NeMLA 2020 Panel – Call for Papers

Pirandello and Scientific Revolution

This panel investigates the influence that scientific advances in the modern(ist) era had on Luigi Pirandello and his contemporaries. The scientific revolutions occurring across the 19th and the 20th centuries put literature and the arts in a prolific dialogue with fields as diverse as technology, industry, architecture, and physics (among others). Discoveries and advances in this time period inspired and reshaped the work of Pirandello and his fellow intellectuals, impacting their thought and modernist writing style. We aim to shed light on the intersection of art with narratives of scientific progress as well as specific scientific advances, on the one hand, and on the role that Pirandello and his contemporaries played in defining the modernist intellectual trends of the moment, on the other.


This panel investigates the influence that scientific advances in the modern(ist) era had on Luigi Pirandello and his contemporaries, spanning scientific disciplines and fields such as technology, industry, and architecture. How did discoveries and advances in this time period inspire and reshape the work of Pirandello and his fellow intellectuals? What is the relationship between these advances and these writers’ reshaping of modernist style?

Session Chair: Lisa Sarti

Please submit your abstract (max 300 words) through the following web site URL by September 30th, 2019:

PSA XXXI – Pirandello in New York: “Raison d’être: An Evening of Pirandello”

In the Pirandello Society of America’s recent edition of the PSA journal, Jana O’Keefe Bazzoni talks to Jennifer Jewell and Patrick Mulryan about their recent collaboration on Raison d’être: An Evening with Pirandello. Jewell (actor and producer) and Mulryan (director and adaptor) tell PSA‘s O’Keefe Bazzoni about their experimental approach to Pirandello, as their 2018 theatre piece featured new translations and a collage of three plays: Six Characters in Search of an Author, Chee-Chee and The Man with a Flower in his Mouth.

Below is John L. DiGaetani’s review of the performance. You can find the entire conversation with Jewell and Mulryan, as well as this and other reviews in the 2019 PSA journal!

Pirandello in New York: “Raison d’être: An Evening of Pirandello”

John L. DiGaetani

 Hofstra University

“Raison d’être: An Evening of Pirandello” sounded suspiciously like a mish-mash to me when I read about the production, but when I saw the performance I was very pleased. The author of the adaptation, Patrick Mulryan, followed Six Characters in Search of an Author as a main text but used two other Pirandello plays to populate the stage with characters. Chee-Chee introduced the play and The Man with the Flower in his Mouth appeared toward the end. This all sounds very weird, but the combination made for a lively evening of Pirandellian theater. After all, Max Reinhardt’s production of the play in Berlin in the ’20s had already altered the play with the addition of details from other Pirandellian plays. The characters originally featuring in Six Characters are not the liveliest, and adding other elements can increase the effectiveness of the play. Pirandello himself was even willing to approve such adaptations.

Mulryan’s adaptation succeeded in keeping the audience interested in what was occurring onstage, despite a minimalist production and uneven acting.  The lighting was evocative and the stage was large—in the basement of a church in an off-Broadway location, in a theater called Theatre 71 at Blessed Sacrament. Though Pirandello was not known for being a good Catholic, Pirandellian theater happened here all the same.

In directing the play, Mulryan kept the action moving and the audience engaged.  Among the actors impersonating the six Characters, Nora Armani was especially moving as the Mother. Even though she had few lines, she was able to keep the audience interested in her and her suffering. The actor playing the Son, David Klein, was especially effective at dramatizing the cynical reserve of this character, while David Linden’s Father maintained a reserved innocence and kept defending it, despite the facts before him. Lucie Allouche’s Step-Daughter brought a convincing mania to her unhappy character. Toward the end, Melissa Eddy Quilty’s Madame Pace generated a comic, absurdist tragedy that altered the situation. Jennifer Jewell became especially moving as the Man with the Flower, bringing a clown-like comedy to his desperate monologue.

Overall, the performance succeeded in generating the comic absurdity so characteristic of Pirandellian tragedy. One hopes that this company will pursue and stage other examples in the history of Italian theater, as well. Venice in the 18th century remains a particularly fertile ground for Italian theater, with its two great Carlos: the realistic Carlo Goldoni and the surreal Carlo Gozzi, who had such a great effect on l9th and 20th century Italian and German opera—including on Pirandello himself.

PSA XXXI – William Weaver’s translation of One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand

William Weaver’s compelling translation of One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand, was first published in 1990 and has since gone out of print, becoming increasingly difficult to find. But in October 2018, a new press based in California, Spurl Editions, re-issued Weaver’s translation, bringing the unforgettable voice and sometimes disturbing vision of Pirandello’s protagonist, Vitangelo Moscarda, back to English readers again.

In November of 2018, PSA’s Michael Subialka sat down with the editor of Spurl Editions, Eva Richter, to discuss the press’s recent publication of William Weaver’s translation. You can find the rest of this conversation in the PSA journal’s recently-published 31st edition.

Filippo Balbi, “Testa anatomica”

MS: We can’t help but point out the cover image you’ve chosen for the new edition, featuring Filippo Balbi’s painting “Testa anatomica.” Can you tell us more about what made you opt for this image?

