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

Pirandello Society Panels at the MLA in Philadelphia 2006

MLA 2006–Philadelphia, PA.

Friday, 29 December

465. Identity and Self-Representation in Pirandello

1:45–3:00 p.m., Washington B, Loews

Program arranged by the Pirandello Society of America

Presiding: Rosemarie Lavalva, Binghamton Univ., State Univ. of New York

1. “Self-Identification and Self-Communication: Pirandello’s Central Issue,” Umberto C. Mariani, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick

2. “‘Io mi chiamo Mattia Pascal’: Il fu Mattia Pascal and the Authenticity of Identity,” Andrew Martino, Southern New Hampshire Univ.

3. “Machinic Splittings and Other Bergsonian Themes in The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematograph Operator,” Luca Barattoni, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

4. “Eyes Wide Shut: The Impaired Eyesight of Pirandello’s Characters,” Rosemarie Lavalva

Saturday, 30 December

751. Pirandello: Translation and Interpretation

1:45–3:00 p.m., Commonwealth Hall B, Loews

Program arranged by the Pirandello Society of America

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

1. “Pasolini’s Hidden Pirandello,” Daniela Bini, Univ. of Texas, Austin

2. “How a ‘Distraction’ Unmasks a ‘Modus Scrivendi et Ridendi’: A Comparative Study of the ‘Feeling of the Opposite’ and Grotesque,” Maria Luisa Graziano, Saint Peter’s Coll.

Selected Abstracts:

Panel 1:  Friday, 29 December 1:45–3:00 p.m., Washington B, Loews

Identity and Self-Representation in Pirandello

“Self-Identification and Self-Communication: Pirandello’s Central Issue”

The most important them in Pirandello’s major works–e.g. Right You Are, Six Characters, Henry IV, Mattia Pascal, One, No One, One Hundred Thousand, to name only a few — is the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of human communication.

The most difficult of any attempt at human communication is the communication of oneself. . . . Consequently the problem of self-identification and self-representation is central to Pirandello’s major works: it involves both the object and the means and modes of human communication. . . .[T]he characters we will call essentially “Pirandellian.” modern in their struggle with identity and communication as opposed to others in their worlds who recognize no such problems) become very energetic in self-identification and self-presentation, in the attempt to forestall other people’s misrepresentation of them. . . .Not that their task becomes any easier, however, as they become directly invovled in their self-identification and representation.  To communication oneself is still a weary struggle, and the end result is not always positive (see the six characters or Mattia Pascal).  There is often a noticeable difference between the destiny of the “Pirandellian” characters and of those contemporaries who experience no such dilemmas.  The last of Pirandello’s heroes gives up; after a decent struggle, he prefers to no longer have an individual self to communicate; he prefers to lose himself in the indistinguishability of the life of nature and put an end to his efforts, give up the attempt to be one and accept the anonimity and formlessness of non-one-ness, that is actually non-identity, incommunicability.

Umberto Mariani  mariani@rci.rutgers.edu

“‘Io mi chiamo Mattia Pascal’: Pirandello’s Quest for Authenticity”

What we know about ourselves may very well be just the combination of how others perceive us in various social settings.  The identity of any given individual, then, may constitute a complete and utter fabrication often grounded in parody—a simulacrum if you will.  Luigi Pirandello’s Il fu Mattia Pascal takes the notion of one man’s identity and scatters it over the murky terrain of an untimely, yet astonishingly convenient death.  Pirandello’s novel shows us that not only can we not go home again, but it may be impossible to completely flee our own identities and start over.  Taking Freud’s essay “The Uncanny” as my point of departure, this paper argues that our identity ultimately controls our being in ways rendered by Pirandello comically tragic, and that our lives can be read as inherently textual.  This Textuality is demonstrated through Mattia Pascal’s attempts to make a new life for himself outside the seemingly constraining provinces.  What I will attempt to ultimately argue is that through our readings of Il fu Mattia Pascal we take on a certain textuality ourselves.  That is, we read Mattia Pascal and absorb him, therefore accommodating a part of his personality into ours.  What emerges is a spectral society where no one is sure of whom they really are—just what they have been told they ought to be.  Il fu Mattia Pascal deconstructs the notion of identity, both personally and collectively, by challenging the self-representation of ourselves in the social world.  In the end it may be that we are ourselves in name only.

