Italy of literature: the great writers

The Italian literary heritage is excellent. In order to provide a comprehensive background, we can start with the XIIIth century, featured by the poetical movement called “dolce stil novo” that tried to develop an elegant and noble way to express one’s feelings and thoughts by keeping the language away from the vulgar Italian: Guido Guinizzelli who was born in Bologna is considered the forerunner of this movement, afterwards it was developed in Florence, the hometown of the best poetry from “dolce stil novo” since the most of writers are from Tuscany, including Dante Alighieri.

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) is considered the father of the Italian language and he is the author of the “Devine Comedy” that is considered the greatest Italian literary work all over the world. Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-75) was less strict in his literary choices and more available to middle-class readers that were very often the protagonists of his “Decameron”, the mirror of his times, featured by a detailed description of characters. Francesco Petrarca (1307-74) started a new age and he’s considered the forerunner of Renaissance.  Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533), Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) and Francesco Guicciardini (1483-1540) take the Renaissance literature to its highest level, after its classical renewal: ’“Orlando furioso” exalts the knightly subjects while Machiavelli and Guicciardini widen the resources of prose. The “Prince” by Macchiavelli is the base for all modern political essays and the “History of Italy” by Guicciardini goes deep into a realistic-pragmatic historical thought. Torquato Tasso (1544-95) revolutionizes the narrative poem with his “Jerusalem Delivered” (Gerusalemme liberata). In the XVIIthe century Tommaso Campanella (1568-1639) and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) stand out and towards the end of the century the Academy of Arcadia was born, then in the XVIIIth century the attention is focused on Cesare Beccaria (1738-94), Pietro Verri (1728-1797) and Carlo Goldoni (1707-1793) who reformed the theatre while Vittorio Alfieri (1749-1803) put on stage a number of tragedies where the love for freedom and the hate against tyranny were exalted. Giuseppe Parini (1729 –1799) put together the most elegant literary manners with an intellectual and moral commitment in order to understand the renewal needs of the time. Vincenzo Monti (1754 –1828) represents a historical period that stated the supremacy of the new-classical taste in literature while since 1815 the Romanticism has been opposed to the Classicism until 1870 when Giosuè Carducci (1835 - 1907) went back to the Greek-Roman Classicisms.  Ugo Foscolo (1178-1827) is rooted in the new-classical age but he avoids the scholastic obstinacy while Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837) is dominated by a classical style and a materialistic ideology. The greatest representative of the Romantic movement is Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873) – with his very famous “The Bethrothed” (I Promessi Sposi). He aimed at making literature available to everyone in order to overcome the very old difference between spoken and written language. The “Scapigliati” movement is anti-conformist and prefers the themes that can shock middle-class right-minded people: an important representative is Vittorio Imbriani (1840-1886). In the second half of the XVIIIth century the Realistic movement stands out and Giovanni Verga (1840-1922) is one of the best representatives, he focused his attention on a regional reality as well as Grazia Deledda (1871-1936) who wrote about her  Sardinia.

The struggle between the end of the XVIIIth century and the beginning of the XIXth takes Italy into the European Decadentism, Gabriele D’Annunzio is the main representative (1863-1938). Less resounding, at first sight, but more essential is the revolution of the poetical language introduced by Giovanni Pascoli (1855-1912) who, together with Guido Gozzano (1883-1916), leaves the rhetoric of Dannunzio in order to offer a number of thematic and linguistic solutions that are already present in the Italian poetry, including one of the best representatives, Eugenio Montale (1896-1981). The influence of Realism is evident also with Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936) as well as with the starting phase of Italo Svevo (1861-1928) but the move from the external to the internal analysis that is going to bring the psychological introspection beyond the limits of the conscience is already evident. The breaking will of futurists is explicit , especially with Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1867-1944) who was the founder of the movement. The movement of “Ermetismo” is represented by the writers Giuseppe Ungaretti (1888-1970) and Salvatore Quasimodo (1901-68).
The Neorealism is represented by Cesare Pavese (1908-50) and Carlo Levi (1902-75) as well as Francesco Jovine (1902-1950), Elsa Morante (1912-1985) and the early Italo Calvino (1923-85) who very soon abandoned the movement and wrote his fairy stories where the linguistic experimentation matches a rational-mathematical spirit.


Luciana Francesca Rebonato

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