ER: I came across this painting even before starting Spurl Editions. I thought it was beautiful, with the muted green-brown background accentuating the odd stretching men’s bodies that form the bodiless head. I thought it would make an eye-catching book cover; when I read Pirandello’s novel, it seemed to fit it perfectly. The multiple figures that make up the painted portrait call back to the novel’s theme that a person does not have one identity that is fixed in time, but rather multiple identities, based on who the person is with, where he is, how he perceives things around him, how he sees himself at that moment, and, further, the inevitable multiplicity of identities that any fictional character (such as Moscarda) takes on, based on who is reading the novel. The head itself, since it has no eyes or body, also seems somehow empty in the way that Moscarda ultimately seems to have emptied himself in the end.

MS: This connection between the image and Moscarda’s experience of multiplicity and self-dissolution seems compelling and speaks to a major theme across Pirandello’s works. In his famous essay from 1908, On Humor (L’umorismo), Pirandello argues that the self is indeed multiple and changing and that we need to be able to see ourselves from outside in order to jar ourselves out of our static self-conception toward a more vital one – much in the way that Moscarda’s journey of self-rediscovery begins with his estranged experience of seeing his own face. I think lots of us can probably relate to seeing ourselves in the mirror and feeling detached, or hearing someone else’s description of us and not recognizing ourselves. Do you think we’re meant to relate to this experience, or is Pirandello drawing something more like a limit case, something that we recognize but that also far exceeds our own, usual experiences?

ER: I agree that Pirandello is drawing something like a limit case, which is bound to exceed our own experiences. It is interesting to me that the narrative expressly acknowledges this—there are multiple instances where Moscarda remarks that although his thought processes may seem familiar to any reader, there is something essentially different about where Moscarda’s thoughts are taking him. Maybe, in this way, the reader is meant to become more alienated from him/herself through reading the novel. Those thoughts that the reader has, over many years, become accustomed to now seem strange, grotesque, and extreme, when viewed through the refracted lens of this narrative. The reader is forced to look at their own seemingly benign self-reflection as only the half-formed beginning of an idea that must lead to a total revolution of the self.

MS: This idea of a total revolution of the self speaks to what you mentioned before about Moscarda ending up “empty” by the end of the novel. Can you say more about that? Do you think that the ecstatic kind of immersion that he experiences with nature in the closing part of One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand should be taken seriously, or do you think he has lost his mind? And, in turn, do you think this novel is ultimately positive or negative or neither or both?

ER: I think that those ideas or interpretations exist in an interesting tension with one another. To me, the notion that Moscarda is “empty” by the end of the novel has to do with the narrative’s ultimate rejection of all those things that make a typical fictional character a “character.” Moscarda rejects language, discourse, and human relationships for the “wordless” sphere of nature. This may be a positive development, especially because he has gone past the more solipsistic thoughts that obsessed him in the beginning—but, of course, there is also something a little sickening in Moscarda’s withdrawal. And, because Moscarda’s withdrawal marks the end of the novel, it is like witnessing this character’s death.

MS: Maybe since we’re talking about the disappearance of the novel’s protagonist, now is a good time to change topic and ask a bit more about the specific translation and some of its nuts and bolts. For example, we noticed that you thank Bard College for its support of the publication. Could you say more about their involvement?

ER: William Weaver, who translated One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand, as well as other works by Pirandello, was a professor of literature at Bard College for many years. Bard College licensed the rights to publish his excellent translation to us.

MS: Weaver’s translations of Pirandello and other Italian authors are by now “classics,” and he played a huge role in helping to bring modern Italian literature to English-language audiences. Are there any aspects of his rendering of this novel that you particularly like or find compelling, or any things that you would have liked to see done differently?

ER: I think Mr. Weaver did a wonderful job with this translation, as well as with his translation of The Late Mattia Pascal. His use of modern, generally conversational vocabulary helps to imbue Moscarda with a personality that feels genuine; conversely, Mr. Weaver’s use of syntactically complex sentences and structures conveys that sense of an increasingly vertiginous philosophical analysis.

MS: Vertiginous is such a good way of describing the feeling of the novel’s conceptual development, and it reminds us of Pirandello’s earlier novel, The Late Mattia Pascal (Il fu Mattia Pascal, 1904), which Weaver also translated into English. That novel begins with a “philosophical” preface in which the narrator depicts the world spinning in the void of space, making its inhabitants lurch here and there, pointlessly, until they die. A somewhat bleak, existentialist kind of outlook. The Late Mattia Pascal is still in print, recently re-released in the New York Review Books series of Italian titles. But of course many of Pirandello’s works are no longer available – or were never available – in English. Honestly, we find it somewhat baffling that despite his international fame, his Nobel Prize, and everything else, Pirandello’s works have still not been completely translated into English. As someone in the business, we wonder if you have any thoughts about what kinds of obstacles might have held that process up. Is this a specifically “American” problem (there is, for example, a “complete works” translation in German, which was edited by the prolific Pirandello scholar Michael Rössner)?

