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…