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:

Pirandello at 150 – MLA 2017 Panel in Philadelphia

Join us for the upcoming PSA panel at the Philadelphia Marriott for the session

Pirandello at 150″

Saturday, 7 January

12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 404, Philadelphia Marriott

Program arranged by the Pirandello Society of America

Presiding: Jana O’Keefe Bazzoni, Baruch Coll., City Univ. of New York

1. “One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand: Images of Pirandello between World War II and the Translational Turn,” Michael Roessner, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich

2. “Pirandello’s Thought and the South,” Alessandra Sorrentino, EPẒ-Munich

3. “The Legacy of Il fu Mattia Pascal and Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore in Italian Literature,” Nicolino Applauso, James Madison Univ.

Respondent: Michael Subialka, Univ. of California, Davis. (formerly Univ. of Oxford, St. Hugh’s Coll.)

For abstracts, click here.

Pirandello in the New Millennium: Innovative Approaches and Methods. NeMLA Convention in Hartford, CT 17-20 March 2016

Organized by Lisa Sarti (BMCC, The City University of New York) and Michael Subialka (Oxford University)

Session Chair and Respondent: Lisa Sarti (BMCC, The City University of New York)

Paola Basile (Lake Erie College), Learn with Pirandello
Anna Santucci (Brown University), Staging Pirandello: bridging the gap between language and literature through drama
Michela Ronzani (University of North Carolina School of the Arts), Pirandello and the others: Teaching Pirandello to Theater Students
Francesca Facchi (University of Toronto), The Many Lives of Pirandello’s “Questa sera si recita a soggetto”
Stephen Donatelli (New York University), Pirandello and the Risks of Succeeding

Call for papers: Pirandello: Performativity and Role-Playing

The Society for Pirandello Studies one-day conference

in collaboration with the Italian Department at the University of Edinburgh

Pirandello: Performativity and Role-Playing

Saturday 17 October 2015

University of Edinburgh: 50 George Square, Project room.

The annual one-day conference of the Society for Pirandello Studies aims to embrace a wide variety of methods and approaches to Pirandello’s œuvre, and to bring together theatre professionals, critics and scholars representing a range of disciplines. This year’s conference focuses on a quintessential Pirandellian theme, namely that of role-playing, within the contemporary framework of performativity theory. Particularly welcome are contributions that relate Pirandello’s texts to different media and/or genres. Abstracts of c.200 words (in English) for papers of 20 minutes’ duration should be sent to Enza De Francisci at

The deadline for abstracts is Friday 21 August 2015.

For further information about The Society for Pirandello Studies, including membership and Pirandello Studies (the annual journal), please visit our website at and Facebook page:

Call for Papers: MLA Convention in Austin

The Pirandello Society of America is pleased to invite your submissions for two proposed panels at the 2016 MLA Convention in Austin. We encourage interdisciplinary and comparative approaches.

“Mediated Legacies: New Theoretical Approaches to Pirandello”

We seek proposals for papers that use new perspectives and apply innovative theoretical lenses to approach the work and thought of Pirandello. Topics of particular interest include the development of Pirandellian thought across genres and media and its resonance in visual or other forms (spanning from visual arts to music and beyond). How does Pirandello’s work coincide with new theoretical approaches to the study of literature, the arts, and (material) culture? How might these new lenses produce different perspectives and unexpected insights into his work and thought?

The panel welcomes interdisciplinary, cross-genre, and comparative approaches.

Please submit abstracts of approximately 250 words by 15 March 2015 to Jana O’Keefe Bazzoni ( and Michael Subialka (

“Pirandello in the Classroom and Beyond: Innovative Pedagogy”

We welcome proposals for a seminar-style panel that seeks to combine presentations with performance and practical, workshop-style discussion (following suggestions elaborated by the MLA in the “Innovative Proposals” document, available online:

This panel will examine how Pirandello’s works are taught and how they are communicated to new publics (in the classroom, in the theater, online, and beyond). We are particularly interested in theoretical/pedagogical innovations relating to adaptation, translation, and performance.

Interdisciplinary work, workshop proposals (for example, course syllabi for workshop discussion), performance presentations, and other innovative contributions are all welcome and encouraged.