“Martino, Andrew” <a.martino@snhu.edu>

“Eyes Wide Shut:  The impaired Eyesight of Pirandello’s Characters”

The metaphor of the three eyes recurs frequently in medieval texts. Boethius, Hugh of St.Victor, Bonaventure, among others, make multiple references to the eye of the senses, the eye of the mind, and the eye of the heart, ostensibly linking them to the division of the soul into its empirical, rational, and spiritual faculties.  Different realms are accessible to the three eyes and the reality status of what is seen through each eye differs from realm to realm.  We can extend the metaphor and consider the impact all our senses have not just as means to acquire knowledge, but, also, as ways in which we communicate and influence each other.  Various external images come to form our individual identity and we are supposed to consider our reputation — i.e. the opinions others have of us — as objective reality.  Modernity has revisited these concepts and Pirandello has literally turned them over with the argument that all knowledge is impaired, that neither science, nor faith, nor imagination, not even one’s own memory or dreams are ever certain and infallible.   The senses deceive us, they contradict established beliefs and, therefore, damage the very identity they claim to serve;  physical nature and individual consciousness enter into conflict with each other and must be ultimately rejected.  These are the major points of Pirandello’s poetics, discussed in his own theoretical essays and well known to critics.  In this paper, I would like to show how they transfer to the narrative, calling attention to a specific imagery, that of the eyes and of sight.  No one can trust what he sees, furthermore, no one can trust how he sees, and Pirandello seems to look at the famous and long-standing equivalence: to see is to love is to understand as a guide for his pitiless and systematic demolition of all that was once considered stable if not actually sacred.  In his works, few are the  characters who see well and distinguish with clarity objects and people around them (almost unfailingly, they are sick, mad, fool, or dying).  We often encounter, instead, the blind, the myopic, the one-eyed, the glass-eyed, the cross-eyed, the man who looks and does not see, and the one who does not want to look.  For most of them, seeing and being seen by others are burdens from which there is no possible escape

“Rosemarie LaValva” <rlavalva@binghamton.edu>

“Machinic Splittings and Other Bergsonian Themes in The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematograph Operator,”

Browsing the secondary literature on Luigi Pirandello, one cannot but acknowledge the enormous influence which, even today, the characterization of Pirandello’s thought made by Adriano Tilgher around the concepts of “vita” and “forma” still has on the student or scholar who wants to take stock of the many critical interpretations that have tried to shed light on the significance of the Sicilian writer. The name we have to refer to is the name of Henry Bergson. To a different extent, we can say that the Pirandello-Bergson relationship underwent the same problems of ambiguity of the Pirandello-Tilgher one, i.e. a general acceptance and a recognized tie between some of their ideas, but without a thorough, close examination of the Bergsonian theories really able to illuminate some aspects of Pirandello’s philosophy.“The Cinematographical Mechanism of Thought and the Mechanistic Illusion” as well as other Bergsonian texts can in fact illustrate many works by the Sicilian writer, in particular the “Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinema Operator”. The entire novel is projected towards the final moment of intuition, of actualization versus the virtuality of our human condition.

“Luca Barattoni” <baratton@email.unc.edu>

Panel 2:  Saturday, 30 December 1:45–3:00 p.m., Commonwealth Hall B, Loews

Pirandello: Translation and Interpretation

“Pasolini’s Hidden Pirandello”

A short episode in an unsuccessful film (Capriccio all’italiana 1968), conceived between Oedipus Rex and Teorema, intellectually dense and dramatic films, Che cosa sono le nuvole? (what are clouds), is a small jewel that in only twenty-two minutes incorporates a variety of genres and discourses that Pasolini’s uses in order to satisfy a threefold purpose:  the abolition of the hierarchy between high and low art, the inadequacy of words, that is, of the written text with the consequent choice of the image, that is cinema, over literature, and finally the self-referentiality of the work of art. Such discourses, which are in close relationship to one another, are masterly intertwined and the intertextuality that Pasolini uses in this operation is at times openly declared and others, hidden. The self-referential discourse, for example, is accompanied by a clear citation (the painting “Las Meninas” by Velazquez), just as clear is the blending of high and low art (the movie is about a performance of Shakespeare’s Othello in a popular puppet theater). The discourse  of the inadequacy of verbal language, instead, is developed with the hidden support of Pirandello’s narrative. It is on this third discourse that I will concentrate my brief presentation.

