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Decadent Classicism. Gabriele D’Annunzio and Ancient Rome ASH Colloquia, Clare Hall College, Cambrigde, 20.1.2009. Marja Härmänmaa, University of Helsinki, Finland. Gabriele D’Annunzio. 1863 (Pescara) – 1938 (Gardone Riviera) Important as a writer Novels, poems, short stories, plays

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decadent classicism

Decadent Classicism

Gabriele D’Annunzio and Ancient Rome

ASH Colloquia, Clare Hall College, Cambrigde, 20.1.2009

Marja Härmänmaa, University of Helsinki, Finland

gabriele d annunzio
Gabriele D’Annunzio
  • 1863 (Pescara) – 1938 (Gardone Riviera)
  • Important as a writer
    • Novels, poems, short stories, plays
    • Renewal of the Italian language
  • Important as a politician
    • MP at the beginning of the XX century
    • Republic of Fiume (September 1919 – December 1920)
    • Model for Mussolini: political rhetoric, new political style
the classical legacy in italy
The Classical Legacy in Italy
  • Italy continuation of Ancient Rome
  • Political ideologies
  • Arts and literature (Renaissance, for instance)
  • Catholic Church: justification of mission with the universal nature of Rome
  • ”Romanità”: moral and cultural supremacy of Italy
ancient rome and italian nationalism
Ancient Rome and Italian Nationalism
  • Kingdom of Italy in 1861
  • Rome model for a strong and imperialistic Italy
  • In the arts and architecture a new national style, ”romano stile” (neo-classicism)
d annunzio and classicism
D’Annunzio and Classicism
  • No interest in Antiquity
  • Il Piacere (Pleasure, 1889)
  • D’Annunzio’s first novel
  • The bible of Italian decadentism
  • Main character Andrea Sperelli, young aristocrat
  • Love story beteween Sperelli, Maria and Elena
sperelli s rome
Sperelli’s Rome

“Rome was his great love: not the Rome of the Caesars, but the Rome of the Popes; not the Rome of the Arches, of the thermal baths, of the Forum, but the Rome of the Villas, of the Fountains, of the Churches. He would have given all the Coliseum for Villa Medici, the Campo Vaccino for the Piazza di Spagna, the Arch of Tito for the Fountain of the Turtles.” [38]

d annunzio in greece
D’Annunzio in Greece
  • Archeological excavations during the 19th century
  • D’Annunzio in Greece during the summer 1895
  • A play La Città morta (The Death City, 1898)
  • A poem Maia (1903)
a decadent trip
A ”decadent” trip
  • Neglects the visits of the monuments
  • Dedication to social life and pleasures
  • Cultivation of superman
  • Abandons the objective description of monuments
  • A highly subjective image of Greece
temple of telesterio in eleusi
Temple of Telesterio in Eleusi
  • Poppies, shining blood / like the blood of heroes and lovers / in front of deadly danger, / alone you were burning with me / in the mysterious cloister / and never will the pilgrim see the torches / of Dadùco in the temple / of Hecate. [Maia, 139]
horror of the ruins
Horror of the ruins
  • Opposite to Romanticism
  • Cult of the Nature, ”Great Mother”
  • Nature = life
  • Ruins = death
conception of time
Conception of time
  • Linear time of human beings
    • Time that will end
    • Constant presence of death
    • Works of human beings are not everlasting -> ruins
  • Cyclical time of nature and the universe
    • Eternal return
    • Nature testimony of eternity
ruins symbol of death
Ruins symbol of death
  • ”the massacre of the marble” (”la strage dei marmi” Maia, 71, 99)
  • ”sad cemetry of death stones” (”il triste cimitero di pietre morte” Taccuini, 54)
  • ”surviving witnesses of the complete death” (”superstiti testimonii umani su la totale morte” = the aqueduct in the Agro Vergini, 22)
  • ”sepulchre of the Nations” (”sepolcro delle nazioni” = the Agro [Vergini, 20)
  • ”grassy sepulchre of kingdoms” (”l’erbifero sepolcro dei regni” = the Agro [Elettra, 278)
la citt morta the death city 1898
La Città morta / The Death City (1898)
  • A play located in Mycene
  • 1874 Heinrich Schliemann found the tombs of the royal family
  • In the play, the spirit of the graves caused the tragedy
  • Leonardo, the archeologist, kills his sister Bianca Maria
deleterious ruins
Deleterious ruins
  • Alessandro (the Poet):

“Ah, for too long a time he excavates the hard and grey ground! He is fascinated by the sepulchres and has forgotten the beauty of the sky. I must take him out of the evil spell… “[31]

ancient rome
Ancient Rome
  • Constantly present in D’Annunzio’s works
  • Nationalistic reasons: Rome as a model for the glorious future of Italy
  • In the patriotic poetry of the ”classic” period:
    • Maia (1903)
    • Canti della gesta d’oltremare - Merope (1911 -1912)
    • Canti della guerra latina - Asterope (1914-1918)
abstraction of the roman legacy
Abstraction of the Roman Legacy
  • Few descriptions of the monuments
  • Use of abstract nouns
  • ”the fire of Rome” (”il fuoco di Roma” Maia, 247)
  • ”the shadow of Rome” (”l’ombra di Roma” Maia, 201)
  • ”the fortune of Rome” (”la fortune de Rome” Asterope, 762)
  • ”the odour of Rome” (”l’odor di Roma” Asterope, 836)
rome as water
Rome as water
  • ”[…] to the well / of Rome, that in the shadow / a silent lymph preserves / and an eternal memory.” [Merope 1911-1912]
  • ”And the Freedom […] the sole Muse, / sings with twelve mouths in your spring, oh Ragusa; / and you drink the poem of Rome.” [Asterope, 1914 -1918]
a poem dedicated to giosu carducci in maia 1903
A Poem dedicated to Giosuè Carducci in Maia (1903)
  • “O Father, there will be the day / that you promised in your canto! / Every morning the Arches of Rome / seem to vomit / the acid night that fills their mouths / of the dead and hollow masks / [...] / And the Arches, are waiting for / new triumphs / because you wrote: / “Oh Italy, oh Rome!/ in that day / will the sky thunder over the Forum.”
the masks
The masks
  • Personification of the arches: ’vomit’
  • Critique of present time = ’the acid night’
  • The arches symbolize the glorious past
  • No description of the arches
  • The arches are only a mask of the spirit of Rome
la costola the rib
”La costola” – ”the rib”
  • D’Annunzio famous of his many relationships with many women
  • Eleonora Duse (Actress)
  • Famous of his mundane life (drugs etc.)
  • Especially after WW1
the model of a modern intellectual
The model of a modern intellectual
  • Not important how many woman he had
  • Not important if he took away one of his ribs
  • Important: everybody knows these matters
  • Vital part of the public figure he made of himself
  • The use of sexuality in order to get attention
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