Not Enough Of An Artist? Myth, Pedagogy And Rhetoric In Carlo Michelstaedter's Poem I Figli Del Mare

State University of New York
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Forum Italicum: a journal of Italian studies, 2012, 46 (2), pp. 342 - 360
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Inside the European crisis of the beginning of the Twentieth Century, the young philosopher, writer and artist Carlo Michelstaedter (1887-1910) provides one of the most radical and all-encompassing critiques of the inadequacy and rhetorical nature of language and the systems of thought which are based on it; at the same time, however, this critique is articulated inside language, leaving Michelstaedter to face the impossibility of his endeavor. This article starts from this paradox, arguing that the struggle against language should be interpreted also in light of Michelstaedter√Ęs experimentation with different genres and media; in this sense, form and content, style and theories of style and poetics should be read together, as a self-reflexive attempt to put into practice what is affirmed. As an example of this framework, this contribution offers a reading of Michelstaedter's poem I Figli del Mare, which lays bare the series of implicit and conflicting ideas about strategies to overcome the contingency of language that invest the poem at every level, and shows how his thought is complexly caught between Romantic and pre-Expressionist ideas.
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