Origins of postmodern impegno: ethical and political commitment in the works of Gianni Celati

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Ronchi Stefanati, Michele
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University College Cork
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This research investigates the role of Gianni Celati in the development of postmodern forms of impegno in contemporary Italy. It examines Celati’s entire works, as a writer, literary critic, translator and film-maker, from the perspective of his ethical and political commitment. This study analyses Celati’s choices in terms of language, content and style to see in what way his idea of literature engages with society and proposes Celati’s ethical and political commitment as a determining aspect to be considered when studying his oeuvre. In addition, it investigates what technical and theoretical structures used by Celati represent a relevant inheritance for the following generations of writers who have expressed and conceptualized forms of impegno in present-day Italy. It offers three case studies of authors who are directly linked to Celati and develop new forms of impegno, partly following Celati’s ideas, partly distancing themselves from that model. Gianni Celati (1937) is usually not considered an engaged writer and he himself would probably refuse this definition. Nevertheless, an ethical commitment constantly precedes and shapes his idea of literature and arts (Schwarz Lausten 2009). Celati’s works permanently engage with society and, it is argued, participate actively in revolutionary moments in Italian post-war history. This research draws on the more recent theories on postmodern ‘impegno’, which assign to Italian culture the role of ‘testing-ground’ of new forms of ethical and political commitment. The study draws on the theoretical framework outlined by Burns (2001) and Antonello-Mussgnug (2009). The end of structured and ideological thinking and the demise of Gramsci’s ‘organic intellectual’ do not mean the end of socio-political commitment, which instead arises now in a fragmentary way, refusing dogmatic statements. Celati has a crucial role in the passage between post-war ‘impegno’ and new forms of ethical and political commitment. Celati has never embraced an all-inclusive ideological view: he has rather differentiated his political commitment through an ethical way of thinking about the role of literature. The characteristics of Celati’s engagement anticipated what happened in Italy during the mature postmodern phase, namely what scholars have called ‘Postmodern Impegno’, addressing issues that have been emphasized by subsequent generations of ‘new engaged’ writers.
Gianni Celati , Luigi Ghirri , Political commitment , Contemporary Italian literature , Ethics , Storytelling , Photography , Documentary , Impegno
Ronchi Stefanati, M. 2019. Origins of postmodern impegno: ethical and political commitment in the works of Gianni Celati. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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