My research interests range across a variety of areas, including experimental writing, Postmodernism, literature and music, philosophy of language and literary theory, literature and religion, cultural representations of catastrophe and apocalypse. I am project leader for the AHRC funded project ‘Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2015: Art, Music, Text’, and I am working on a comparative study of the European apocalyptic novel.
Experimental Literature and Art, 1955-1975
My book "The Eloquence of Ghosts" (2010, winner of the 2012 Edinburgh Gadda Prize) examines the creative possibilities of hybrid genres and open form, as they emerged in the context of Italy’s literary and artistic neo-avant-garde of the Fifties and Sixties. I explore the influence of literary and philosophical models, the relationship between literary and visual texts, and changing assumptions about realism and fantasy. I am also interested in the idea of a nostalgic and deliberately anachronistic “late modernism”, in explicit contrast with Postmodernism’s radical displacement of established norms. Giorgio Manganelli, one of Italy’s most original authors, has been at the centre of this project, but I am also interested in the works of Italo Calvino, Primo Levi, Elsa Morante, Guido Morselli, Paolo Volponi. I wish to trace similar tensions on a European level, and have been exploring the possibility of a European network for the study of experimental literature and artistic border-crossings during Europe’s “long Sixties”.
I am writing a monograph on Umberto Eco, the neo-avant-garde’s chief theorist, and subsequently one of its most eloquent critics. As project leader for the AHRC funded network ‘Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2015: Art, Music, Text’, I have been concerned with the recent fascination with interdisciplinarity and the profound crisis of traditional institutions of learning and research. My own research, in this context, explores interdisciplinary practice not only as a research method (“Writing like music”, 2008), but also as a way of strengthening institutions and disciplines, by increasing our ties with those working outside of academia.
Apocalypse Fiction and the Literature of Last Men
This project is partly inspired by my work on the post-war avant-gardes and originates from the idea that dystopian fiction – as I suggest in “Finire il mondo” (2003) – flourished in the Seventies as an alternative to both traditional realism and radical stylistic experiments. My comparative and interdisciplinary approach highlights the continuities between religious and secular philosophies of history, and examines apocalypse fiction as a privileged point of encounter between literature, philosophy and religious thought, as well as between “high” and “popular” culture. I explore this idea in a recent journal article (“Naturalizing apocalypse”, 2012) and have started collecting material for a monograph, which traces the historical origins of last man fiction to the Romantic period. My interest in solitary survivors is also central to research-led courses CLITG006 “Apocalypse Literature” and ELCS4014 “Cold War Fantasies 1945-1989”.