Tra fatto e verità: Narrazioni ibride e impegno
I work at the intersection of literature, ethics, and society. My dissertation is the first comprehensive study devoted to the reshaping of Italian novels in the wake of a new understanding of today's engaged intellectual. I argue that in the 1990s a major shift occurred from purely fictional "apolitical" narrations to more committed ones. I identify both national (A. Arbasino, L. Sciasia), and transnational (V.S. Naipaul, T. Wolfe) writers as influential models for contemporary Italian narrations that blur genre boundaries between fiction and nonfiction. Unlike many other scholars (G. Guglielmi, A. Cortellessa, and others), I argue that the mix of the two genres does not aim for a new form of realism, but is instead an attempt to present a morally articulated perspective on life in today's world. My research demonstrates how the use of a hybrid genre enables authors to address their readership both as storytellers as well as intellectuals engaged in issues of general concern to Italian society.
My analysis of the possibility of engaged literature today leads me to examine the ethics of literary representation more generally and consider works by Primo Levi (Se questo è un uomo), José Saramago (O Evangelho segundo Jesus Cristo), Roberto Saviano (Gomorra), and Susan Sontag (Regarding the Pain of Others) that exemplify the problematic relation between the text and the representation of suffering. Here I argue that aesthetics and ethics are "two sides of the same coin": what many contemporary authors refuse is, in fact, the "rhetoric of fiction," a rhetoric which falsifies reality and stimulates the readers's voyeurism. This is where my study returns to its starting point: the need of a new form of the novel. Such form should be narrative but overcome the "rhetoric of fiction;" it should describe the immediate, or factual reality, therefore assuring the social relevance of its discourse, but at the same time transcend it in order to convey a deeper, archetypical, meaning of human history. From this perspective, I study past and contemporary theories that claim the death of the novel, focusing in particular on works by Nathalie Sarraute (L'Ère du soupçon), David Shields (Reality Hunger), and Alberto Arbasino (Certi romanzi). Through the analysis of specific texts – among others L'Enfant éternel by Philippe Forest, Signore delle lacrime by Antonio Franchini, and The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell – I claim that today's hybridization of the novel does not represent the end of the genre but, at the exact contrary, its great vitality.
0313: Romance literature