ER: We find it baffling as well! Yet this seems to be a fairly widespread issue in American publishing. In other countries (such as Germany, France, etc.), you regularly see the complete translated works of an author published by the same publisher. I am not sure if there is something about the American market that discourages this kind of thing, if maybe American readers just want to read the “one classic,” instead of a writer’s full life’s work. Hopefully translators and publishers will continue to bring Luigi Pirandello’s works into English, so that we non-Italian readers can have access to the range of his fascinating work.

PSA XXXI – Pirandello’s “Sicilianness” in Translation

In the PSA journal’s 31st edition the PSA editors asked a group of their contributors to talk about the ‘biggest issues facing translators’ of Pirandello. Amongst the numerous responses were two that dealt, crucially, with the ‘Sicilianness’ of Pirandello’s plays and the difficulties and possibilities that exist when one is translating out of such a specific language/dialect (cultural and linguistic). Elisa Segnini (Lecturer in Italian Studies at the University of Glasgow) and Enza De Francisci (Lecturer in Translation Studies at the University of Glasgow) both talk about translating Pirandello’s ‘Sicilian’ plays while Michael Rössner (Professor Emeritus of Romance Literatures at the University of Munich) wraps up the discussion with a note on translation in context.

We hope you enjoy the discussion, there will be more excerpts of the latest edition of the PSA journal to come!

In “Pirandello and Translation: A Conversation across the Field” the PSA editors asked a group of their contributors to talk about the ‘biggest issues facing translators’ of Pirandello. Amongst the numerous responses were two that dealt, crucially, with the ‘Sicilianness’ of Pirandello’s plays and the difficulties and possibilities that exist when one is translating out of such a specific language/dialect (cultural and linguistic). Elisa Segnini (Lecturer in Italian Studies at the University of Glasgow) and Enza De Francisci (Lecturer in Translation Studies at the University of Glasgow) both talk about translating Pirandello’s ‘Sicilian’ plays while Michael Rössner (Professor Emeritus of Romance Literatures at the University of Munich) wraps up the discussion with a note on translation in context. 

PSA: As you all point out, Pirandello’s history in translation can be as complicated as his stances on translation – with problems and questions but also exciting surprises. With that in mind: what do you think are the biggest issues or questions facing translators interested in Pirandello’s work? What are the biggest questions that scholars should consider when thinking about Pirandello’s work in relation to theories or practices of translation? 

Elisa Segnini: Today, the “Sicilian” plays offer interesting opportunities at a time in which we are going beyond the assumption that translations from dialect need to be mediated by national language before reaching international visibility. The key question is how to stress cultural and linguistic specificity in the target text without engaging in cultural appropriation, travesty, or even parody. Some of these issues emerged in relation to the recent adaptation of Liolà by Tanya Ronder, which was used for the 2013 production directed by Richard Eyre at the National Theatre. Eyre’s choice to cast Irish actors and use gipsy music reminded me of Crémieux’s decision to transpose Sicily into Corsica in the 1935 Parisian production of Questa sera si recita a soggetto. Both choices say something about the translator’s/director’s sensitivity to portrayals of cultural representations but, in suggesting cultural and temporal equivalence, are also problematic and controversial.

There are exciting possibilities for theatre translators and directors working with Pirandello today, although, as my experience has shown, concrete challenges remain. When, in 2014, I discussed the possibility of adapting a classic like Questa sera si recita a soggetto for the Canadian stage with theatre director Guglielmo Bernardi, we became immediately aware of the obstacles. First, the play is extremely demanding in terms of production, as it combines the Italian tradition of acting – the ability to improvise and sing – with the technology fashionable on stage in the Weimer Republic. Casting, in fact, had already been an issue for Pirandello in Berlin the 1930s! Furthermore, the play is embedded with cultural references that were immediately recognizable in Europe in the 1930s, but they are unfamiliar to contemporary Italians, not to mention to international audiences. For example, the play presupposes familiarity with Verdi’s melodramas: Il Trovatore features prominently not only at the musical level, but also thematically. By introducing allusions to Gipsies and “Gipsiness,” it underlines issues of ethnic difference and marginality. What would happen to this subtext in a production for the contemporary Canadian stage? In addition, what about the misogynistic feelings and the violent behavior that Pirandello deliberately foregrounds as typical markers of “Sicilianness?” The essentialism entailed in the representation of the protagonist, we feared, may be offensive to the local Italian and Sicilian communities. The play has, of course, been staged in the last few years both in Italy and abroad. But we felt that these issues were important, and that it would be challenging to put together a production that took them into consideration. 

