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Fictions of Appetite

Alimentary Discourses in Italian Modernist Literature


Enrico Cesaretti

Fictions of Appetite explores and investigates the aesthetic significance of images of food, appetite and consumption in a body of modernist literature published in Italian between 1905 and 1939. The corpus examined includes novels, short stories, poems, essays and plays by F.T. Marinetti, Aldo Palazzeschi, Massimo Bontempelli, Paola Masino and Luigi Pirandello. The book underlines the literary relevance and symbolic implications of the «culinary sign», suggesting a link between the crisis of language and subjectivity usually associated with modernism and figures of consumption and corporeal self-obliteration in «alimentary» discourse. In revisiting these works under label of modernism, which has traditionally been shunned in the Italian critical field, the volume brings critical discourse on early twentieth-century Italian literature closely into line with that of other Western literatures. The author argues that an alimentary perspective not only sheds striking new light on each of the texts examined, but also illustrates the signifying power of the culinary sign, its relations to the aesthetic sphere and its prominent role in the construction of a modernist sensibility.


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This book project grew out of a graduate seminar on “Italian Modernist Literature” that I have been teaching during my years at the University of Virginia. My first thank you, therefore, goes to all the graduate students who attended my course and helped me better define and develop my argument. My work, at dif ferent stages and under dif ferent forms, has benefited from the conversations, input, comments and observations of generous col- leagues and friends. Their feedback and encouragement is deeply appreci- ated. The editors of the series “Italian Modernities”, Pierpaolo Antonello and Robert Gordon (and the anonymous reviewers) are the latest in a list that should at least mention, among others, Luca Somigli, Ernesto Livorni, John Welle, Paolo Valesio, Marja Harmånmaa, Elisa Biagini and Christina Ball. My additional gratitude goes to Sheila McMillen for her copy-editing and polishing ef forts, and Hannah Godfrey at Peter Lang for her help and advice. The completion of this book was facilitated by three generous awards I received from the University of Virginia: a Sesquicentennial Associateship award (Fall 2008); a PAW (Professors as Writers) award (Fall 2012), and a Research Support Grant in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (Spring 2013). I am thankful to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies for their con- sideration and support. I gratefully acknowledge permission from the journals listed below to reprint, in modified form, some of the following material I have previ-...

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