Call for Papers: “Breaking the Fourth Wall: Experimental Theatre from Six Characters to Today” – 2021 MLA Convention, Toronto

In recognition of the 100-year anniversary of the first performance of Luigi Pirandello’s landmark 1921 play, Six Characters in Search of an Author, this guaranteed panel will consider the role that experimental theatre played during the years of the historical avant-garde and the broader implications of that experimentation across the 20th century and today.

Luigi Pirandello’s theatrical innovations were important for the modernist transition away from naturalist and realist conventions of a “fourth wall” constructed to enclose a discrete world on the stage. He engaged with numerous avant-garde figures who were active in that shift, and he influenced generations to follow. Pirandello’s attempt with Six Characters to break that fourth wall and experiment with meta- and absurdist theatre was met with incomprehension and outrage at its first run: the audience disrupted the performance in Rome with shouts of “Madhouse!” Yet, only a year later the play had its premiere on Broadway and within a few years it was met with high esteem in Europe and America, an esteem that has continued to this day. The works of Bertolt Brecht, Thornton Wilder, and Samuel Beckett would soon follow, and the norms of theatre in the West were forever changed by the mid-20th century.

We seek proposals that consider metatheatre, absurdist theatre, and other forms of experimental performance (dance, performance art, etc.) that are in conversation with the historical avant-garde figures who effectively broke down the fourth wall. In light of Six Characters centennial and its foundational place in the history of metatheatre, we are particularly interested in proposals that consider Pirandello and this seminal play’s role in opening a new space for representation between the audience and the stage. 

Abstracts of ~300 words and short bios should be sent to Julianne VanWagenen ( and Michael Subialka ( by March 20, 2020. 

This is a guaranteed panel for the 2021 MLA Convention in Toronto (January 7-10, 2021).

PSA Panel at the Modern Language Association 2020 Conference in Seattle

The Pirandello Society session at the MLA convention is scheduled for

Saturday, January 11, 2020

10:15 AM – 11:30 AM

489 It’s All Relative: Modernism and Science

Washington State Convention Center, Room 603

For the full conference program, see this link.


Joshua R. Galat: Virginia Woolf and a Climate of Uncertainty


This presentation locates Virginia Woolf’s final two novels, The Years (1937) and Between the Acts (1941), within the formative years of quantum physics and the interwar period to explore her depictions of uncertain weather conditions as expressions of the cultural anxieties surrounding the shifting epistemological and political landscape. Developed and popularized during the 1920s and early 30s, quantum physics revolutionized science and revealed that the certainty of Newtonian physics was fundamentally misguided. Simultaneously, Fascism was spreading throughout Europe, threatening England’s sovereignty and way of life. In her diaries and letters, Woolf reveals that she eagerly read about and discussed quantum physics with her friends and associates even as they dealt with the increasing likelihood of another global war. At a more personal level, Woolf’s lifelong struggles with mental illness peaked during these years, contributing to her eventual suicide in 1941.In this presentation, I examine The Years and Between the Acts within the context of these scientific, cultural, and personal ends of certainty to argue that Woolf employed the weather in her writing as a means of grappling with the surging prevalence of uncertainty in her life. After offering an overview of quantum physics and Woolf’s exposure to key ideas, I explain their effects on her literary imagination during the 1930s and the intensifying role of the weather in her personal writings. Then, turning my attention to The Years and Between the Acts, I examine the symbolic dimensions of the weather in relation to the plots and lives of the characters. Overall, I contend that Woolf uses the weather to probe the domestic implications—both in terms of England and modernist subjectivity—of a climate of uncertainty as she conceptualizes a new, scientifically-grounded framework for perceiving the future.

Bio: Joshua R. Galat is currently completing his Ph.D. in Theory and Cultural Studies at Purdue University. His dissertation, “Engaging the Unknowable: Modernism, Science, and Print,” explores the ways in which print culture facilitated dialogue and ideological exchange between modernism and the new physics of the early twentieth century. He has published three peer-reviewed articles in modernist studies, the most recent of which is forthcoming in the Journal of Modern Literature.


Samuel Heidepriem: Robert Musil’s Encyclopedia of the Sciences


Austrian modernist Robert Musil’s magnum opus The Man Without Qualities (1930; 1933) famously opens with a meteorological report describing the barometric pressure, isothermal shifts, and water vapor level on a summer day in 1913. This is one of countless instances in which the novel integrates detailed scientific discourse, from the third-person narrator’s impromptu discussions of relativity and particle physics to the intellectual pursuits of the protagonist, Ulrich, a mathematician, scientist, and engineer. Ulrich’s problem is that, despite the wealth of culture and knowledge available to him in fin de siècle Vienna, he cannot choose a definite path for his life or thought—this makes him a “man without qualities.” One consequence is that his scientific explorations—like the narrator’s scientific digressions—are sporadic and never yield a consistent trajectory.