Daniela Bini daniela bini <bini@mail.utexas.edu>

“How a ‘Distraction’ Unmasks a ‘Modus Scrivendi et Ridendi’: A Comparative Study of the ‘Feeling of the Opposite’ and Grotesque”

This study will consider as exemplary a short story of Pirandello called “ Distrazione.”   There is a specific characteristic in Pirandello’s grotesque approach to irony, that cannot be found easily in other artistic works and is not possible to transcribe without the problematic implication of an unusual nature to major literary or philosophical theories that study the transferal topoi of the conceptual contrary in irony.

What is the challenge at the heart of Pirandello’s artistic humor? Why does it escape explanation through the commonly successful tools for theoretical interpretation of irony and humor in literature?  If it is possible to demonstrate in a critical reading that general literary theories in humor and art are in conflict with Pirandello’s unique interpretation, what are the implications? Through a comparative analysis of other Italian writers in Pirandello’s time, in addition to a comparative reading of his exemplary writings of a humoristic nature, this study aims at bringing to the surface the manner, the style, the absurdity and the technical beauty of  Pirandello’s irony, highlighting the striking grotesqueness, the imponderable details. This is a study which discusses the unresolved artistic conflicts between the tragic heroic afflatus present in the social and political dynamics of his time, and the respective social antiestablishment documented and conceptualized in the literature of his time.

Maria Luisa Graziano  “Graziano, Maria” mgraziano@spc.edu

Modern Language Association – Chicago 2007 – Pirandello’s L’Umorismo (On Humor, 1908): 100th Anniversary Panels

MLA 2007  Chicago, IL. Pirandello’s L’Umorismo (On Humor, 1908): 100th Anniversary Panels

I. Pirandello’s On Humor (L’Umorismo), 1908: Centennial Program: Instances

Thursday, 27 December
3:30-4:45 p.m., Parlor G, Sheraton Chicago Hotels and Towers

Presider:   John Louis DiGaetani, Hofstra Univ.

1.         “Humor in the Passive, the Active, and the Insane,”   Silvia Abbiati, Ithaca College

2.         “How Form and Content Contain Laughter,” Florin Berindeanu, Case Western Reserve Univ.

3.         “I am…or am I in the Eyes of the Beholder?”Carmela Scala, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York

4.         “On Humor Strategies in It Is So (If You Think So), Lidia Ciccone, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison

5.         “Carlo Gozzi and Pirandello: the Tradition Continues,”  John Di Gaetani, Hofstra Univ.

II. Pirandello’s On Humor (L’Umorismo), 1908: Centennial Program:  Echoes

Saturday, 29 December
3:30-4:45 p.m., Parlor F, Sheraton Chicago Hotels and Towers

Presider:  John Welle, Univ. of Notre Dame

1.        “Pirandello’s Consciousness of Insecurity,” James Nikopoulos, Graduate Center, City Univ of New York

2.        “L’umorismo and female characters: between theory and fiction,”  Paola Casella  Univ. of  Zürich.