Enza De Francisci: In fact, one of the main aspects in translating Pirandello which has interested me the most is how to translate the sense of Sicilian-ness (or sicilianità) of his work. If, as Pirandello states: “Una letteratura dialettale, insomma, è fatta per restare entro i confini del dialetto” (In sum, dialect literature is made to stay within the confines of the dialect, Spsv, 1208), then what happens when dialect literature comes out of its geographical borders? In Tanya Ronder’s new version of Liolà, this meant transporting the Sicilian countryside characters to rural Ireland, a decision which raises numerous questions regarding cultural translations, an approach primarily associated with scholars such as Susan Bassnett, André Lefevere, and Lawrence Venuti. Can one community be faithfully translated by another, particularly when different varieties of a language are concerned? Manuela Perteghella has identified various strategies for transposing dialect and slang in theatre, and it seems that this new version of Liolà fits in well with her definition of a parallel dialect translation:

To translate a dialect or slang into that of another specific target language, usually one that has similar connotations and occupies an analogous position in the target linguistic system. Proper names are kept as in the original, as are topical jokes, places, and other source-language cultural references. Use of actors (specified) regional accents [. . .]. This strategy will achieve the desired reception effect only if the translator works closely with director and actors. There is always the danger of mis-reception (i.e., a play perceived to be born within the audience cultural system). (Perteghella 2002: 50)

Indeed, Ronder’s version of Liolà was performed by a cast employing an Irish accent: an accent which arguably has “similar connotations [as the source language] and occupies an analogous position in the target linguistic system,” as Perteghella puts it. What was thus translated here was not just the words from Pirandello’s script but the concept of sicilianità as a type of ‘Other,’ or more specifically, a type of Ireland. From a socio-linguistic point of view, the parallel between the two islands implied that instead of being written in the “major” language the original script used a kind of “sub-language.” By introducing this linguistic element, audiences were able to recognize that the village characters were from a marginalized community and a territory detached from the mainland, without having to involve the use of dialect itself. The translation was therefore able to preserve the genetic code of the original script as well as to communicate with the British audience. From a more historical and cultural perspective, the choice resonated even more so. Both Sicily and Ireland have had a difficult history with their “major” counterparts, with Sicily often characterized as the “Africa of Italy” following political unification in 1861 and Ireland (excluding Northern Ireland) gaining independence in 1921. However, as Perteghella reminds us, “[t]here is always the danger of mis-representation in parallel dialect translations.” Arguably, the danger emerged in Liolà when the Irish-speaking actors employed Sicilian gestures on stage. Richard Eyre invited the director Luca Vullo to lead workshops on how to gesticulate in Sicilian and, therefore, the mis-representation can be said to be rooted in this mix between the Irish and Sicilian worlds (De Francisci, 2017). So for me, the biggest question to consider when translating Pirandello’s “commedia campestre” is how to go about adapting something so culturally-specific as sicilianità?

Michael Rössner: It is the question of cultural translation which is fundamental for our world: You have to consider the contexts – the context of origin and the context of the translation or of the final reception of his work – and you have to consider the negotiation (borrowing the term from Homi Bhabha) which takes place between these contexts. Translation is not just a replacement of one series of words by another; it changes the contexts, and it is an ongoing process.


PSA XXXI Just Published

In the PSA journal’s 31st edition, which is currently at the presses, editors Lisa Sarti and Michael Subialki talk to a group of Pirandello’s translators in “Pirandello and Translation: A conversation across the Field.” We’ve excerpted a piece of it for you here, in which the editors put a couple of questions to translators Jacob Blakesley, Jane House, Mary Anne Frese Witt, Michael Rössner and Martha Witt.

PSA: Our discussion up to this point, specifically regarding the language barrier and handling of idioms, makes us think of the oft-debated dilemma of literal vs. free translation, which seems always to be a somewhat controversial issue. Which method did you opt for when you translated Pirandello? Why?

Jane House: I suppose I’m halfway in between. Being too literal one becomes bland and sometimes nonsensical. Going too far in being “free,” one verges on adaptation. Creating a literal translation at the start will help make sense of the original and the translator’s first duty is to make sense; one must often wrestle with the original; thinking that the author made an error shows arrogance and laziness. Beyond making sense, I try to retain the poetry of a sentence or phrase; to be sensitive to the sounds of the original, the relationship of the phrase to other phrases; to this end, I will often count the number of syllables in the word, or in the sentence, and then endeavor to make my English of equal length. This is especially important in theatre where the rhythm of a line or an exchange of lines can so often evoke laughter or tears in the audience. I may read the original aloud, to hear the sounds and intonations. I grew up on British poets, especially Shakespeare, and discovered the iambic pentameter and learned how changing the meter can add drama to a text. Pirandello was a poet. His prose can include passages that are overwhelmingly lyrical; he was able to paint touching images with few words, because he was sensitive to sound, rhythm, alliteration, inflection and other elements that poetry comprises. He will use alternate words or expressions for the same action: crying, weeping, sobbing, shedding tears, wailing, howling. It can help the translator to be aware of these changes in the original; they can be inspirational guideposts.

Michael Rössner: Similar strategic decisions had to be made for the translation of Pirandello’s works into German. The project was started by my friend Johannes Thomas in 1982. What we found was a puzzle: Pirandello’s novels and short stories had been translated in some cases in a very strange way—leaving out the “philosophical” parts and adapting his work to the present context. In the 1920s this entailed a kind of post-Nietzschean neo-baroque style where, for example in Six Characters, the “Author” became the “Creator” and the characters became “creatures” in order to interpret the play as a quest for God in a world where God was dead. In the 1950s it took the form of an expressionist literature avant la lettre. So, we tried to return to Pirandello himself, to reconstitute his ideas. When the first project ended because of financial problems, I took over. We were able to find an editor for the whole edition between 1997 and 2001, and in that edition I have tried to realize the kind of “experiencing” instead of “rational judging” that Pirandello himself recommends in his essay [On Humor]. If you are really “inside” his work, you may experience what he describes as his way of composing: you hear the voice of the figures, you hear the voice of Pirandello himself in your language, and this helps you to make decisions.

