simply for her lack of a more appropriate term--she empties it of its conventional meaning by rejecting the two basic tenets of Italian communism: class opposition and political party affiliation. (3) The academy has only recently begun to seriously consider the political aspects of Morante's work. Most notably, the 2014 volume Elsa Morante's Politics of Writing: Rethinking Subjectivity, History, and the Power of Art offers various essays devoted to La storiai political dimension. Sharon Wood, for example, reads the novel as "an effort at restoration, a philosophical rather than party political refusal of official history that negates individual experience in favor of the political narrative" (76); Stefania Lucamante similarly interprets Morante's message as acting against "politics intended as freedom but understood, rather, in terms of an administrative machine whose only tasks are bureaucracy and exercise of force against the Other" (94). (4) In another recent volume, Lorenza Rocco Carbone finds that the novel reveals that "il crollo delle ideologie puo indurre a considerare sine ira che nazismo e comunismo, aspetti di una stessa ideologia--il totalitarismo, padre di tutte le illusioni--, sono entrambi colpevoli contro l'Uomo" 103-04 ("the fall of ideologies can induce one to consider sine ira that nazism and communism, two sides of the same ideology --totalitarianism, father of all illusions--are both guilty against Humanity"). Yet the novel does more than simply denounce the system: it presents the possibility of a completely different paradigm. As this essay argues, La storia imagines an alternative world in which a series of hierarchical binary relations are reversed: Morante privileges not only personal stories over institutional History, and female nurturing over male aggression, but also animals over humans, children over adults, individual spirituality over established religion, and, most relevant from a political standpoint, anarchism over statism. By flipping these key relations, Morante not only critiques the traditional structures of power but offers an antidote to counteract the effects of a diseased world on several fronts. The theoretical lens of seemingly different movements--posthumanism, feminism, and anarchism--helps to uncover a fundamental ethical engagement at the core of Morante's novel: the condemnation of any form of oppression or aggression against sentient beings by those wielding power. …

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