I argue that Musil’s novel depicts the difficulty of incorporating scientific knowledge into an encyclopedic unity, an ambition embodied in the work of G.W.F. Hegel, whose philosophical system assigns explicit positions and functions to scientific disciplines in the overall scheme of absolute knowledge. But Hegel, writing in the early 1800s, has a very different idea than Musil of what constitutes science. They are separated by the scientific upheavals of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which further complicate Hegel’s encyclopedic project. But what is difficult for philosophy, I argue, may be better suited to the novelistic form. Musil’s novel integrates scientific discourse in a way that shows the limitations of philosophical approaches like Hegel’s while presenting its own encyclopedic alternative.

I emphasize two aspects of this modernist encyclopedic novel: first, it prioritizes multiplicity over unity in its representation of science. Instead of cohering to a prior conceptual scheme, scientific knowledge appears in The Man Without Qualities as a multitude with no obvious center. Second, it presents scientific insight as occasional and unpredictable—often the result of a felicitous encounter or sudden memory—rather than planned and controlled.

Bio: Samuel Heidepriem is a postdoctoral fellow in the Institute for World Literatures and Cultures at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He received his PhD from the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at University of Michigan in 2017. His research focuses on German literature from the Enlightenment to the present, political theory, and intellectual history.


Ana Ilievska: The Imitation Game: Norbert Wiener, Author of Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio?


An operator imitating the impassibility and workings of his machine; an actress imitating a tiger; a camera imitating biological processes; and a film company imitating society and the cosmos—these are some of the mimetic relations at the basis of Luigi Pirandello’s Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio Operatore (1915, 1925). Similar relations between mechanisms and organisms will later become fundamental for what Norbert Wiener established as the field of cybernetics, the science of communication and control in inanimate and animate entities. But before such terms as “cybernetics” and “cyborg” were coined around the mid-twentieth century and sparked the popular imagination, the figure of the man-machine had already entered the world of fiction, challenging what it means to be human and demanding new modes of (modernist? posthuman? postmodern?) relationality and communication.

This paper takes a Borgesian approach to Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio and its author, and explores the mimetic and symbiotic interactions between the film camera and the main human protagonist Serafino Gubbio, as if the novel had been written by Norbert Wiener, the author of Cybernetics (1948). The figure of the cyborg is at the center of my paper’s analysis which is structured around the following questions: To what purpose and extent does Serafino Gubbio merge with and imitate the camera (“two legs, a torso, and, on top, a machine”)? What is at stake when he speaks of “impassibility” and a “thing-like silence” as desirable or perhaps even required qualities in “times like these, times of machines,” and what are the implications thereof? Approaching the Quaderni from such a playful but therefore and also ultimately Pirandellian point of view opens up new critical pathways for the Sicilian Nobel Laureate’s work within a technological context, simultaneously providing Wiener’s foundational book with its, well, missing cyborg protagonist (Ronald Kline 2009).

Bio: Ana Ilievska is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago. She completed her BA and MA in Romance Studies and International Literatures at the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen. Her dissertation and research focus on human-machine interactions in late nineteenth/early twentieth century novels from Southern Europe (Italy and Portugal). She has taught a self-designed undergraduate course on “Literature and Technology from Frankenstein to the Futurists” at the University of Chicago. Currently she is conducting dissertation research on a Fulbright scholarship (2018-2019) at the Università degli Studi di Catania where she is part of the Centro di Informatica Umanistica’s team working on the Edizione Nazionale Digitale of Pirandello’s opera omnia.


Kara Watts: Quantum Theory, Feminism, and Invisible” Influence in Interwar British Literary Imagination


This paper takes up the impact of physicsspecifically, the philosophical problems posed by work in quantum theory and cosmology from Erwin Schrödinger, James Jeans, and Niels Bohr—upon writer Sylvia Townsend Warner’s feminist literary imagination in interwar Britain. Specifically, I aim to examine how physics and feminism shared a discourse of invisible influence. By “invisible influence,” I mean those forces, energies, and properties that are just beyond the realm of ordinary physical visibility. In the early decades of the twentieth century, quantum theory was beginning to set itself apart from classical physics by attending to atomic, unseen forces upon the physical, visible world. This work was not restricted to specialist audiences, but was disseminated through popular publications, lectures, and controversies. From Schrödinger’s famed thought experiment, to Bohr’s research on the constitution of atomic nuclei and their transmutations, to Jeans’s work on cloud density that led to the publication of his immensely popular book The Mysterious Universe (1930), developments in physics were pushed into popular cultural imagination.

In the years prior to many of these developments’ arrival to public knowledge, Warner wrote two novels in short succession that aimed to understand similarly invisible, quotidian forces. These forces were not atomic, however, but structural—they were invisible structures that maintained women’s sociopolitical and economic inequality in British society. (Warner was not alone in her inquiry – her interest in invisible forces is akin to what Virginia Woolf explains in Three Guineas [1938] as the toxic “atmosphere” of British colonialist and patriarchal thought that maintained the oppression of women and colonial subjects.) Warner represents the physical realm of British daily life as already exerting invisible influence and constraint upon its inhabitants. Through philosophical shift and leaps of belief, however, this realm could be dramatically altered. For example, the structural limits placed on women’s lives in Lolly Willowes (1926) are so strong that the novel’s protagonist turns to the supernatural to gain invisible control over her own life in ways imperceptible to those around her. Similarly, in her novel Mr. Fortunes Maggot (1927) the limits of colonialism render a British Christian missionary’s struggles teaching a young boy mathematics on a remote South Seas island into a crisis of colonialism’s continued invisible restrictions on epistemology.