Jacob Blakesley: I would say, first of all, that I think the concepts ‘literal’ and ‘free’ in the context of translation theory are not useful terms, since they are too ambiguous. An interlinear translation, a gloss translation, a word-for-word ungrammatical approach, a grammatically correct non-literary translation, a grammatically correct literary translation can all be described, in various degrees, as ‘literal’. The main problem is that the notion of ‘meaning’ in literary studies—and all the more so in translation studies—is polysemous and multi-layered, including both the signifier and the signified. And so I think that the concepts of ‘literal’ and ‘free’ should be discarded in favour of looking at how the translations fit into the target literary system.

In my translation of Pirandello, I had to try to stick as close to a word-for-word translation as possible, because the aim of my translation was to provide a facing-page translation to the Italian text. I would have preferred, in fact, to have translated another way, but I was both conscious of the linguistic aid that my version was supposed to offer (having been a student once myself) and I was directed by Dover to be very adherent to the source text’s semantic meaning. Dover’s copyeditors also objected on several occasions to places where they thought I had not been close enough to the text.

Mary Ann Frese Witt & Martha Witt: We view most translation work, to some degree, as a work of interpretation. Although we pay close attention to the original text, we also seek to make it relevant to the current readership, so on the spectrum between ‘literal’ and ‘free’ translation, we are somewhere in the middle in an effort to serve as handmaidens to the original while remaining mindful of today’s audience.

PSA: Well, this resonates perfectly with what renowned Italian essayist Cesare Garboli used to say about the translator’s task: he loved to compare it with that of a performer, as both must have the ability to “interpret” the text. Garboli looked at the narrative work as a piece of music, in other words. Do you agree with Garboli? And was this your approach when you developed your own voice for translating Pirandello?

Mary Ann Frese Witt & Martha Witt: The comparison is an apt one. Just as no performer will ever know completely what was in the mind of the composer, no translator will ever know exactly what was in the mind of the author. Both performer and translator convey the musical piece or the foreign text to their audience through their own sensibility, style, and interpretation. Yes, the translator is also an interpreter.

Jacob Blakesley: I definitely agree with Garboli that a translator necessarily interprets the text s/he translates—in this sense, as others have stated, translation can be the utmost act of reading. We must remember that there is a linguistic abyss between an original text and the translation: the words we read in translation are those of the translator. In this sense, there is definitely co-authorship. We don’t read the words of Homer in English; we read the words of Robert Fagles or Emily Wilson. A translation is always the product of a meeting of poetics, as Franco Buffoni, the Italian poet and translation theorist says. In that sense, the voice of the author and the voice of the translator come together. Because of the constraints mentioned above, I don’t really feel like there was a harmonious meeting of poetics, since my style was limited by the facing-page Italian text and the need to be as close to the original semantic meaning and syntax as possible.

Jane House: Cesare Garboli is certainly on the right track with this analogy. Performers must be sensitive to the author’s intentions, to text and subtext and their character’s underlying emotions; to relationships with others; they must have knowledge of the historical period and social customs, and so on. I have spent much of my life, especially as a young professional actress, on stage performing in classical plays by such masters as Aeschylus, Alfred de Musset, Franz Wedekind, Anton Chekhov, and Tennessee Williams as well contemporary plays such as Lenny by Julian Barry on Broadway and, on national tours, Bedroom Farce by Alan Ayckbourn and An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestley. Each of these works demand that the performer delve into the life of the play as depicted by the playwright. Performing in the chorus in Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound remains an indelible experience as we trained for six weeks in movement and vocal expression.

However, translation demands that one “perform” in one’s imagination while wrestling with the language at home alone. Acting demands a presentation before an audience using one’s entire physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual equipment; you yourself are the instrument you need to play. In either case, background study and the imagination are of primary importance in interpreting texts.

Call for Papers: “It’s All Relative: Modernism and Science” 2020 MLA Convention, Seattle

This guaranteed panel will consider how advances in math, science, and technology reshaped the literary imagination of writers during the long modernist period, as well as how the philosophical outlooks that were influenced by or in conversation with these advances interacted with that literary imagination. The modernist period was a time of great discovery in arenas that affected both the texture of daily lived life and also conceptions of humans’ place in the universe as well as the shape and workings of the universe itself. The first quarter of the 20th century alone witnessed monumental advances in fields as diverse as transportation, nuclear physics, and astrophysics; the Wright brothers took flight, Ernest Rutherford proved the structure of the nucleus, and Edward Hubble discovered galaxies outside of our Milky Way. Scholars are, of course, aware that such advances constitute an important part of the intellectual context for modernist writing. Our aim here is to consider whether previously unexplored connections or ideas link specific aspects of this developing outlook to modernists and/or modernism.