Please submit abstracts of approximately 250 words, including a description of the type of intervention envisioned, its anticipated length, and how it would contribute to the innovative structure of the proposed panel. Deadline 15 March 2015. Email to Jana O’Keefe Bazzoni ( and Michael Subialka (

MLA Conference – Chicago 2014

Panel “Modern Consciousness: Pirandellian Obsessions”


Maternity and Sexuality: Luigi Pirandello’s Constant Obsessions

Daniela Bini, University of Texas, Austin

 “Non è una donna; è una madre!—E il suo dramma—(potente, signore, potente!) –consiste tutto, difatti, in questi quattro figli.” The Mother in Six Characters represents simple nature in opposition to the other characters who “are realized as spirit,” writes Pirandello in the Preface.

The Aristotelian belief in male as spirit and female as matter that informed Western thought for centuries, still lingered in Pirandello’s psyche and it was combined with the Catholic worship of the Virgin Mother. And the Mother is a suffering mother, a Mater dolorosa who annihilates any individual needs and desires for the “sake” of the child. Moreover the worship of the mother figure in Pirandello, like in other Southern writers, is strictly connected with, and actually determined by the fear of sexuality, especially female, which is defined as evil. Giovanni Verga’s story “The She-wolf” epitomizes such fear that can be justified only by attributing demonic power to the erotic female. Thus the dichotomy mother-whore.

The psychoanalyst Karen Horney devoted many pages to the study of the “dread of women” many males display and identifies it with the fear of the sexual female.

This paper examines Pirandello’s own fear of sexuality and his obsession with maternity in his life and his work—an obsession he will try to exorcise over and over in his artistic creation.


No comment: The voice of silence in Luigi Pirandello’s Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio operatore

Alessia Palanti, Columbia University

Silence literally and allegorically concludes Luigi Pirandello’s novel, Quaderni di

Serafino Gubbio operatore (1916). After a fateful accident at the workplace, the

protagonist Serafino Gubbio—a camera operator for “Kosmograph Studios”—becomes mute out of shock. Counterintuitively, it is Serafino’s aphasia that articulates the trepidations surrounding the advancement of cinema as the artistic offspring of technological development. Pirandello sensed the movement of the times—the seventh art would ultimately make his beloved theatre and literature anachronistic if not obsolete. In keeping with Pirandellian paradox, the anxieties of this particular socio-historical milieu are expressed is in the form of a journal that akin to a film camera attempts to capture or represent a singular “authentic” reality, and bestows it its voice. In this novel, Pirandello crafts a metaliterary stratagem to quite literally “make believe,” that the protagonist’s voice undergoes a process of suffocation: the literary equivalent of cinematic “special effects.” By the nature of its form, cinema blurs the lines between reality and illusion: it contributes to the impasse of articulation and epistemological

uncertainties that progress aimed at resolving. Aligned with Thomas Harrison’s notion of “essayism,” Quaderni is both a search for the articulation of “reality” and is itself an articulation of “reality,” unfolding as a critique of the institution of film as symptomatic of an increasingly dystopic society. The novel enfolds within it a voice that—in declaring its own silence and succumbing to aphasia—continues to speak, and polemically so, about the ramifications of technological progress, articulating its impact on the human condition.


Pirandello’s Genealogy of Modernist Subjectivity in Il fu Mattia Pascal

Lauren Beard, University of Toronto

In his 1904 novel The Late Mattia Pascal, Pirandello conceives of the modern subject as living in an exploded cosmology, and, in what amounts to a parable of Modernist allegory, suggests that the difference between ancient and modern tragedy is “a hole torn in a paper sky.” Pirandello describes a puppet theatre production of Orestes and suggests that if a hole were torn in the sky while Orestes was trying to avenge his father, he would become distracted: “his eyes, at that point, would go straight to that hole…Orestes would become Hamlet.” Orestes is symbolic of the unified cosmology of antiquity, whereas Hamlet, by thinking rather than acting, functions as an ancestor of the pensive and selfreflexive modernist subject. Through the “Orestes would become Hamlet” conceit, Pirandello articulates a moment of crisis. This “Copernican” rupture articulated by Pirandello functions as the origin of the dissolution of Benjamin’s “general,” the consequences of which are fully realized in the type of subjectivity peculiar to fin-desiècle and twentieth-century literary modernism. Pirandello maps a genealogy of modern subjectivity, positing its origin in the sixteenth century, tracing a lineage through Hamlet and the titular Copernicus of Giacomo Leopardi’s dialogue. This Pirandellian lens provides a framework for understanding crisis as a constitutive feature of modernity, and suggests that modernism, as a mode of expression, emerges as a reaction to historical, metaphysical and psychological crises. Pirandello’s anachronistic account of modernist subjectivity is essential to understanding modernist literary form as crisis management.

