115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Inverted Vate: Pier Paolo Pasolini and d’Annunzio

Gian Maria Annovi, University of Southern California

In the first part of this paper, I set out to understand the reasons for the critical association between Pasolini and d’Annunzio despite the enormous differences that characterize their own poetics and cultural destiny. I will show how critics adapted the moral and political prejudices used against d’Annunzio to Pasolini’s case. To do this, I will analyze Pasolini’s general attitude toward the figure of d’Annunzio. 

Proposal: 

Gabriele d’Annunzio was fully aware of having created, with his art and actions, a haunting autonomous literary character, an international star writer, whose celebrity proved to be sometimes cumbersome, even for the poet himself. Such a figure appeared as something unprecedented in post-unification Italy, a young nation in need of a cultural identity, international glory, and new myths. D’Annunzio, who elected himself as Vate, the foreseer and national bard, was convinced to be able to give Italy all of the above.

D’Annunzio presented himself not simply as a poet, in his immodest opinion the most important one after Dante, but a writer able to express himself successfully in all literary forms with great international acclaim. He was L’Immaginifico, the Great Creator or Image-maker that the country needed. At the same time, d’Annunzio fashioned himself also as a political figure, a war hero, who had conquered the Istrian city of Fiume. Undeniably, he was an extraordinary communicator, who understood the importance of the media and used them skillfully to fuel the cult of his personality. He indeed created a pervasive public persona, a sort of personal myth that he carefully administrated following the rules of the growing culture industry and image culture.

Pier Paolo Pasolini is indeed the only modern Italian figure that succeeded in creating an authorial persona as influential and controversial as d’Annunzio’s, and possibly the only one to have reached a comparable level of international celebrity in twentieth-century Italy. However, besides being a writer who, like d’Annunzio, expressed himself in all possible forms, Pier Paolo Pasolini was quite far form his predecessor. He was in fact a homosexual, a Marxist, and a vociferous critic of capitalism, colonialism, heteronormativity, and mass-media society. Nevertheless, a long critical tradition has often associated d’Annunzio and Pasolini because of their alleged aestheticism, their narcissism, and the ability to capitalize on their personal myth.

In the first part of this paper, I set out to understand the reasons for the critical association between Pasolini and d’Annunzio despite the enormous differences that characterize their own poetics and cultural destiny. I will show how critics adapted the moral and political prejudices used against d’Annunzio to Pasolini’s case. To do this, I will analyze Pasolini’s general attitude toward the figure of d’Annunzio. Finally, I will focus on a revealing and problematic article in which Pasolini discusses d’Annunzio’s alleged homoeroticism to undermine his ideology.

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