Modernism and the Avant-garde Body in Spain and Italy. Ed. Nicolás Fernández-Medina and Maria Truglio. New York: Routledge, 2016.
This interdisciplinary volume interrogates bodily thinking in avant-garde texts from Spain and Italy during the early twentieth century and their relevance to larger modernist preoccupations with corporeality. It examines the innovative ways Spanish and Italian avant-gardists explored the body as a locus for various aesthetic and sociopolitical considerations and practices.
In reimagining the nexus points where the embodied self and world intersect, the texts surveyed in this book not only shed light on issues such as authority, desire, fetishism, gender, patriarchy, politics, religion, sexuality, subjectivity, violence, and war during a period of unprecedented change, but also explore the complexities of aesthetic and epistemic rupture (and continuity) within Spanish and Italian modernisms. This comparative approach to Spanish and Italian avant-gardism offers readers an expanded view of the intersections of body and text, broadening the conversation in the larger fields of cultural modernism, European Avant-garde Studies, and Comparative Literature.
Fernández-Medina, Nicolás. The Poetics of Otherness in Antonio Machado’s “Proverbios y cantares”. Cardiff: U of Wales P, 2011.
Antonio Machado (1875-1939) was one of Spain’s most original and renowned modernist poets and thinkers. From his early poems in Soledades. Galerías. Otros poemas (1907) to the writings of his alter-ego Juan de Mairena of the 1930s, Machado sought to explain how the Other became a concern for the self.
In The Poetics of Otherness in Antonio Machado’s ‘Proverbios y cantares’, Nicolás Fernández-Medina examines how Machados ‘Proverbios y cantares’, a collection of short proverbial poems spanning 1909-1937, reveals some of the poet’s deepest concerns regarding the self-Other relationship. To appreciate Machado’s organizing concept of otherness in the ‘Proverbios y cantares’, Fernández-Medina argues how it must be contextualized in relation to the underlying Romantic concerns that Machado struggled with throughout most of his oeuvre, such concerns as autonomy, solipsism and scepticism of absolutes. In this volume, Fernández-Medina demonstrates how Machado continues a practice of ‘fragment thinking’ to meld the poetic and the philosophical, the part and the whole, and the finite and infinite, to bring light to the complexities of the self-Other relationship and its relevance in discussions of social and ethical improvement in early twentieth-century Spain.
Truglio, Maria. Beyond the Family Romance: The Legend of Pascoli. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2007.
Giovanni Pascoli (1855-1912) is one of Italy’s most canonical and beloved poets. In Beyond the Family Romance, Maria Truglio offers fresh insight into the uncanny qualities of Pascoli’s domestic verse. As suggested by the Freudian title, this study opens a dialogue between Pascoli’s literature and Freud’s theories, with a particular focus on each author’s interrogation of origins.
Through close readings and historical contextualization, themes of regression, memory, and other manifestations of ‘origins’ are analyzed, moving Pascoli’s poetry beyond the biographical strictures that have hitherto confined it. Truglio’s post-structuralist readings question the dichotomy between ‘safety within the home’ and the ‘threatening outside world,’ revealing the ambivalences with which images of the home are fraught in Pascoli’s poetry. In addition to the sustained comparison with Freud’s writing, Beyond the Family Romance explores parallels between Pascoli’s work and such writers as Tarchetti, Boito, Poe, and Invernizio. Rethinking the concept of the fanciullino (‘little child’), Truglio shows that Pascoli’s poetry enacts a symbiosis between the logic of the rational modern adult and the mythic vision of the child.
Truglio, Maria. Italian Children’s Literature and National Identity: Childhood, Melancholy, Modernity. New York: Routledge, 2017.
This book bridges the fields of Children’s Literature and Italian Studies by examining how turn-of-the-century children’s books forged a unified national identity for the new Italian State. Through contextualized close readings of a wide range of texts, Truglio shows how the 19th-century concept of recapitulation, which held that ontogeny (the individual’s development) repeats phylogeny (the evolution of the species), underlies the strategies of this corpus.
Italian fairy tales, novels, poems, and short stories imply that the personal development of the child corresponds to and hence naturalizes the modernizing development of the nation. In the context of Italy’s uneven and ambivalent modernization, these narrative trajectories are enabled by a developmental melancholia. Using a psychoanalytic lens, and in dialogue with recent Anglophone Children’s Literature criticism, this study proposes that national identity was constructed via a process of renouncing and incorporating paternal and maternal figures, rendered as compulsory steps into maturity and modernity. With chapters on the heroic figure of Garibaldi, the Orientalized depiction of the South, and the role of girls in formation narratives, this book discloses how melancholic itineraries produced gendered national subjects. This study engages both well-known Italian texts, such as Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio and De Amicis’ Heart, and books that have fallen into obscurity by authors such as Baccini, Treves, Gianelli, and Nuccio. Its approach and corpus shed light on questions being examined by Italianists, Children’s Literature scholars, and social and cultural historians with an interest in national identity formation.
Fernández-Medina, Nicolás. Life Embodied: The Promise of Vital Force in Spanish Modernity. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 2018.
The concept of vital force – the immanent energy that promotes the processes of life in the body and in nature – has proved a source of endless fascination and controversy. Indeed, the question of what vitalizes the body has haunted humanity since antiquity, and became even more pressing during the Scientific Revolution and beyond.
Examining the complexities and theories about vital force in Spanish modernity, Nicolás Fernández-Medina’s Life Embodied offers a novel and provocative assessment of the question of bodily life in Spain. Starting with Juan de Cabriada’s landmark Carta filosófica, médico-chymica of 1687 and ending with Ramón Gómez de la Serna’s avant-gardism of the 1910s, Fernández-Medina incorporates discussions of anatomy, philosophy, science, critical theory, history of medicine, and literary studies to argue that concepts of vital force served as powerful vehicles to interrogate the possibilities and limits of corporeality. Paying close attention to how the body’s capabilities were conceived and strategically woven into critiques of modernity, Fernández-Medina engages the work of Miguel Boix y Moliner, Martín Martínez, Diego de Torres Villarroel, Sebastián Guerrero Herreros, Ignacio María Ruiz de Luzuriaga, Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, Pedro Mata y Fontanet, Ángela Grassi, Julián Sanz del Río, Miguel de Unamuno, and Pío Baroja, among others.
Drawing on extensive research and analysis, Life Embodied breaks new ground as the first book to address the question of vital force in Spanish modernity.