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Ten Steps

Critical Inquiries on Leopardi


Edited By Fabio Camilletti and Paola Cori

This book is a ten-step journey around the thought and poetry of the most sensitive Italian visionary of modernity, Giacomo Leopardi, whose contribution to Western thought has been acclaimed by admirers from Schopenhauer to Nietzsche to Benjamin. A variety of readings, moving between different disciplines and approaches – including film studies, psychoanalysis, and queer theory – shed new light on Leopardi’s fascinating and at the same time epistemologically radical compound of poetic imagination and philosophical complexity. An advocate of an ultra-philosophy, which aims to negotiate the fracture opened in Western imagination by the irrecoverable loss of ancient «illusions», Leopardi’s thought seems more relevant than ever in the post-human era, offering an (un)timely meditation on desire, suffering, and imagination as the foundational features of humanity.
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1. The Making of Leopardi in English



1 The Making of Leopardi in English

In the introduction to his Imitations, Robert Lowell famously remarked: ‘I have been reckless with literal meaning, and laboured hard to get the tone’.1 The poet’s aim was to recapture the tone of the original; that which resists transference into a different language and cultural system. He wanted his poems to convey what the original authors could have written, if they were writing in twentieth-century America. Lowell was making clear reference to a long-rooted tradition of translation theories, including John Dryden’s notion of mimesis, and the anti-literalist views of writers closer to his age, such as Boris Pasternak who, notably, professed his scepticism for all translations focusing on the literal meaning rather than the tone of a poem.2

The hybrid nature of Lowell’s imitations has since fuelled debates on the manner and purpose of translating practice, and on the metaphors of translation, in particular.3 His versions of Leopardi, in addition, have become a significant landmark for assessing recent approaches on the ← 21 | 22 → Italian in the English-speaking world. Lowell’s renditions of ‘L’infinito’, ‘Il sabato del villaggio’, and ‘A Silvia’ – albeit, at times, factitious, and presenting some glaring inaccuracies – typify the outcome of a difficult dialogue between two poets from different times and places. In the words of Alfredo Rizzardi, ‘Il costante allontanarsi dal testo originale […] è per Lowell un modo di vivere – in altra situazione, in altro tempo, in altro ritmo del mondo – le...

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