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The Eloquence of Ghosts

Giorgio Manganelli and the Afterlife of the Avant-Garde

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Florian Mussgnug

Giorgio Manganelli (1922-1990), one of Italy’s most radical and original writers, went further than most in exploring the creative possibilities of hybrid genres and open forms. Ostentation, theatricality, and a love of drapery and verbal excess are defining features of his body of work, which ranges from prose fiction, literary criticism, and drama to travel writing, treatises, commentaries, and imaginary interviews.
This study examines the wealth of Manganelli’s imagination – his grotesque animals, speaking corpses, and melancholy spectres – and argues that his spectacular eloquence was shaped by an exceptional awareness of literary and philosophical models. Following Manganelli’s lead, the author addresses issues such as the boundaries of meaningful language, the relationship between literary and visual texts, fantasy and realism, and the power of literature to express the apprehensions and intimations of human consciousness.

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Acknowledgements ix Introduction 1 Chapter 1 Beyond the Avant-garde 9 1.1. A History of Controversy 12 1.2. The Insiders’ Outsider 19 Chapter 2 Philosophy, Literature, and Anguish 29 2.1. The Anxiety of Clarity 31 2.2. A Private Utopia 36 Chapter 3 Inside the Linguistic Universe 47 3.1. Travels to Flatland 50 3.2. Forms of Life 55 Chapter 4 The Shadow of the Labyrinth 67 4.1. Nonsense and Lies 69 4.2. Meaning Less 79 4.3. Shadowing the Real 87 4.4. Lucifer’s Gift 95 viii Chapter 5 Masks of Storytelling 101 5.1. Exempla, Digressions, Soliloquy 105 5.2. Life before Literature 118 Chapter 6 Writing in Circles 129 6.1. Text, Landscape, Emptiness 133 6.2. Commentaries and Maps 141 6.3. Rings and Grids 150 6.4. Small Worlds and Arabesques 158 Chapter 7 After the Funeral 165 7.1. The Haunted Text 165 7.2. Words from the Dead 180 7.3. Danse Macabre 190 Chapter 8 In the Company of Ghosts 197 8.1. Hamlet’s Last Folly 198 8.2. Phantasmagoria 207 Bibliography 217 Index 237 Acknowledgements The ideas discussed in this volume have been with me for a long time, and I wish to take this opportunity to thank all those – friends and colleagues, teachers and students – who have offered me intellectual inspiration, sup- port and encouragement. Parts of my research have been presented at the Universities of Birmingham, Bologna, Cambridge, Rome, Pisa, Warwick, and at various conferences organized by the Society for Italian Studies between 2005 and 2009. During this time, I have also benefited from contacts...

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