Insanity, an obsession from Luigi Pirandello to Marco Bellocchio

Marialaura Simeone, University of Siena-Arezzo


The topics of Luigi Pirandello – insanity, fiction, artifice – are encountered the cinema of Marco Bellocchio, contemporary italian director. In his films are frequently psychiatrists and crazy, different planes of reality, the combination between reality and fiction. Then he adapts the Pirandello’s play Enrico IV in 1984 and the novel La balia in 1999. In Enrico IV Bellocchio preserves the pessimism and madness is still a mask to protect yourself. The alienist physician can not resolve the situation. But In La balia Bellocchio has a modern gaze on insanity and he change the plot of the novel. The psychiatry is used to understand the world and to change the rules of bourgeois society.


Panel “Global Pirandello”


Dreaming America: Pirandello’s Just Like That

Lisa Sarti, Graduate Center, City University of New York; Pietro Frassica, Princeton University

Both the letters Pirandello wrote to Marta Abba and the Appendix contained in the edition of Maschere Nude provide evidence of a musical the Sicilian playwright composed between the end of 1929 and the beginning of 1930 during his sojourn in Paris. This document, however, has been missing from Pirandello’s published oeuvre until recently, when it emerged from over seventy years of darkness in a dusty trunk in a small village in Northern Italy, together with other documents, letters, drawings, and pictures. The precious document is preserved in the Fondo Torre Gherson, a fund named after Guido Torre, the enterprising agent Pirandello collaborated with in the last years of his life as a crucial liaison in his attempt to conquer the theaters of France, England, and the United States.

This paper sheds light on the three manuscripts contained in the Fondo Torre Gherson, which attest to Pirandello’s ambition to conquer the American market with a musical, originally written in French and then translated into English as Just Like That, expressly thought for audiences overseas. At stake is not only the finding of a text we all thought lost forever, but also Pirandello’s artistic versatility and his eagerness to measure himself against a new genre, the musical.

This paper will offer an insight in the Sicilian playwright’s Paris years and the intellectual life in 1930s ville lumière. A close analysis of the “Americanized” version of the musical will then provide a clue in regards to authorship. Written by American musicologist Irma Bachrach, the American text reveals substantial differences from the French source in terms of plot. Such structural variations are representatives of Bachrach’s intention to operate on the Pirandellian text to tailor it to American tastes and expectations. Under investigation are issues of race, gender and political correctness, which are crucial to explain how and why alterations, cuts, and additions were made.


Zooming in on Acciaio: Pirandello and German Cinema

Cecelia Novero, Otago University (New Zealand)

Pirandello went to Berlin in 1928 with the hope that here, in the capital of both expressionist cinema and the so called “Strassenfilm”, his scenarios would capture the attention of directors such as Joe May, G.W. Pabst, F.W. Murnau, Robert Wiene, Fritz Lang, and also the Viennese Max Reinhardt.  It is ironic then that, the most well known German film based on an original story by Pirandello was directed by Walter Ruttmann, in Italy: Acciaio (1933). My paper offers a genesis of this film in the attempt to illustrate the multiple ironies behind the project. Hence, through an analysis of Acciaio, which I consider with an eye to the Italian socio-political situation informing cinematic production in these years, I ask two questions: On the one hand, to what extent does Ruttmann’s Neue Sachlichkeit unwittingly serve Pirandello’s ideas of an experimental cinema, which seemed more attuned to the world of shadows of expressionism? On the other hand, what elements of Pirandello’s character-based story indeed disturb the ideological content of the film, as the regime wished to read it? In answering these questions, the paper argues that Acciaio exemplifies the complex relations Pirandello entertained with film, especially German film.