We thus seek proposals that consider how these advances in scientific thinking—which across the 19th and 20th centuries dialogued ever more closely with philosophy—opened new spaces in the artistic mind, allowing for innovative fantastical imagining, unprecedented metaphysical and ontological contemplation, and a redefining of traditional binaries, such as possible/impossible. Like many of his near contemporaries, Luigi Pirandello’s novels and plays appear to be the fruit of an intellect that was steeped in and colored by current scientific progress. How were writers like Pirandello influenced by science? And what can we learn by considering their work in relation to these great strides in the scientific realm?

With this notion in mind, we are interested in topics such as (but not limited to) the following:

Modernism and:

·         The micro (nuclear)

·         The macro (cosmological)

·         The impossible

·         The invisible real

·         The movement of bodies and energy

·         Conceptions of materialism

·         Intellectual history

·         Math

·         Electrical illumination

·         Flight

·         Relativity

·         New conceptions of evolution

This guaranteed session is sponsored by the Pirandello Society of America. However, we encourage submissions not only on Pirandello but on any pertinent modernist figure(s), movement(s), or text(s) relevant to the panel topics.

Abstracts of ~300 words and short bios should be sent to Julianne VanWagenen ( and Michael Subialka ( by March 13, 2019.

This is a guaranteed panel for the 2020 MLA Convention in Seattle (January 9-12, 2020), sponsored by the Pirandello Society of America.

Call for Articles PSA XXXI: “Modernism across the Arts: Charting Pirandello’s World.”

PSA XXXI (2018)

Co-editors: Lisa Sarti and Michael Subialka

In light of growing attention to the multimedia dimensions of modernist production across Europe and the globe, the next issue of PSA (the journal of the Pirandello Society of America) will be devoted to “Modernism across the Arts: Charting Pirandello’s World.” We seek contributions from scholars across disciplines to examine modernist experimenters who bridged not just genre but media, like Luigi Pirandello himself. We aim to chart how the culture of modernist multimedia experimentation developed, both in relation to Pirandello and as a broader cultural movement.

This special issue invites contributions not only from scholars of Pirandello but from all those working on the relationships of the arts in the modernist moment. We take Pirandello as a model, but we recognize the rich breadth of these forms of experimentation, both in Italy and beyond. Contributions may thus focus on Pirandello, look at Pirandello comparatively, or even look not at Pirandello but rather at the broader culture of modernist multimedia production that helps to situate Pirandello’s work and impact.

Article submissions should generally be between 5,000 and 10,000 words, following MLA formatting, and can be made via email (send a word document with separate cover sheet including personal information) to: The submission deadline for this issue is December 31, 2018. Questions for the editors can be directed to the email address above. (PSA is a peer-reviewed journal, and submissions are sent to readers anonymously for expert review.)

Topics of possible inquiry include (but are not limited to):

  • The link between modernist experimentation (rupture with tradition) and the need to work across the arts
    • Pirandello as a model
    • Models for Pirandello
    • The broader culture of experimentation and multimedia rupture in its transnational dimensions
  • The ambivalence of experimentation in modernism (modernist traditionalism, etc.) and the challenges or possibilities of multimedia work
    • Pirandello himself had an ambivalent relationship to experimentation. How might his views be related to those of his contemporaries? How might his contemporaries’ views situate his?
  • Views on progress or decline in relation to the use of media and understanding of the system of the arts
  • Using media to convey key modernist tropes or to work through key modernist problems
    • Are there links between different modernist movements or figures in this regard?
  • Pirandello’s literature and theatre in relation to modernist visual and performing arts, including film
  • And any other topic that might fit with the scope of the issue’s theme…

In addition to article submissions, PSA seeks submissions that would fit into its other sections:

  • Interviews for publication in the journal’s “In Conversation” section. We are happy to accept submissions consisting of interviews with directors, actors, filmmakers, or other artists who work on Pirandello or who connect themselves to Pirandellian themes.
  • New translations of Pirandello’s work.
  • Original creative work inspired by or relating to Pirandello.
  • Finally, the journal also publishes book and performance reviews relating to Pirandello

We are happy to accept submissions for these on a rolling basis. These submissions can likewise be made via email (as a word document) to:


Call for Papers – Pirandellian Transactions: Text, Context, Cultural Negotiation 2019 MLA Convention, Chicago

Call for Papers:

Pirandellian Transactions: Text, Context, Cultural Negotiation

2019 MLA Convention, Chicago

This guaranteed panel will consider how relationships of transaction illuminate our understanding of Pirandello’s work as well as that of his contemporaries and those influenced by or in dialogue with him.

We seek proposals that consider Pirandello’s writing in relation to its audiences, its historical circumstances, and the myriad relationships that constitute the cultural negotiations bridging text and context. We also encourage proposals that use Pirandellian themes to examine such transactional relationships in other writers, or proposals that examine writers who were influenced by or responding to Pirandello as a part of their own textual transactions.

We take our notion of transaction from the MLA Presidential Theme, which describes it thus:

Textual transactions are the mutually constitutive engagements of human beings, texts, and their contexts. Transactions are more than mere interactions, in which separate entities act on one another without being changed at any essential level. In transactions, all elements are part of an organic whole and are transformed by their encounters with one another.

