Words Against Words: On the Rhetoric of Carlo Michelstaedter

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2011, 1
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Words Against Words is the first book to consider the philosophical works of Carlo Michelstaedter (1887-1910) from a stylistic point of view. It focuses on the links between poetic and rhetoric in Michelstaedters major work, La Persuasione e la Rettorica, well known for its original multilingualism, embodiment of subgenres, dialogues, apologues and parables, technical jargons. In the context of the early twentieth century `crisis of language in Central Europe, Carlo Michelstaedter, a young Italian speaking Jew from Gorizia who left the Austro-Hungarian territory to study in Florence, articulates one of the most radical examples of `negative thought, while at the same time struggling to define a way to regain freedom from contingency, unity of meaning, and the absolute state of `persuasion. Malcolm Angeluccis book reads La Persuasione e la Rettorica, against itself, demonstrating how it is in the practice of signification, in the `writing of a philosophy and a poetic, that the challenge against the inadequacy of words is played out, in one of the most interesting examples of Italian speculation of the period. Angeluccis post-structuralist approach and analysis of rhetorical figures adopts and reworks the Bakhtinian concept of `dialogism, in order to demonstrate the peculiar `loss of centre of Michelstaedters text, and the relativisation of the pretences of the hero/narrator in ways which are coherent with the best examples of early Central European Modernism.
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