Translating the Stage: Pirandello’s Questa sera si recita a soggetto and the First Productions in Königsberg, Berlin and Paris  (co-authors)

Elisa Segnini, Western University (London, Ontario); Guillaume Bernardi,Glendon College, York University (Toronto, Ontario) 

After a professional crisis, Luigi Pirandello moved to Berlin and began a new phase of his career. His first foray on the German stage was with the masterpiece “Heute abend wird aus dem Stegreif Gespielt” (1930), the last play of the trilogy on metatheatre – the first one being the “Six Characters in Search of an Author”. Pirandello based this work on an earlier short story that problematized the opposition between Sicilian culture and the “modernity” of continental Italy. Writing for the German stage, he faced the challenge of translating a conflict specific to Italian culture for an international audience. This paper investigates how the cultural clashes were represented in the original translations and productions in Germany and France, considering a timeframe from 1929 to 1935. We will first examine the German translation as well as the first two German productions (Königsberg and Berlin,1929). We will then consider the very different solution offered by the French translation and the Parisian production (1935). While a large body of work exists on “Questa sera si recita a soggetto,” scholars have so far focused on Pirandello’s use of metatheatre. There is no detailed study of the German text by Kahn and very little material on the first productions in Königsberg, Berlin and Paris. The paper will shed light on Pirandello’s work as well as on the theatre, both as text and production, as a site for intercultural mediation.


Scripting “il cielo di carta”: Cesare deve morire and the culmination of Pirandello’s legacy

Alessia Palanti, Columbia University


Basing two films, Kaos (1984) and Tu ridi (1998), on Luigi Pirandello’s work, the

debt the Taviani brothers owe him is clear. A textual, and philosophical legacy is evident.

Their latest work, Cesare deve morire (2012) is the culmination of their Pirandellian

pursuits. The film takes place within Rome’s maximum-security prison at Rebibbia, and

casts its inmates as interpreters for Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Outside the English

playwright’s script—and subtly entering the Sicilian’s—a prisoner pronounces a haunting

statement: “Da quando ho conosciuto l’arte questa cella è diventata una prigione.” This

both chilling and striking declaration is emblematic of Pirandello’s “strappo nel cielo di

carta.” While in Pirandello’s case the “strappo” is a reference to the crisis of modern

consciousness—arising from the context of the early 20th century—the Tavianis extend a

commensurate epiphanic moment to the early 21st century. As Pirandello’s allegory

originates on the theatrical stage, the directors transpose it onto the cinematic from within

the penitentiary. A consequence to the convicts’ exposure to art, the prison walls

materialize, dilating the space of the remote world beyond them. The recognition of their

confinement—a meta/physical imprisonment—is one that Pirandello engaged with

throughout his career as an author, and he also experienced it as a relentless existential

conundrum. My paper explores the ways in which Pirandello’s statement: “L’arte libera

le cose,” is deepened by the Tavianis’ film into: l’arte libera le persone. Cesare deve

morire’s metacinematic framework aligns itself with the characteristically pirandellian

metaprose, in the attempt to suture the rift in the art/freedom dialectic.

Pirandello and the Female Subject (MLA Boston, MA, January 2013)

The Pirandello Society of America presents a panel at the Modern Languages Association Conference in Boston on January 5, 2013:

Pirandello and the Female Subject

1.      Valentina Fulginiti,  University of Toronto

“Lost (Women) in Translation. The Rewriting of Female Characters in Pirandello’s Self-Translations.”

2.      Andrea Malaguti,  University of Massachusetts, Amherst

“The Pirandellian Trap: Michelangelo Antonioni’s La signora senza camelie (1952-53)”

3.      Michael Subialka

“The Actress and Her Truth: Pirandello’s Model of Feminine Aesthetic Subjectivity,” Bilkent Univ., Ankara


Presiding: Jana O’Keefe Bazzoni, Baruch College, the City University of New York

Respondent:  Michael Subialka, Bilkent Univ., Ankara


Paper abstracts:

  1. 1.     Lost (Women) in Translation.. The Rewriting of Female Characters in Pirandello’s Self-Translations.
    Valentina Fulginiti, University of Toronto

How do translational changes affect the status of female characters on stage? Does the loss of concreteness typical of most translational processes (Berman 1999: 53; 65) affect the corporeal dimension of their speech? In my paper, I will refer to the language of three plays by Pirandello, Pensaci Giacomino, Liolà, and Il Berretto a sonagli — all composed in dialect, in cooperation with actor Angelo Musco and playwright Nino Martoglio, and later rewritten in Italian.