3.        “Pirandello’s ‘Umorismo’ and the Sternian Line in Italian Fiction” John Welle, Univ. of Notre Dame

Respondent:  Jana O’Keefe Bazzoni

For further information, contact:  John Di Gaetani,  JDiGaetani@aol.com

I.  Pirandello’s On Humor (L’Umorismo), 1908: Centennial Program: Instances

“Humor in the Passive, the Active, and the Insane”  Silvia Abbiati, Ithaca College

What did Pirandello intend by the use of the term umorismo? In what way was it different from the comic, the ironic, and the satiric? And how did his characters move within the forms that reality gave to them? This paper explores Pirandello’s concept of umorismo in his essay devoted to the topic and in relationship with three of his works: The Late Mattia Pascal, “The License”, and Henry IV. The choice of these three works is deliberate. First, they show how Pirandello’s umorismo is at the foundation of the creative process in most of his works, regardless of genre. Secondly, the protagonists of these works each represent the different reactions Pirandello’s characters have to the discovery of the contrast between the mask and the face, the form and the being. Characters such as Mattia Pascal, disappointed by an experience with a new mask or incapable of rebelling against the forms that imprison them, react passively and with resignation. Others, like Chiàrchiaro in “The License”, react actively and ironically to the forms imposed on them, and by playing their new role they profit from the situation. The protagonist in Henry IV, in turn, represents a third type of Pirandellian character, one that is unable to resign himself to his fate or react actively, and who deliberately closes himself off in the solitude of madness.

“How Form and Content Contain Laughter”  Florin Berindeanu, Case Western Reserve University

My paper intends to focus on the relation between form and content as  discussed by Pirandello in his ‘L’Umorismo’.  Pirandello uses the two aspects of the work of art not only in the Aristotelian sense of the term but also as a reaction to Positivism in general and H.Taine in particular. Yet Pirandello’s essay contains also an intriguing debate with B.Croce on the aesthetic sources of humorism and on this polemic my paper will then insist.

While Pirandello leans on a rather Tainian description of human disponibility towards humor, Croce denies all that and shifts his criticism on the lack of philosophical and aesthetic perspective that results from Pirandello’s essay. It is indeed ultimately a battle between form and content in Pirandello’s essay: on the one hand his insistence on a formal rhetoric of how humorism comes across which represents the writer, on the other hand, Croce’s irritation at seeing the axiological aspect of the aesthetic expression left out.

““I am…or am I in the Eyes of the Beholder?” Carmela Scala, Graduate Center, City Univ. of  NY

In his seminal essay On Humor, Pirandello writes: “what we know about ourselves is but a part, perhaps, a very small part of what we really are… The various tendencies which mark a personality lead us to think seriously that the individual soul is not one”.  Indeed, as he would say , we wear   ‘masks’ both on the outside and the inside, and these masks are constantly in opposition with each other ,creating an endless battle between what we  may think we are,  what we appear to others and what we think they  think we are. Furthermore, the realization that we are a different ‘self’ for each person we meet in our life leads us to a path of anguish where even the simplest  illusionary joy of knowing ‘who we are’ is negated to us and the only way out of the pain is, perhaps, madness. This, at least, seems to be the destiny of the “pirandellian hero”, epitomized in Angelo Moscarda, who attempts the arduous but unfruitful enterprise of searching for ‘himself’ within himself and outside. This essay   intends to  argues that before reaching this pessimistic and nihilist conclusion, Pirandello took a detour attempting  to save the ‘unity of the self’. His detour brings him to theater, and I will focus specifically on three of his major works “It Is So! (If You Think So)”, “Six Characters in Search of an Author” and “Henry  IV”, where by acting out the drama of the contradictoriness between the inner worlds and the outer world he attempts  to overcome it, but this tentative fails. Hence, he returns to his early artistic  roots, that is prose, and finally completes his last novel “One No One and One Hundred Thousand”, which represents the climax of his pessimism  and  ideology  “on humour”” and the perfect conclusion for an intellectual voyage that the author had started with his first novel, “The Late Mattia Pascal”, in 1904.

“On Humor Strategies in It Is So (If You Think So)” Lidia Ciccone, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison

