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Pirandello Proto-Modernist

A new reading of «L’esclusa»

Bradford A. Masoni

Luigi Pirandello’s first novel L’esclusa, completed in its earliest form in 1893, straddles two literary worlds. On the one hand, it is clearly rooted in the late nineteenth-century realist mode, especially that of Italian verismo. On the other, Pirandello employs a style and an approach to narrative that anticipate both the theory of writing he would later lay out in his long essay L’umorismo [On Humour] (1908), and the kinds of experimental writing that one associates with the author’s later work and with early twentieth-century modernism in general. Examining the novel in light of its relationship to these two worlds not only gives readers insight into the trajectory of Pirandello’s work as he developed as a writer, but also marks it as an example of the broader shift towards modernism that was already beginning to be made manifest in the works of novelists across Europe.

This book provides a new critical evaluation of L’esclusa, linking it explicitly to the theoretical principles aligned with Pirandello’s later output and with early twentieth-century literary modernism in general. L’esclusa and Pirandello’s other early works of fiction have too long been overlooked, particularly by scholars working in English. The aim of this book is not only to connect L’esclusa to Pirandello’s later, better-known writing, and to literary modernism, but also to bring this forward-looking novel to the attention of readers in the English-speaking world.

«Built on expert close-reading, Pirandello Proto-Modernist offers a subtle reconceptualization of Pirandello’s early novel L’esclusa, demonstrating that this seemingly realist work bears many of the formal hallmarks of modernism. Masoni’s work will thus be of interest both for Pirandello scholars but also for those wishing to understand the relationship between modernism and the literary modes that precede it.» (Paul Stasi, Associate Professor of English, SUNY Albany)

«In the years between the gradual decline of realist literature and the rise of the modernist perspective, future Nobel Prize winner Luigi Pirandello published a novel that is a symptom of this historical and cultural transition. Bradford A. Masoni offers readers a compelling interpretation of L’esclusa, underlining its philosophical and stylistic connections with the epistemological revolution, the crisis of objective truth, which lies at the heart of European modernist culture. Pirandello Proto-Modernist offers an original interpretation of some of Pirandello's most important writings (including the essay On Humor), and constitutes a valuable tool for students and faculty interested in the crucial shift between 19th and 20th century culture.» (Mimmo Cangiano, Assistant Professor of Romance and Latin American Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)