In all three texts, the traditional Sicilian family ethics is challenged to various extents: while in Liolà and Pensaci Giacomino the natural ethics of birth is opposed to the rigidity of social conventions and legal recognition, in Il berretto a sonagli the impotent rebellion of a woman is defeated by recurring to the slanderous label of madness. However, these plays are not left untouched by the general transformation triggered by self-translation: specific cultural conflicts thus come to provide the ground for a universal philosophical reflection on authenticity, madness, and social convention.

The aim of my presentation is to explore how these translational changes affect and reshape the conventional stage identity of “loose” women.  On the one hand, I will analyze how the loss of iconicity and figurativeness affects the corporeal dimension of female speech. In particular, I will focus on the strategies for rendering proverbs and idioms, and on the treatment of cultural reference (e.g., the different treatment of sterility in the two versions of Il berretto and in the three versions of Liolà). It is my take that the loss of iconicity typical of translation has an attenuating effect over the language of female characters – a feature especially evident in the Italian rewriting of Donna Biatrìci’s most scandalous and challenging lines.

On the other hand, I will analyze how dramatic changes (such as elimination of sequences or merging of scenes) affect the power balance between female and male characters, reshaping the traditional role play of feudal Sicily into a new state, suitable for a nation-wide, bourgeois audience.

2. Captive in the Studio: Pirandello’s Shadow in Michelangelo Antonioni’s La signora senza camelie (1952-53)
Andrea Malaguti, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Antonioni’s second full-length feature film presents a series of references to Pirandello’s work. In setting Clara Manni’s story totally on sites strictly referring to film production (even her house as a married woman looks like a studio), the film represents her gradual awareness of her social subjugation to her image as a starlet not only in her work and in her personal life. Like Pirandello’s characters, Clara Manni is allowed to be the projection of everyone else’s wish, like Signora Ponza in Così è (se vi pare), or desire, like Marta in L’amica delle mogli. However, both these female characters have their feeble chance of empowerment in being able to withdraw from the common stage of social life: “Leave me alone! I want to be alone, alone, alone!” says Marta at the end of the play (whereas their male equivalents, are insightful observers, like Laudisi or Leone Gala, and later become stage masters, like Henry IV and Hinkfuss). On the contrary, Clara’s decision to seize empowerment by becoming a real actress – and studying Pirandello, of all authors – ultimately fails: she goes broke, needs work, and realizes that not only film production, but life itself will never allow her to be anything else than a starlet. Clara therefore signs a contract for a cheap production and resumes a superficial relationship that she scorned before. Antonioni brings Pirandello’s investigation on the porous boundaries between fiction and reality to its most radical conclusions: to the threatening siege of other people’s perceptions a woman has no alternative but surrender, however aware she might be of her own intimate difference and depth of character.


3.      The Actress and Her Truth: Pirandello’s Model of Feminine Aesthetic Subjectivity
Michael Subialka, Bilkent University, Ankara

Pirandello’s work, both theatrical and narrative, hinges on a particular theory of the character and its relation to the world of actual life. As Ann Hallamore Caesar has argued, Pirandello’s characters are the primary unit structuring his production, and it is their vitality that motivates his work. Likewise, as Daniela Bini and Lucienne Kroha have shown, Pirandello’s theatrical production is increasingly dominated by his great muse, Marta Abba, and marked by his conflicted relation with the feminine. I will argue that his interest in Abba reveals an essential aspect of Pirandello’s notion of how the theatrical character connects the fictional world to the actual world: this connection is achieved thanks to performance of the actress. By performing a character’s truth, living it in the present on the stage, she makes it visible and tangible to the spectator. The result is that fictional truth and its power to reshape reality are conveyed in a model of aesthetic subjectivity that is gendered explicitly as feminine.