In Pirandello, the moment of theoretical reflection is indistinguishable from his literary production. Moving from this assumption, my paper will highlight the link between the essay On Humor (1908) with the theatrical work It is so! (If you think so). The complex relationship between the two texts goes beyond   the merely poetic translation of a theoretical elaboration, and the present paper has the precise goal to investigate and elaborate that relationship. My goal is to emphasize how the theoretical strategies expressed in Pirandello’s essay On Humor find representation and explication in the play.  Both Pirandello’s theoretical reflection and creative work are detached from Naturalism, projecting themselves towards a moving and complex form characterized by disorder, ambivalence, uncertainty and the contradictions of contemporary humankind. An essential idea in the essay On Humor is what Pirandello defines as “the feeling of the opposite.” Pirandello claims that the “perception of the opposite” is characteristic of the comic, but the humorist needs to go beyond that perception into the feeling of the opposite. This shift allows us the understanding of the multifaceted, contradictory aspects of reality, as we watch it from different perspectives, which are in turn logically acceptable. In multiform and varied reality, comic and tragic are inseparable “as the shadow from the body”.  Through the analysis of the “feeling of the opposite”, my aim is to analyze Pirandello’s typical dichotomies of being and appearance, truth and pretence, identity and mask, sanity and madness. It is the appreciation of these dichotomies that allows us to accept the contradictions of reality, to see reality itself from different perspectives. Pirandello’s characters, of which Laudisi is the emblematic example, become “naked masks,” bitterly and ironically aware of the absurdity of life, of their alienation from their own authentic self. This detachment, this alienation that is reflexive and ironic, bitter and conscious at the same time, is the clear expression of humor.

“Carlo Gozzi and Pirandello: the Tradition Continues”  John Di Gaetani, Hofstra Univ.

This paper will discuss how Carlo Gozzi’s Venetian theater of the l8th century influenced Luigi Pirandello’s theater of the 20th century.     Gozzi’s plays like The Love of Three Oranges, Turandot, and The Snake Lady attempted to revive commedia dell’arte in Venice.     Gozzi’s ten fiabe plays created a popular sensation in Venice at the time and ultimately drove Carlo Goldoni out of town—he moved to Paris and wrote plays there.    Gozzi’s unique fairy-tale plays did not just influence opera composers like Mozart, Wagner, and Puccini.     Gozzi’s plays also influenced Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author in several ways.   First, both playwrights use the theme of improvisation as central to their art forms.   Also, both playwrights use the stock characters from commedia dell’arte in several new ways—the Father in Six Characters as a Pantalone figure, the Step-Daughter as a Servietta figure.   Both playwrights also use fantasy in different ways to create new forms of anti-realistic revolutionary theater for their respective periods.  Both playwrights were attacking realism and trying to create an anti-realistic fantasy theater.

II.  Pirandello’s On Humor (L’Umorismo), 1908: Centennial Program: Echoes

“Pirandello’s Consciousness of Insecurity”  James Nikopoulos, Graduate Center, City Univ of NY

Pirandello’s short story, The Shrine is oftentimes overlooked as a predecessor to Enrico IV. It is the tale of a God-fearing bricklayer named Spatolino who loses his faith in divine justice, and to make up for the loss of God in his life, props himself up as Christ in a shrine he recently built. Like Enrico IV, it is the story of a man who falls into madness as well as the story of a man who perhaps has awoken from this madness, though still clinging to it.  This paper examines Pirandello’s notion of L’Umorismo in relation to Enrico’s and Spatolino’s own versions of a sadness underlying the comic. It examines the idea of umorismo as a consciousness of insecurity, whereby the act of overcompensation, i.e. the charade of Enrico, the old-woman’s overdone make-up from the essay itself, becomes evidence of a character’s recognition of his / her own insecurity. Spatolino’s loss of belief in God, and Enrico’s insecurity over his own sanity and unsure situation have led to a profound unsettling in each. They each choose to mask this insecurity, Spatolino by propping himself up as the god he has lost faith in, and Enrico as the character of an Emperor he believed he once was. If the comic is the view of the mask, then what Pirandello calls umorismo is the knowledge that this mask is the form taken in order to compensate for a deep insecurity. It is this consciousness of insecurity, which aligns L’Umorismo with 20th Century characters like J. Alfred Prufrock and Modernism as a whole.

L’umorismo and female characters: between theory and fiction.”  Paola Casella  Univ. of Zürich.

