Italian literature  

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Important early 20th century writers include Italo Svevo, the author of La coscienza di Zeno (1923); Luigi Pirandello (winner of the 1934 Nobel Prize in Literature), who explored the shifting nature of reality in his prose fiction and such plays as Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore (Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1921) ; and the novelists Giovanni Verga (an exponent of verismo or Naturalism) and Cesare Pavese. Poetry was represented by the Crepuscolari and the Futurists; the foremost member of the latter group was Filippo Marinetti. Leading Modernist poets from later in the century include Salvatore Quasimodo (winner of the 1959 Nobel Prize in Literature), Giuseppe Ungaretti, Umberto Saba and Eugenio Montale (winner of the 1975 Nobel Prize in Literature), described by critics as "hermeticists". Dino Buzzati wrote fantastic and allegorical fiction which has been compared to Kafka and Beckett. Italo Calvino also ventured into fantasy in the trilogy I nostri antenati (Our Ancestors, 1952-1959) and post-modernism in the novel Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore... (If on a Winter's Night a Traveller, 1979). Primo Levi documented his experiences in Auschwitz in Se questo è un uomo (If This Is a Man) and other books. Giuseppe di Lampedusa wrote only one novel, Il Gattopardo (The Leopard, 1958), but it is one of the most famous in Italian literature; it deals with the life of a Sicilian nobleman in the 19th century. Other novelists include Alberto Moravia (e.g. Il conformista, 1951); Carlo Emilio Gadda, author of the experimental Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana (1957); Natalia Ginzburg; and the Sicilian Leonardo Sciascia. Umberto Saba won fame for his collection of poems Il canzoniere. Pier Paolo Pasolini was a controversial poet and novelist. More recently, Umberto Eco became internationally successful with his novel Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose, 1980).

Related e



Italian literature is written in the Italian language, particularly within Italy. It may also refer to literature written by Italians or in Italy in other languages spoken in Italy, often languages that are closely related to modern Italian. An early example of Italian literature is the tradition of vernacular lyric poetry performed in Occitan, which reached Italy by the end of the 12th century. In 1230, the Sicilian School is notable for being the first style in standard Italian. Dante, one of the greatest of Italian poets, is notable for his Divina Commedia. Petrarch did classical research and wrote lyric poetry. Renaissance humanism developed during the 14th and the beginning of the 15th centuries. Humanists sought to create a citizenry able to speak and write with eloquence and clarity. Early humanists, such as Petrarch, were great collectors of antique manuscripts. Lorenzo de Medici shows the influence of Florence on the Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci wrote a treatise on painting. The development of the drama in the 15th century was very great. The fundamental characteristic of the era following Renaissance is that it perfected the Italian character of its language. Machiavelli and Guicciardini were the chief originators of the science of history. Pietro Bembo was an influential figure in the development of the Italian language and an influence on the 16th-century revival of interest in the works of Petrarch.

In 1690 the Academy of Arcadia was instituted with the goal of "restoring" literature by imitating the simplicity of the ancient shepherds with sonnets, madrigals, canzonette and blank verse. In the 17th century, some strong and independent thinkers, such as Bernardino Telesio, Lucilio Vanini, Bruno and Campanella turned philosophical inquiry into fresh channels, and opened the way for the scientific conquests of Galileo Galilei, who is notable both for his scientific discoveries and his writing. In the 18th century, the political condition of Italy began to improve, and philosophers throughout Europe in the period known as The Enlightenment. Apostolo Zeno and Metastasio are two of the notable figures of the age. Carlo Goldoni, a Venetian, created the comedy of character. The leading figure of the literary revival of the 18th century was Giuseppe Parini.

The ideas behind the French Revolution of 1789 gave a special direction to Italian literature in the second half of the 18th century. Love of liberty and desire for equality created a literature aimed at national object. Patriotism and classicism were the two principles that inspired the literature that began with Vittorio Alfieri. Other patriots included Vincenzo Monti and Ugo Foscolo. The romantic school had as its organ the Conciliatore established in 1818 at Milan. The main instigator of the reform was Manzoni. The great poet of the age was Giacomo Leopardi. History returned to its spirit of learned research. The literary movement that preceded and was contemporary with the political revolution of 1848 may be said to be represented by four writers - Giuseppe Giusti, Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi, Vincenzo Gioberti and Cesare Balbo. After the Risorgimento, political literature becomes less important. The first part of this period is characterized by two divergent trends of literature that both opposed Romanticism, the Scapigliatura and Verismo. Important early 20th century writers include Italo Svevo and Luigi Pirandello (winner of the 1934 Nobel Prize in Literature). Neorealism was developed by Alberto Moravia. Umberto Eco became internationally successful with the Medieval detective story Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose, 1980).


Further reading

Important German works, besides Gaspary, are those of Wilse and Percopo (illustrated; Leipzig, 1899), and of Tommaso Casini (in Grober's Grundr. der rom. Phil., Strasbourg, 1896-1899).

English students are referred to John Addington Symonds's Renaissance in Italy (especially, but not exclusively, vols. iv. and v.; new ed., London, 1902), and to Richard Garnett's History of Italian Literature (London, 1898).

See also

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