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Le maschere della scrittura. Appunti linguistici

sulla narrativa di Tommaso Landolfi.

by

Wanda Santini

A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Italian Studies University of Toronto

Copyright by Wanda Santini 2015

ii

Le maschere della scrittura. Appunti linguistici

sulla narrativa di Tommaso Landolfi

Wanda Santini

Doctor of Philosophy

Department of Italian Studies

University of Toronto

2015

Abstract

This study seeks to provide a linguistic and stylistic analysis of the narrative of

Tommaso Landolfi, one of the most productive Italian writers of the twentieth century.

Critics and scholars alike have always considered the narcissistic elegance of Landolfi's

prose as one of the most fascinating aspects of his literary work, and many studies have

explored the characteristics of his language. Our analysis aims to complement the

information provided by the existing literature by examining a corpus that covers Landolfi's

entire career and includes the following publications: Dialogo dei massimi sistemi (1937), II

mar delle blatte e altre storie (1939), La pietra lunare (1939), La spada (1942), Le due

zittelle (1946), Racconto d'autunno (1947), Cancroregina (1950), LA BIERE DU PECHEUR

(1953), Ombre (1954), Ottavio di Saint Vincent (1958), Landolfo VI di Benevento (1959), In

societ (1962), Scene dalla vita di Cagliostro (1963), Rien va (1963), Tre racconti (1964),

Un amore del nostro tempo (1965), Racconti impossibili (1966), Des mois (1967), Un

paniere di chiocciole (1968), Faust 67 (1969), Breve canzoniere. Dialoghi e poesie (1971),

Le labrene (1974), A caso (1975).

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The results of our survey indicate that three major forces shape Landolfi's linguistic and

stylistic choices. The first one is the compulsion to the use of a first person narrator, a

constant to which Landolfi frequently opposes either the adoption of dialogic hence purely

mimetic structures, or the use of textual forms that traditionally require, and therefore

justify, the presence of a first person narrator (i.e. diary, letter, confession). The second force

is the tendency to use extremely refined, literary vocabulary and morphosyntactic structures.

The third force is the natural inclination of Landolfi's narrative to enter a metadiscursive

dimension: not only is Landolfi's prose constantly subject to the merciless metalinguistic

criticism of the author, it is also exposed to the risk of collapsing under the burden of

excruciating metanarrative experiments. Overall these three forces keep Landolfi's prose

irrevocably separated from the ideal plainness and simplicity of expression to which he

aspires.

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Supplementary Abstract

Objective and scope of the research

This study seeks to provide a linguistic and stylistic analysis of the narrative of Tommaso

Landolfi, one of the most productive Italian writers of the twentieth century. Critics and

scholars alike have always considered the narcissistic elegance of Landolfi's prose as one of

the most fascinating aspects of his literary work, and many studies have explored the

characteristics of his language. In the introductory chapter of this dissertation, I provide an

overview of the existing critical literature, and argue for the need for a new analysis of this

topic. I then describe the objectives and methodology of my research. Chapters one to three

apply said methodology to a corpus that covers Landolfi's entire career and includes the

following publications: Dialogo dei massimi sistemi (1937), II mar delle blatte e altre storie

(1939), La pietra lunare (1939), La spada (1942), Le due zittelle (1946), Racconto d'autunno

(1947), Cancroregina (1950), LA BIERE DU PECHEUR (1953), Ombre (1954), Ottavio di

Saint Vincent (1958), Landolfo VI di Benevento (1959), In societ (1962), Scene dalla vita di

Cagliostro (1963), Rien va (1963), Tre racconti (1964), Un amore del nostro tempo (1965),

Racconti impossibili (1966), Des mois (1967), Un paniere di chiocciole (1968), Faust 67

(1969), Breve canzoniere. Dialoghi e poesie (1971), Le labrene (1974), and A caso (1975).

Each chapter is devoted to different decades of Landolfi's career: the Thirties and Forties

(chapter I), the Fifties (chapter II), the Sixties and the Seventies (chapter III). The results of

the analysis are summarized in the Conclusions.

Literature Review

Scholars and critics of Landolfi's literary production agree that language and style are a

primary concern for the author, and one of the most interesting aspects of his work. It is no

coincidence that readers and critics have historically displayed great interest for these two

components. Also, it has been frequently argued that the elitism of Landolfi's prose accounts

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for his lack of popularity, and is the reason why he came to be considered as "a writer for

writers" (Cortellessa 2009: viii).

Many studies have acknowledged the importance of this superficial veneer of polished

and aristocratic style, and have speculated about its functions. For example, in the

introduction to a very famous anthology of Landolfi's short stories, Italo Calvino recalls the

general tendency to consider it as a way to disguise emptiness, or the incumbency of the

death (Calvino 1982: 421). Quite interestingly, in the same passage Calvino also points out

that this linguistic veneer is also a "world" in itself, a refined artistic creation that deserves to

be carefully analyzed. His remark alluded to the absence of studies that focused specifically

on Landolfi's language and provided a technical description of its characteristics. In the two

decades after the publication of Calvino's anthology the critical landscape did not change

much. Only recently some important new studies started to appear: in particular, on the

occasion of the hundredth anniversary of Landolfi's birth (2008) many collection of studies

have been published and several experts of the history of Italian have focused on the

characteristics of Landolfi's language (Dardano 2010, Grignani 2006 and 2010, Zublena

2004, 2008, 2010 and 2013). These scholars unanimously express the idea that Landolfi's

language intentionally distances itself from spoken Italian, firmly remaining within the limits

of the hortus conclusus represented by literary tradition.

Although the existing studies provide a significant amount of data, they only lay the

foundations for the analysis of Landolfi's language and cannot be considered conclusive. The

first reason is that the corpora on which the surveys have been conducted are generally

limited to an anthological selection of passages from two or three of Landolfi's books, and

not extended to its entire production. Secondly, the description of Landolfi's prose is almost

exclusively based on morphology and vocabulary, and syntactical phenomena are only

considered superficially. Where a syntactical analysis has been conducted, the results have

been inconsistent, for some scholars have concluded that Landolfi's syntax is mostly

hypotactic (Zublena 2004, Grignani 2006), whereas others have argued for the predominance

of coordination (Dardano 2010). The reason for this apparent contradiction is likely to be the

vi

variety of textual forms used by Landolfi, forms that span from introspective, first-person,

diary-like narratives to semi-theatrical dialogues or monologues: it is safe to assume that the

variety of syntactic configurations reflects the variety of narrative structures in Landolfi's

work. It is therefore necessary to analyze syntax and textual forms together, so as to explore

how the first relates to the second, and how the second might explain significant fluctuations

in the first.

Overall, the exam of the existing studies that focus on the characteristics of Landolfi's

language clearly points to the need for a linguistic analysis that is based not on a selection of

works and passages, rather on a corpus that covers the entire span of the author's career and

looks at novels and short stories in their entirety. Ideally this analysis should also

complement the existing ones by studying in greater detail the syntactic and textual

elements. The present dissertation stems from this need and seeks to provide a

comprehensive description of Landolfi's prose, with the final aim of better understanding the

nature and functions of its literary veneer.

Focus of the analysis: dialogism and theatrical dimension

In order to articulate more precisely the objectives of the research, I have also conducted an

extensive survey of the scholarship that focuses on Landolfi's work without adopting a

linguistic angle. Quite interestingly, one recurrent element in this production is the use of

critical categories such as dialogism and theatricality/theatralization. For example, in a 2010

essay Secchieri suggests that the entire literary production of Landolfi can be considered

intimately dialogic, since many of Landolfi's short stories coinc