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Fictions of Appetite

Alimentary Discourses in Italian Modernist Literature

Series:

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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Chapter One A Futurist Digest: Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s Alimentary Rhetoric

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1.1 Le Roi Bombance: Between a Dyspeptic Dystopia and an Embryonic Utopia La Grande Dypepsie éclatera tout à coup, coincidant avec le refroidisse- ment de la terre stérile!1 — F.T. Marinetti, Le Roi Bombance Even within F.T. Marinetti’s French, pre-futurist and thus already less well-known literary production, his tragédie satirique (or tragédie hilare) Le Roi Bombance,2 published by the editions of Mercure de France in 1905 and subsequently staged in 1909 at the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre in Paris, stands out as a text still very much at the margins of both editorial and critical 1 “Dyspepsia” “Dif ficulty or derangement of digestion; indigestion; applied towards forms of disorder of the digestive organs, esp. the stomach, usually involving weak- ness, loss of appetite, and depression of spirit” (Oxford English Dictionary). Here I use the term to indicate in particular the deranged, anomalous digestive situation that af fects the characters in Le Roi Bombance, one in which starvation, engorge- ment, cannibalism and vomiting represent a cyclic norm. 2 As Pasquale Jannini notes “Tra il 1894 e il 1912 F.T. Marinetti si volle e fu scrittore francese” in Scritti francesi (Milan: Mondadori, 1983), 7. The Italian translation by Decio Cinti, Re Baldoria, appeared in 1909. The editions of the play used here are: Le Roi Bombance (Paris: Société du Mercure de France, 1905) and Re Baldoria (Milano: Fratelli Treves, 1920). 22 Chapter One attention. Two simple considerations confirm that Marinetti’s social- gastronomical play has generally failed to find...

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