The most famous page of Pirandello’s essay L’umorismo [On Humor] is without doubt the one about the old lady wearing heavy make-up. Pirandello introduces this character in the second edition of his essay (1920), in order to clarify the per se cryptic definition of the sentimento del contrario [feeling of the opposite]. Which thematic elements and textual strategies make this female portrait so significant to the concept of umorismo elaborated by Pirandello? Based on these deliberations, it will be possible to widen our perspective on the gallery of female characters portrayed by Pirandello according to specific humoristic intentions, as well as to establish their genealogy: from signora Pomponica in the novel L’esclusa (1893), to the robust bespectacled cousin in the tale Piuma (1916), to the all dressed-up lady of the play Diana e la Tuda (1928). It will thus become clear that for Pirandello portrait-making was a favorite application of his bifocal view, compassionate and detached at the same time, typical for his ideas on umorismo. In parallel, the progressive changes in Pirandello’s way of portraying female characters will be thoroughly examined, thereby also highlighting a few particular periods in the writer’s forty-year-long activity. Finally, the diachronic analysis of female portraits both preceding and following the publication of L’umorismo will allow to define the complex interaction between Pirandello’s fiction and his major theoretical essay, revealing its double nature as literary balance and program. For these reasons, one hundred years after his first edition, L’umorismo continues to offer privileged access to the whole of Pirandello’s work.

“Pirandello’s ‘Umorismo’ and the Sternian Line in Italian Fiction” John Welle, Univ. of Notre Dame

In recent decades scholars have emphasized the potency of a Sternian line of humor in Italian fiction stemming from the influence of Lawrence Sterne’s The Life and Adventures of Tristram Shandy and his Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy. Beginning with Ugo Foscolo’s translations of Sterne and carried forward by writers of the nineteenth century such as Carlo Collodi, this type of comic meta-narrative was much appreciated by Pirandello. In his own novels, including Il fu Mattia Pascal and Uno, nessuno e centomila, Pirandello makes explicit references to the British humourist. In Pirandello’s essay on humour, Lawrence Sterne plays a central role. My paper will explore Sternian elements in Pirandello’s works as well as in some contemporary popular writers most likely known by the Sicilian author.

MLA Modern Language Association Panels – San Francisco, California 2008 – Pirandellian Moods

MLA 2008  San Francisco, California.   Pirandellian Moods

Saturday, 27 December

63. Pirandellian Moods: Interpretations and Transformations

5:15–6:30 p.m., San Francisco Marriott

Program arranged by the Pirandello Society of America

Presiding: Maria Rosaria Vitti-Alexander, Nazareth Coll. of Rochester

1. “Pirandello’s ‘On Humor’ and Italian Film Comedy,” Daniela Bini, Univ. of Texas, Austin

2. “A Contemporary Reshaping of the Self: ‘La Balia,’” Lisa Sarti, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York

3. “Luigi Pirandello: Black Swans and Mirrors,” Gregory Kershner, Hofstra Univ.

Sunday, 28 December

343. Pirandellian Moods: Mechanized and Mediated

3:30–4:45 p.m., San Francisco Marriott

Program arranged by the Pirandello Society of America

Presiding: Susan Tenneriello, Baruch Coll., City Univ. of New York

1. “Serafino Gubbio’s Sick Eye,” Davide Bolognesi, Columbia Univ.

2. “Long Live the Machine That Mechanizes Life!” Mihaela Martinescu, Univ. of California, Los Angeles

3. “Pirandellian Spectors in Contemporary Practice: Interactive Media and Performance,” Susan Tenneriello

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

2008 Abstracts

Pirandellian Moods: Narrative, Film, Theatre into the Twenty-first Century

Panel 1 Pirandellian Moods: Interpretations and Transformations

Daniela Bini: Pirandello’s Umorismo in Italian Film Comedy-Abstract

This presentation examines Pirandello famous essay L’umorismo of 1908 and his philosophical
definition of umorismo and tries to see its influence on Italian film comedy-a genre that
became popular in Italy in the Fifties and Sixties, and that can undoubtedly be considered
the most genuine expression of Italian cinema. A few example will be chosen to support such
influence: Federico Fellini’s I vitelloni of 1953, Mario Monicelli’s Amici miei of 1975,
Ettore Scola’s Concorrenza sleale (2001)-three examples of the last fifty years of film making
to show that Pirandello’s “sentimento del contrario” plays still a large role in the humor
of Italian filmmakers and in that of the Italians in general.

