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Anthropology and Modern Italian Literature: Italo Calvino, Primo Levi, Gianni Celati

  • Maiolani, Michele
Publication Date
Apr 12, 2023
Apollo - University of Cambridge Repository
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This thesis looks at the different ways in which anthropology and literature interact, focussing particularly on the works of Italian writers between the 1960s and the 1980s as an example of a moment of especially fruitful and intense exchange between the perspectives and epistemological frameworks of the two disciplines. The Introduction starts with a brief historical reconstruction of the relationship between anthropology and literature, followed by a discussion of a set of shared epistemological problems. The Introduction goes on to propose that the decades in the period spanning from the immediate post-war years to the 1980s, which were characterised by a sharp rise in the publication and translation of anthropological books as well as transformative changes in Italian literature, can be defined as the “anthropological moment” of Italian culture. The following chapters (2-5) are dedicated to the close reading through an anthropological lens of the works of the three authors considered in this thesis as case studies: Italo Calvino, Primo Levi and Gianni Celati. They reconstruct how each of the three authors first came into contact with anthropological studies and retrace the readings in this field that had a major impact on their ideas of literature and their writing choices. Each chapter is devoted to the close reading of key works written between the 1970s and the 1980s, compared with the anthropological sources and perspectives from which writers took inspiration. These include, among others, Calvino’s ‘La Poubelle agréée’ and Sotto il sole giaguaro, Levi’s ‘Gli stregoni’, ‘Verso Occidente and I sommersi e i salvati, and Celati’s Fata morgana and Verso la foce. They show how Calvino, Levi and Celati do not simply consider anthropological books as a repertoire of sources, but engage closely with their methodology, borrowing the tools of the anthropologist and applying them to their analyses of different cultural aspects of reality. This thesis aims to demonstrate the existence of profound connections at the level of epistemology and literary invention between anthropologists and writers, and to hypothesise the presence of an anthropological-literary eye in the literary and ethnographical works compared in its chapters. / Cambridge Trust

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