In this paper, I investigate that concept of feminine aesthetic subjectivity by analyzing Pirandello’s essay on Eleonora Duse. Putting this into dialogue with his famous play, Come tu mi vuoi, and a short story, “Colloquii coi personaggi,” I argue that his model of feminine subjectivity allows us to reconceive the relationship between literary form and philosophical truth, as well as the role of form in the modernist “revolt” against realism.

MLA Modern Language Association PSA Panel – Seattle, WA 2012 – Pirandello and Cinema

Pirandello and Cinema: Adaptations, Reexaminations, and Representations

“Pirandello and the Philosophic Eye of Cinema”

Federico Pacchioni, Univ. of Connecticut, Storrs

Pirandello’s work had a lasting influence on cinema, testified not only by the vast number of adaptations of his work, but also, as several scholars have shown (e.g., G. P. Brunetta, M. Gieri), by his indirect influence on certain filmmakers. However, it is also known that his direct involvement with cinema is quite inconsistent and often marked by hesitation and the tendency to hand down the work of screenwriting to others. In order to understand Pirandello’s ambivalent relationship with cinema, one must look at his novel The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio and his theoretical essays on cinema. Studies that have taken a closer look at Pirandello’s texts within their cultural context have pointed to the fact that behind his uneasiness towards cinema are more wide-reaching problems, such as his need to distance himself from the blind and destructive embracement of machines and mechanization that dominated the intellectual life of his time, and his need to express the aesthetic and ethic superiority of theatre over cinema (e.g. S. Costa; S. Michelini).  From the premise that much of the discourse about cinema contained in theThe Notebooks is actually extrinsic to the art of film per se, this paper examines Pirandello’s diverse and conflicting discourses to arrive at a description of his position between different media, and in particular towards cinema. The integration of Pirandello’s essays on film with a discussion of The Notebooks further clarifies the way in which Pirandello expresses his interest for and even his participation in the aesthetic and philosophic experience of filmmaking.

“George Fitzmaurice’s As You Desire Me (1932): Theatrical versus Cinematic Horizons of Expectations and the Case of Greta Garbo’s Elusive Identity”

Claudia Consolati, Univ. of Pennsylvania

The paper examines George Fitzmaurice’s 1932 filmic adaptation of the play As You Desire Me in light of Pirandello’s own view of the relationship between theatre and sound cinema (“Se il film parlante abolirà il teatro,” Corriere Della Sera, 16 June 1929). When Pirandello’s pièce crossed the ocean, it was readapted to meet the horizon of expectations of the American audience as well as the standards of the filmic cultural industry in Hollywood. Fitzmaurice’s picture emphasizes the more melodramatic aspects of the story: the decadent sensuality of the female protagonist, the Unknown Woman; the romantic love story; even the exoticism of certain situations. The greatest difference, however, concerns the ending: the film’s finale leaves little doubt as to the protagonist’s real identity—she is an impostor with whom the male character is now in love—while the play is much more ambiguous and offers no concluding resolution. In this way, the film seems to abolish the central theme of the play, that of the multiplication of identities, failing to raise the question of whether it is at all legitimate to speak about one’s identity (or identities) as a unified and coherent whole.

Yet, this key element, while absent from the plot, is still present in the paratext of the film as the choice of Greta Garbo in the role of the Unknown Woman reveals. In fact, the fate of Pirandello’s protagonist and that of the Swedish actress overlap. Garbo was a cinematic chameleon, her public identity was elusive; she remained a mystery for its critics and admirers. It is through Greta Garbo that the film is still able to address the fundamental issue of the plurality of identities—and of the ultimate lack thereof—that is at the core of Pirandello’s As You Desire Me.

La canzone dell’amore: Adapting Pirandello to Fascist Propaganda”

Paolo Campolonghi, New York University

Directed in 1930 by Gennaro Righelli, La canzone dell’amore was the first Italian sound-movie, bringing onto the screen a subject adapted from Pirandello’s 1905 short story, interestingly titled In Silenzio (pub. 1922). My paper explores the discrepancies between Pirandello’s original story and its cinematic rendition as a way to shed light on a time of crucial transition in Italy’s political and cultural life. On the one hand, Pirandello’s critical judgment of the filmic representation of his story resonates with his known positions on the epistemology of cinema as an art. On the other, by distancing himself from the altered meaning conveyed by the screenplay, Pirandello rejected the “normalization” of the most provocative instances that the short story presented and that the movie, instead, “silenced.”