Lisa Sarti: A Contemporary Reshaping of the Self: La Balia.

In 1999 the Italian director Marco Bellocchio devised his cinematic adaptation of the short-story La Balia, that Pirandello published in 1903. The film plot is loosely inspired by its literary prototype, as the director injects contemporary issues in the story. The two texts share the same starting point, as their protagonists leave their native village and encounter city life and modernity. Their contact with a bourgeois environment leads them along two diverging paths and, ultimately, to different epilogues. A collapse of morality and a loss of family ties will turn the Pirandellian nanny’s existence into the passive acceptance of a gloomy destiny, from which she cannot escape. Re-reading the literary text from a different temporal perspective, Bellocchio portrays a more assertive protagonist on the screen. Though naive and poor, Annetta strives to re-shape her personal life in order to have a better future. In the two authors the transition between social codes calls attention to pivotal cultural transactions. In the short story the nanny’s behavior is punished by oppressive conventions, while in the film the discourse about sexuality is not subjected to social censorship. What Pirandello conceived as the realistic depiction of a peasant woman’s self-sacrifice and sexual subjugation becomes a tale of female self-development and awareness in Bellocchio’s interpretation.

In my paper I intend to analyze the strategies through which Bellocchio refashions Pirandello’s moods, delivering an anti-conventional message of redemption, which testifies to the director’s social and political committment.

Gregory Kershner Luigi Pirandello: Black Swans and Mirrors

This paper will present an examination of the notions of mirrors, fetish, and fractured narrative in Pirandello’s plays Six Characters in Search of an Author and Henry IV.  . . .What both plays question most clearly is, I believe, a notion of fractured identity through their use of meta-fictional strategies to foreground the nature of the chaos of the narrative subject.  Well known as a radically self- referential or meta-theatrical work, Six Characters is also an instrumental study in what Pirandello termed il teatro dello specchio or “the mirror theater,” a play that turns a mirror onto the theater itself.  On the other hand, Henry IV is a play concerned with the concept of a mask on a face. A good deal can be achieved in an analysis of the psychological attitude and in regard an awareness of the orders of difficulty which are involved in formulation of the mask and insanity.

.The main goal of this paper is to show that neither of Pirandello’s plays operates in a Gramcian manner of dialectical materialism, despite numerous studies proclaiming to see at least Six Characters in such a light. Rather, Six Characters and Henry IV serve as models of writing within a tradition of repressive compensation (mirrors, fetish, and narrative fallacies) that works toward the possibility of systemic critique in a way in which dialectics never can; an approach inspired by what Benjamin refers to as ‘dialectics in deadlock.’

The works of Freud, Lacan, and most recently Nassim Taleb point out the metonymic and compensatory relationship that narrative, mirror, and the fetish have to identity formation. These key critical concepts open up the possibilities for identity disruption and its reconstitution as further displaced identities. My project applies their theories of disruption to Six Characters and Henry IV, for if the tropes of metaphor on which the formation of subjectivity depend are broken down, then new and uncontainable possibilities for the re-visioning of fractured identity and further self-deceptions are made possible. The de-contained identity occasioned by fetishes, mirrors, and fallacies, makes possible the proliferation of multiple, often incompatible, narratives of the subject in Pirandello’s dramatic works.