Ultimately, I find that Warner’s knowledge of popular scientific developments along with her personal correspondence with James Jeans grew into a feminist literary aesthetic of invisible influence that, like quantum physics, held radical potential for ideological change during the interwar period.

Bio: Kara Watts recently completed her PhD in English at The University of Rhode Island. Her dissertation, “Charmed Modernisms: Fantasies of Sociality and Difference in Twentieth-Century British and American Literature,” argues that literary modernists’ unusual attention to the aesthetic notion of charm can be read as a concern for sociopolitical and identity difference. Her most recent publications include an article in Feminist Modernist Studies, “Designing Women: Gertrude Stein, Mass Culture, and the Formation of the Female Body” (February 2019), and a forthcoming collection from The University Press of Florida, Affective Materialities: Reorienting the Body in Modernist Literature (April 2019), co-edited with Molly Volanth Hall and Robin Hackett. She is currently an instructor of Gender & Women’s Studies at URI.

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

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

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

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

Modernism and:

·         The micro (nuclear)

·         The macro (cosmological)

·         The impossible

·         The invisible real

·         The movement of bodies and energy

·         Conceptions of materialism

·         Intellectual history

·         Math

·         Electrical illumination

·         Flight

·         Relativity

·         New conceptions of evolution

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

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

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

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

Call for Papers:

Pirandellian Transactions: Text, Context, Cultural Negotiation

2019 MLA Convention, Chicago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Modern Language Association Convention – New York 2018

The Pirandello Society session at the MLA convention is scheduled for

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

Hilton – Concourse D

For the full conference program, see this link.

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


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

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

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

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


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



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

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


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



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

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


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

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


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

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.

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 (

Call for Papers – Modern Language Association Convention in Vancouver – January 2015

“Pirandello and Politics”

We seek papers that engage Pirandello’s work from a political lens. We are especially interested in papers that examine political themes and motivations throughout his corpus. Some topics of interest might include (but are by no means limited to): questions of history and political struggle/identity in his works (such as I vecchi e i giovani, “Colloquii coi personaggi,” etc.), Pirandello’s view of contemporary politics and society (in works like Il fu Mattia Pascal or I giganti della montagna, for example), and his relationship to the burgeoning culture industry.

Please send 250-word abstracts by 21 March 2014 to Jana O’Keefe Bazzoni ( and Michael Subialka (


“(Re)casting: The Pirandellian Lens”

For this panel we seek comparative and interdisciplinary papers that examine the resonance of Pirandellian themes, tropes, or images in the visual arts, film, or on stage. While critical attention has often been focused on adaptations of Pirandello’s works for stage and screen, less attention has been given to the ways in which Pirandellian aspects like these are recast in the production of other figures throughout the 20th century. To encourage examinations that look at the afterlife of the Pirandellian perspective, we invite papers that consider these resonances in a European and/or global context.

Please send 250-word abstracts by 21 March 2014 to Jana O’Keefe Bazzoni ( and Michael Subialka (


“Labyrinthine Modernisms in Pirandellian Times”

The Modernist Studies Association and the Pirandello Society of America invite you to submit paper abstracts for a proposed joint panel at the MLA Convention in Vancouver (January 2015).

We seek papers/presentations that consider the use of labyrinths and puzzling structures/forms in modernist production, focusing both on Pirandello and on his contemporaries in Europe and across the globe.

Some potential questions of interest include (but are not limited to): whether specific modernist writers develop labyrinthine structures to achieve different outcomes (from aporia and confusion to social-political subversion, etc.); how the labyrinth functions within the text (is it disruptive or a source of continuity? Does it involve the reader, the author, the characters, a meta-fictional self-reflection, etc.?); what are the methods by which such puzzling forms are constructed and deployed; how do various types of modernist labyrinths compare with one another within and across boundaries (of geography, language, time, etc.)?

We welcome comparative and interdisciplinary approaches.

Please submit 250-word abstracts by 21 March 2014 to Leonard Diepeveen (Leonard.Diepeveen@Dal.Ca) 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.

Call for Papers – Modern Language Association Convention Chicago, 9-12 January 2014

The Pirandello Society of America invites papers for the Modern Language Association Convention in Chicago, 9-12 January 2014, on the following topics.

Topic 1
Global Pirandello
Pirandello in and of the world: topics such as cosmopolitanism and global geographies, including legacies, influences, audiences, adaptations. Interdisciplinary/comparative approaches encouraged.

Topic 2
Modern Consciousness: Pirandellian Obsessions
Topics including psychology, spirituality, sexuality and other aspects of modern consciousness in Pirandello and contemporaries; interdisciplinary/comparative approaches encouraged.

By March 15, 2013, please email abstracts of 250 words and a brief biography to Jana O’Keefe Bazzoni,