While expressing his dissatisfaction in terms of the artist’s right to intellectual independence and transgression, Pirandello seemed unaware that the modifications he criticized were in the service of Fascist propaganda, which was increasingly interested in cinema as an essential medium for its message. From this perspective, the substitution of the morally daring figure of the single-father, the protagonist of Pirandello’s story, with the young woman that in the movie assumes the role of the ‘natural mother’ of future generations is emblematic of the ideal of moral regeneration on which Fascism founded both its oxymoronic form of “conservative revolution’ and its imperialist design.

“Screening Decadence: Vittorio De Sica’s Adriana Takes a Trip”

Lisa Sarti, The City University of New York

My paper interrogates the phenomenon of literature on screen from both a literary and filmic perspective, focusing on the cinematic rendition of Pirandello’s short story Il viaggio. Following Dudley Andrew’s assessment that although adaptation cannot exist without its original source, it must be respected as an original creation, I analyze the multi-layered interaction of literary and cinematic texts. I examine Vittorio de Sica’s Il viaggio (Adriana Takes a Trip), 1972, in relation with the literary work he relies on, giving prominence to the different treatment of the theme of decadence, a subject that was very popular in fin-de-siècle European literature.

The filmic reading transforms the Pirandellian form of storytelling, which is turned into the director’s personal interpretation and laden with melodramatic clichés. Although Venice, decadent city par excellence, is the final destination of a long journey along the peninsula, besides serving as the backdrop of the protagonist’s death both in the narrative and the film, the urban space acquires a distinctive function in the two works. Whereas Pirandello uses Venice as the scenery for Adriana’s decision to kill herself, making the city the symbol of moral degeneracy and of the demise of Adriana’s former uncorrupted Sicilian life, De Sica overshadows the decay of traditional values. Adriana’s cinematic end is tinged with a Melodramatic nuance that transforms the narrative’s suicide into a highly emotional, albeit scarcely credible, heart attack striking Adriana in the happiest moment of her life. Furthermore, the languid melancholy of the score, wed to skillful camera movements, excessively highlights the fervor of the protagonists’ feelings. Thus, the film eclipses the traditional themes of decadence, such as exoticism and sexual anti-conformism, which are central to the development of the narrative plot.

The Pirandello Society of America Sessions at the MLA in Los Angeles – January 2011

Pirandello Society Panels

at the MLA in Los Angeles

(6-9 January 2011)

1. Crossing Genres in Word and Image: Grotesque Narratives in Pirandello and His Contemporaries.

Presiding:  Stefano Giannini – Syracuse University

Thursday, 06 January – 5:15-6:30 p.m., 306A, LA Convention Center

“The Paradigms of Paradox and Sarcasm in the Pirandellian Grotesque”

Lisa Sarti – Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York

“Four Authors in Search of a Character. C. K. Scott Moncrieff’s satire between Pirandello and Swift”

Stefano Giannini – Syracuse University

“‘Di carne, oh!’: Grotesque Fantasies and the Artistic Ideal in D’Annunzio’s Il piacere and Pirandello’s Diana e la Tuda

Alani Hicks-Bartlett – Univ. of California, Berkeley

“De-centered Lives, Interrupted Stories: Pirandello’s Narrative Structures as Grotesque, Arabesque, and Caprice”

Michael Subialka, Univ. of Chicago

MLA Los Angeles Convention 2011

2. Masks, Marionettes, Puppets in Modern Italian Culture

Presiding:  Daniela Bini – U. of Texas, Austin

Saturday, 08 January – 12:00 noon-1:15 p.m., 306A, LA Convention Center

“Clothes (Don’t) Make the (Wo)Man: Costume as Mask and Identity in Enrico IV and Nostra Dea”

Stefano Boselli – Gettysburg College

“Puppets and Marionettes on the Italian Screen: A Taxonomy of Genealogies”

Federico Pacchioni –  Indiana Univ

“Pulcinella in Paris”

Daniela Bini – U. of Texas, Austin

Los Angeles - Hollywood