Panel 2 Pirandellian Moods: Mechanized and Mediated

Davide Bolognesi Serafino Gubbio’s Sick Eye

The camera, the macchinetta infernale that Serafino Gubbio uses on the cinematographic set of the Kosmograph, metaphorically takes on the function of a telescope. Like the famous astronomer Copernico (“one of the greatest humorists” according to Pirandello in L’umorismo), who directed the telescope toward the immensity of the cosmos, thus reducing the Earth to a pointless crumb of ridiculous proportion, Serafino Gubbio pointed the camera to the sets of the Kosmograph (indeed a poignant choice in name). Through the mechanical diaphragm of the camera, Serafino shreds human identity to pieces (to the point of making all the actors hate him), and through his optical device depicts a world in which the blurred border between life and fiction is continually violated. This process, starting with the interno dal vero at the beginning of the novel, reaches its culmination in the final take with the tiger, where the artistic-aesthetical drama of the hunting scene, suddenly but not unexpectedly, turns into a real existential tragedy. At this point the play script and real life become totally entangled in one unsolvable knot. The camera, as a modern Copernico’s telescope, far from just being a passive device, modifies its object as well as the observer. Thus through the destructive eye of Serafino Gubbio, the reader witnesses the ultimate victory of the forma over the vita, as Pirandello theorizes in L’umorismo.

Mihaela Martinescu Long Live the Machine that Mechanizes Life!

In Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio operatore, translated into English, as Shoot, Serafino Gubbio observes people from behind the filter, or mask, of the camera.  What happens to the film actor is similar to the metamorphosis that takes place within the pirandellian man, who ceases to exist as he becomes a character interpreting certain parts, in order to fit the roles into which others, along with society, have ‘fixed’ him.  The actor, when taken off the stage and placed behind the lens of the camera, becomes only an image, an illusion of a reality from which he has been banished, in order to transform his art into a commodity.  In place of the theatrical representation, we have a fragmented and deformed image, “a game of mechanical illusion,” as Pirandello calls it.  The crisis of the protagonist comes from the ‘horror’ in realizing that, along with so many other hands emptied of the soul that would only impede their impassive work, he is just a hand that turns the handle of a machine that kills art as it devours the human soul.  One cannot help but sense the prophetic effect with which Pirandello’s ‘rage against the machine’ anticipates the postmodern age of the mass media and computers, in which images and messages transmitted via screens present everywhere, have invaded us like monsters.  We have all become mere spectators, taking in and then translating the illusions with which we are bombarded on a daily basis into reality the reallity that provides our sustenance.

Susan Tenneriello Pirandellian Spectors in Contemporary Practice: Interactive Media and Performance

Coming soon…

50th Anniversary Celebration of the Pirandello Society of America and its Founder, Marta Abba

Readings of letters and Pirandello’s one act “The Other Son”
Post-performance panel discussion with, among others:
Pietro Frassica, Princeton University
Jane House, Artistic Director, Jane House Productions
Benito Ortolani, emeritus, City University of New York
Janice Capuana, dramaturg and doctoral student in theatre

The evening is cosponsored by

the Center for the Study of Women and Society,

The Graduate Center,

The City University of New York

and Jane House Productions



May 13, 2009

Elebash Recital Hall
CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue (at 34th Street)

New York, NY
6PM: admission is free; open to the public

Pirandello Society Panels at the MLA in Philadelphia – December 2009



Theatrical Perspectives: Pirandello, Il grot­tesco, and Beyond

Panelists:

Annachiara Mariani – Univ. of Tennessee

Michael Subialka – Univ. of Chicago

Samantha Costanzo – Rutgers Univ.

Presiding: Jana O’Keefe Bazzoni, Baruch College

The Sicilian Pirandello in Narrative and Theater

Ernesto Livorni, Univ. of Wisconsin – Madison

Nadine M. Y. Wassef, Univ. of California, San Diego

Janice Capuana, CUNY Graduate Center

Presiding: Janice Capuana

The American Association for Italian Studies & The American Association for Teachers of Italian Conference 25-28 May 2006: Genoa, Italy

Panel: Pirandellian Narrative and Theatre  Organizer & Chair: Jana O’Keefe Bazzoni, Baruch College

Panelists:

“La condizione umoristica delle protagoniste pirandelliane,” Carmela Pesca, Central Connecticut State University

“Elementi paralleli di modernità in Luigi Pirandello e Joseph Conrad,” Valeria Petrocchi, Università per Stranieri – Perugia

“La tragedia del Risorgimento e dell’emigrazione tra scrittura e narrazione ne ‘L’altro figlio’ di Pirandello,” Teresa Fiore, California State University Long Beach

“L’eredità pirandelliana nel teatro napoletano di Eduardo ” Mirella Ioly, Ottawa University and Carleton University, Ottawa.