With this notion in mind, we are interested in topics such as (but not limited to) the following:

  • Translation, self-translation, cultural translation in Pirandello and/or Pirandellian approaches to translation
  • Political context and textual composition as a transaction in Pirandello and his contemporaries
  • Cultural negotiation in Pirandello and/or Pirandellian approaches to cultural negotiation
  • Performance, staging, and live acting as modes of transaction for Pirandello and/or Pirandellian approaches to performance, staging, acting, etc.
  • Author, character, actor/actress, audience, and cultural context as interrelated elements of Pirandellian transactions
  • Readings and misreadings of and by Pirandello
  • Examinations of Pirandellian themes (identity, performance, multiplicity, humor, etc.) and their role in text-context transactions

Abstracts of ~300 words and short bios should be sent to Jana O’Keefe Bazzoni ( and Michael Subialka ( by March 16, 2018. Any questions can be directed to the same addresses.

This is a guaranteed panel for the 2019 MLA Convention in Chicago (January 3-6, 2019).

Modern Language Association Convention – New York 2018

The Pirandello Society session at the MLA convention is scheduled for

Friday, January 05, 2018
03:30 PM – 04:45 PM
372 Negotiating Identities: From Pirandello to Today

Hilton – Concourse D

For the full conference program, see this link.

Laura A. Lucci: Pirandellian Uncertainty: The Theatre as Laboratory


In quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle suggests a limit to the precision with which complementary variables can be measured.  For example, in observing a particle’s position and velocity, the measurement of one variable becomes less exact as the other becomes better defined.  A similar problem exists in Pirandello’s drama, as his characters negotiate the divide between self-understanding and socially constructed identities.  Figures like Signora Ponza or Henry IV, with their indeterminate and occasionally volatile identities, dominate Pirandellian narratives, highlighting the complex question of who a person is, what they can be, and how circumstances influence their understanding of themselves and others.  Even Pirandello’s defining aesthetic, l’umorismo, resists simplicity, at once denoting a temporal extension from laughter to sympathy as well as the moment of intersection between these two emotional states.

Pirandello’s dramatic output not only tests the limits of theatrical convention and practice, but offers an inquiry into the nature of identity, social structures, and human interaction.  In short, the locus of Pirandello’s theatre was not simply the nature of representation, but an investigation into the limits and possibilities of that representation.  Using the theatre as a kind of laboratory, Pirandello scrutinizes the human condition within the confines of theatrical practice and space, mitigating the distance between dramatic representation and self-understanding.

This paper will examine what contemporary scientific inquiry and its aesthetic consequences (such as that of quantum theory) might bring to bear on understanding Pirandellian drama and the interrogations of identity and being contained therein.

 Bio: Laura A. Lucci teaches dramatic history and literature at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.  She received her PhD at the Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto in April 2017.  Her doctoral thesis, Pirandello’s Dramaturgy of Time, examines three of Luigi Pirandello’s majors plays at their intersections with contemporary theories of time, temporality, and being.  She has been published in PSA: The Journal of the Pirandello Society of America, and has written for the web at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and Nightswimming Theatre.  Her research interests include 20th-century Italian Theatre, Modernism, Italian Renaissance performance and spectacle, and the aesthetic consequences of science and philosophy. Her practical background is comprised largely of translation, dramaturgical support, and technical production. Laura is affiliated with The Pirandello Society of America, The Modern Language Association, and The Midwest Modern Language Association.


Alberica Bazzoni: The (Un)Masking of Patriarchal Power in Pirandello’s Plays



Pirandello’s literary and theatrical production engages extensively with the troubled relationship between the sexes, often proposing a rather conservative, when not plainly sexist, perspective on gender roles. Far more experimental on a theoretical than on a social level, Pirandello never directly questions the boundaries of patriarchy. However, the crisis of identity he represents is also the crisis of an ideal harmony within the traditional family, as well as the crisis of a stable, hegemonic masculinity. While some critics have seen in Pirandello’s works mainly or exclusively the reinforcement of patriarchal structures (Caesar 1990; 1992; Günsberg 1994), others have exalted the author’s representation of the female ‘other’ as the positive pole of his discourse on identity and knowledge (Martinelli 1992; Bini 1999). In between these opposite views, my contribution points out a tension between replication and contestation of the patriarchal script in Pirandello’s works. In fact, in a number of plays Pirandello unmasks gender roles as the product of patriarchal power, offering the spectacle of male characters who try to write, silence, control and objectify the female ones. The aspect of domination inherent in this process becomes apparent when female characters ‘talk back’, offering an alternative view to the self-righteous narratives of male characters, as in the case of the struggle between the Stepdaughter and the Father in Six Characters in Search of an Author, and when male versions are revealed as more or less culpable fantasies, such as in Ludovico Nota’s and Grotti’s accounts of Ersilia Drei’s motivations in Clothing the Naked. Furthermore, in later plays such as Lazarus and The Mountain Giants, Pirandello exposes masculine insecurities and strategies of domination by creating polyphonic scenes in which the female perspective emerges strongly. The result is a fractured, humoristic discourse, which reproduces patriarchal gender roles while at the same time casting a doubt on them – that they may well be a constrictive mask that men impose on women; and on themselves.

