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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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Chapter Four How to Cope with the Bites of Modernity: Two Literary Recipes by Massimo Bontempelli a


nd Luigi Pirandello 4.1 Learn to Play or Be Eaten: Massimo Bontempelli’s Gente nel tempo Come si divertiranno gli uomini Quando avranno un coltello per tagliare l’Eternità — M. Bontempelli, Il Purosangue 1919 Vedi, tu sai tante cose, ma se non vuoi piú farmi paura, devi impararne una ancora: devi imparare a giocare. — M. Bontempelli, Nembo 1935 Although a substantial amount of critical literature exists today on Massimo Bontempelli and his oeuvre as a modernist writer and intellectual, not many pages of criticism are dedicated to his 1937 “novecentista” novel Gente nel tempo (from now on, Gente).1 In the most recent monographic stud- ies on Bontempelli, their authors either did not feel the need – arguably because of their specific focus and goals – of including it in their analysis (i.e., Tempesti 1974; Saccone 1979; Urgnani 1991; Glielmo 1994) or, when 1 Gente nel tempo was written between 1935 and 1936 and it first appeared as a serial in the journal Nuova Antologia. 210 Chapter Four they did, they dismissed it quite rapidly, devoting minimal space to its discussion (see Airoldi Namer 1979; Cecchini 1986; Fontanella 1997).2 Granted, Bontempelli himself has notoriously been “un autore sostan- zialmente ‘rimosso’ dalla critica letteraria italiana del secondo dopoguerra”3 and, therefore, it should not be surprising that such a removal has af fected also (and especially) one of his “più fortunati (!) romanzi,”4 the one that, nonetheless, supposedly “segna il definitivo riconoscimento della maturità artistica dello scrittore.”5 As I am on the verge...

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