Bio: Alberica Bazzoni is British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Warwick, working on a project on gender and the Italian Literary Canon. She completed her PhD at the University of Oxford, where she then taught Italian language and literature as Lector and Non-Stipendiary Lecturer. Her research interests include Modern Italian Literature, Literary Theory, Political Philosophy and Gender and Sexuality Studies, and she has published on Mark Turner, Adriana Cavarero, Goliarda Sapienza, Elsa Morante and Luigi Pirandello. Her PhD thesis, Writing for Freedom: Body, Identity and Power in Goliarda Sapienza’s Narrative, won the ‘2015 Peter Lang Young Scholars Competition in Women’s Studies’ and is forthcoming in 2018.


Lisa Sarti “Who Am I? Who Am I Not? – Agency and (Dis)identification in Luigi Pirandello’s The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematograph Operator



The sixth of Luigi Pirandello’s seven novels, The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematograph Operator (1925) tells about the experience of Serafino Gubbio at Kosmograph, the film studio where he is employed as a camera operator, monotonously winding the film reel. Besides addressing the world of silent films, The Notebooks prefigures the modernist quest for a definition of art as a porous field in which divergent media intertwine with their own expressive languages, and theorizes the dehumanization of mechanization.

The Notebooks lingers over the contemporary fascination with the machine age and its hallmarks—speed, efficiency, progress, and modernity—in order to confront the disparity between reality and imagination. The result of that faith, Pirandello shows in the book, is a profound impact on the individual and his identity. Through the protagonist’s perspective, Pirandello voiced his own obsession with the increasing prominence of machinery in everyday life and its desensitizing consequences. Serafino’s attitude about his degrading task and his anxiety for the machine “swallowing” up his identity reveal Pirandello’s own skepticism about technological progress, particularly its tendency to cause self-estrangement. Bewildered by his own transformation, Serafino cries, “I ceased to be Gubbio and became a hand.”


This paper investigates the existential repercussions of the new medium in Serafino’s life, and, more importantly, the tensions and contradictions that inevitably complicate the search of his own identity and his attempts to dis-identify with the camera. If, on the one hand, Serafino laments the necessity of his absolute “impassivity” while filming and his being reduced to a mere “handle,” on the other he contradicts himself by proudly assessing his human agency in the filmic process, “one cannot find a machine that can regulate its movements according to the action that is going on in front of the camera.” Serafino conceitedly states his skillful turning of the handle, which is faster or slower according to the speed he deems appropriate to the scene he is shooting. Film technique is here not only functional to our understanding of the character’s psychology, but it also conveys Serafino’s eagerness to get involved with the action in front of the camera, despite his numerous claims to the contrary throughout the novel and his tendency to characterize his ‘self’ as an object. Serafino seeks control, but he also seeks to affirm his creativity and the superiority of human intervention over the machinery.

Film-theory and the new technological reality of the medium intertwine with Serafino’s feelings, ambitions, and multifaceted identity. Ultimately, these tensions emerge as an integral part of the narrative texture and one of the most disquieting traits of Modernity.


Bio: Lisa Sarti received her Ph. D. in Comparative Literature from The City University of New York. She is Assistant Professor of Italian at BMCC – The City University of New York in Manhattan. Her main field of research is fin-de-siècle visual culture, fiction, and the performing arts. She has published articles on Arrigo Boito, Melodrama, Annie Vivanti and the Female artists of the Cafè Chantant, American musical theater, and Pirandello’s storytelling and theatre, as well the cinematic adaptation of his short stories. She co-edited (with Michael Subialka) the volume Pirandello’s Visual Philosophy: Imagination and Thought Across Media (Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2017) and she is currently working on a book on the aesthetics of spectatorship in Italy between 1820 and 1900.

PSA Conference – Global Legacies: Pirandello across Centuries and Media – 16 September 2017

The Pirandello Society of America presents its one-day conference

“Global Legacies – Pirandello across Centuries and Media”

Saturday 16 September 2017, 8:00 am – 6:30 pm

Hunter College, CUNY, 695 Park Ave, New York City

Celebrating the 150th anniversary of Luigi Pirandello’s birth, this one-day conference sponsored by the Pirandello Society of America seeks a broad spectrum of contributions that evaluate and illuminate Pirandello’s legacies on world theatre, literature, cinema, and other media over a period of more than a hundred years. We encourage contributions that are interdisciplinary and engage with a variety of theoretical models when looking at Pirandello’s work and its multifaceted resonance.

English is the official language of the Conference.

Keynote Speaker: Pietro Frassica, Princeton University

Attendance is free and open to the public.

The full program for the conference is available. Click here to read.

For further information about The Pirandello Society of America please visit our website at: and Facebook page:

The Pirandello Society of America is pleased to be featured among a series of international conferences being held across the globe in honor of Pirandello’s 150th anniversary: Pirandello International 2017, Pirandello in a Globalized World. From Agrigento to Rome, Johannesburg to Munich, these events demonstrate the world-spanning reach of Pirandello’s influence today. More information and the full calendar for the international conference series can be found online: