“Worlds of Meaning”

Featured

This is the Editorial I wrote for the new monographic volume of the e-journal Humanist Studies & the Digital Age entitled  Networks and Projects: New Platforms in Digital Humanities, edited by Crystall Hall, Massimo Lollini and Massimo Riva. It was published in December 2017.

The sections Perspectives and Interventions of the journal are devoted to the publication of a selection from the proceedings of a colloquium held at Brown University in the Spring of 2015. These first two sections are presented and introduced by Massimo Riva in his essay on “Scholarly Networks and Collaborative Practices.” The third section of this issue, Projects, is presented by Crystal Hall in her introduction, “Italian Studies and Digital Humanities: Research Outcomes.”

In the brief notes of my Editorial, “Worlds of Meaning“, I reflect on the idea of “network” as conceptual framework and privileged space of knowledge engaging with Pierre Lévy’s work, and I anticipate the topic of the sixth issue of Humanist Studies & the Digital Age that will be published in 2019.

Digital Cultures

cover_issue_467_en_US_2

The emergence of a reality organized around the Internet is provoking a profound crisis of identity in which the older principles of self-orientation and communitarian identification lose their effectiveness. What concepts, what methods do we need to understand the “knowledge space” in which we live an increasing part of our life? How can we orient our individual and professional identity within it? This course will study the reconfiguration of literary studies in the context of the transformation introduced by the use of Internet and digital technologies in our cultural, personal and social identity. At the same time, it will develop digital literacies in using and creating digital artefacts that will complement in a practical dimension the theoretical insights discussed in the first part of the course. Students will engage in new ways of reading, writing, translating and interpreting literary texts in an hypertextual digital environment.

Digital Cultures is divided in four modules. In the first one we will study in a speculative perspective the key terms in digital cultures: space and time, cyberspace, collective intelligence, network, hypertext, virtuality and actuality. In the second module we will engage the cognitive dimension of the computer technology focusing on digital research, topic modeling, textual analysis, close and distant reading. In the third module, we will address and perform the remediation of literature in social and new media. The last module will focus on the dark side of internet and address question of ethics, privacy and surveillance.

Finally will also discuss the future of the book and examine a variety of digital projects focused on the literature and culture of Medieval, Early Modern and Modern times, including (but not limited to) the Oregon Petrarch Open Book, the Pico Project, the Galileo Library project, the and the ARTFL Encyclopédie project. Students will have the option of choosing the didactic activities focusing on one specific RL language and one specific literary period.

Readings include selected essays by Marshall McLuhan, Gilles Deleuze, Pierre Lévy, James D. Bolter, George P. Landow and Daniel J. Solove.


 

“The Wisdom of the Hand and the memory of a Mediterranean More than Human Humanism”

This is an essay published in  Ecocritical Approaches to Italian Culture and LiteratureThe Denatured Wild Ed. by Pasquale Verdicchio. Lanham-Boulder-New York-London: Lexinton Books, 2016. 1-30.

In my essay I first address the documentaries that Vittorio De Seta shot in Sicily between 1954 and 1955 to document, with a certain urgency, the work of peasants, tuna-fishermen and sword-fishermen, in a world that, as he clearly perceived, was about to disappear in the late 1950s. De Seta shows how both the peasants of the land cultivating wheat and the fishermen – whom he calls “contadini del mare” (peasants of the sea) fishing for tuna or swordfish in the open sea – had found meaning and purpose in their life and sought their realization by means of manual labor. Their relationship to the sea and the land, partially mediated by rudimentary tools, was at the same time intensified by a corporeal and physical immersion in the natural element.  I complement the brief analysis of three of these documentaries – Lu tempu di li pisci spada (Time of the Swordfish, 1954), contadini del mare (Peasants of the Sea, 1955) and Parabola d’oro (Gold Parable, 1955) – with a reading of Tuna fishing, an essay by great Sicilian writer Vincenzo Consolo who recently died.

In the second part, I briefly focus on De Seta’s new documentary filmed for Italian Television in 1980, La Sicilia rivisitata (Sicily revisited). This documentary bears witness to the dramatic ecological and cultural consequences of the ruins of the peasants’ and fishermen material culture. I parallel the filmic analysis with a reading of The ruins of Siracusa, an essay by Consolo, another great witness to contemporary Sicily in our globalized world.

The third, longer and last part of this essay shows how De Seta’s documentaries and Consolo’s essays can be considered late expressions of a Mediterranean humanism that has its deep cultural roots in ancient and early modern times in the works of philosophers such as Pythagoras, Giordano Bruno and Giambattista Vico among others, that are still relevant to contemporary environmental debates on the search for a sustainable human relationship to the environment.

 

Reading, Rewriting and Encoding Petrarca’s Rvf

Massimo presented a paper on “Reading, Rewriting and Encoding Petrarca’s Rvf as Hypertext” at the Annual Conference of the MLA, in Philadelphia, PA, on January 5, 2017.

He insisted on what he cosiders the special feature of the OPOB: the creation of the conditions for deep reading and re-writing Petrarca’s Rvf within a hypertext approach to reading. For this purpose he designed two reading projects then implemented in two seminars on re-reading Petrarca’s Rvf in the digital era taught at the University of Oregon in 2011 and 2014 using the resources of the OPOB. The first seminar was directed toward re-writing Petrarca’s poem in tweet format, the second explored thematic encoding and close reading of Petrarca’s masterpiece.

The Ancient Roots of a Non-Anthropocentric Humanism

“The Ancient Roots of a Non-Anthropocentric Humanism: A Pythagorean Perspective.” Paper presented at the Mellon Symposium on Environmental Posthumanities in the Anthropocene on Friday, Dec. 2nd 2016 .

This paper presents part of my research on the ancient and early modern sources of a non-anthropocentric humanism that I prefer to define “more than human” rather than “posthuman.” After a brief introduction on the philosophy of Pythagoras I discussed a productive example of revival of the Pythagorean notion of metempsychosis in the recent movie by Michelangelo Frammartino’s,  Le Quattro volte (2010), and I reflected on its importance for contemporary environmental philosophy and the search for a sustainable human relationship to the environment. 

“The Letter to my Land” by Roberto Saviano

The Letter to my land by Roberto Saviano is in some respects an important model of contemporary environmental short story, articulated into multimedia forms and aware of the impact that the environmental issue has on the culture and ethics of a civil nation. In my presentation I  analyze the evolution of this letter-essay-short story from the written version to the television version entitled From Inferno to the Beauty that was a special of the television program Che tempo che fa, hosted by Saviano together with Fabio Fazio. Che tempo che fa is an ongoing television talk show hosted by the Italian television host Fabio Fazio since 2003. My thesis is that this development in the story gains in communication effectiveness, formal articulation and wise aesthetic elaboration, through the recovery of the essential forms and dynamics of popular oral narrative. The story is presented as Saviano’s report and witness to the devastating consequences of the degradation of the Mediterranean landscape around Castel Volturno, a town in the province of Caserta in the Campania region, about twenty miles northwest of Naples on the Volturno River. The presentation  concludes with some reflections on the ethics of the landscape and the role of ecocriticism in the context of rethinking humanism in a direction “more than human”, which in other words takes into account the interdependence of human life with all the living universe.

I emphasize two aspects that emerge from the story he recounts in the Letter to my land and in the expanded television version of it. On the one hand, the hellish intersection of violence against human beings and violence against the environment; so it becomes clear that any project of real restoration and redevelopment of the area that would safeguard the respect and the fundamental value of the landscape would produce a very significant added value, by contributing to reduce the violence of the Camorra that continues to dominate and pillage this land. The other important aspect that emerges in Saviano’s account is the substantial role of ecocriticism in rethinking humanism in a direction “more than human”, which takes into serious consideration the interdependence of human life with all of living universe. Saviano tells us that the construction of the first eco-monsters of the Villaggio Coppola destroyed the pine forest and then creating windows not facing the sea but within the village prevented the recognition of the face of the landscape and the authentic beauty of the sea, marking a further step in the degradation of the environment no longer perceived as an integral part of culture and civic life.

The critical reflections triggered by Saviano’s letter bring to mind the words of Piero Calamandrei in 1944 in the face of environmental and human destruction caused by the War World II. In his famous discourse L’Italia ha ancora qualcosa da dire he wrote:

«Quello che più ci ha offeso è stato l’assassinio premeditato delle nostre città, dei nostri villaggi, delle nostre campagne, perfino del nostro paesaggio. Voi lo sapete che in Italia… ogni borgo, ogni svolto di strada, ogni collina ha un volto come quello di una persona viva…”

“What hurt us most was the premeditated assassination of our cities, our villages, our countryside, even our landscape. You know that in Italy … every village, every turn in the road, every hill has a face like that of a living person … ”

and added

“Mai come in questi mesi in cui sui bollettini di guerra cominciavamo a leggere con un tremito i luoghi della Toscana, abbiamo sentito che questi paesi sono carne della nostra carne, e che per la sorte di un quadro o di una statua o di una cupola si può stare in pena come per la sorte del congiunto, o dell’amico più caro».

“Never before like in recent months in which on the war bulletins we began to read with a quake the places of Tuscany, we felt that these countries are flesh of our flesh, and that for the fate of a painting or a statue or a dome one may be worried as for the fate of a spouse, or friend most dear. ”

The invitation of Calamandrei to recognize the face of the landscape was then translated into the Article 9 of the Italian Constitution, which states that the Republic “protects the landscape and the historical and artistic heritage of the nation.” In a different historical context, that nonetheless as the post-war period is characterized by the destruction of human beings, cultural heritage and environment, Roberto Saviano, as Piero Calamandrei 60 years before, invites the Italians to feel the landscape as flesh of their flesh and to continue to recognize the beauty of its radiant and marine face.

*Excepts from “Roberto Saviano’s Letter to My Land” a paper presented by Massimo Lollini at the  Annual Conference of the PAMLA, Portland, Oregon, November 7, 2015.

 

Sicilian Ruins

Massimo Lollini presented a paper entitled “Sicilian Ruins from Vittorio De Seta’s Documentaries to Vincenzo Consolo’s Citiscapes” at the  Common Knowledges Symposium 2014, Seeing the Forest and the Trees: Culture, the Environment and Labor on Wednesday May 14, 2014 at the University of California in San Diego.

 De Seta shows how both the peasants of the land cultivating wheat and the fishermen – whom he calls “contadini del mare” (peasants of the sea) fishing for tuna or swordfish in the open sea – had found meaning and purpose in their life and sought their realization by means of manual labor. Their relationship to the sea and the land, partially mediated by rudimentary tools, was at the same time intensified by a corporeal and physical immersion in the natural element. Lollini complemented  the brief analysis of three of these documentaries – Lu tempu di li pisci spada (Time of the Swordfish, 1954), I contadini del mare (Peasants of the Sea, 1955) and Parabola d’oro (Gold Parable, 1955) – with a reading of “Tuna fishing,” an essay by great Sicilian writer Vincenzo Consolo who recently died. In the second part of his talk Lollini discussed De Seta’s new documentary filmed for Italian Television in 1980, La Sicilia rivisitata (Sicily revisited). This documentary bears witness to the dramatic ecological and cultural consequences of the ruins of the peasants’ material culture. Lollini paralleled the filmic analysis with a reading of “The ruins of Siracusa,” an essay by Consolo, another great witness to contemporary Sicily in our globalized world. Finally, in his conclusion Lollini considered how De Seta’s documentaries and Consolo’s essays are relevant to contemporary environmental debates on humanism and the search for a sustainable human relationship to the environment.

Natura parens

Prof. Massimo Lollini presented a paper entitled “Natura parens from Bernardus Silvestris’ Cosmographia to Petrarch’s Canzoniere” at the conference of the Renaissance Society of America in New York City on March 29, 2014, in a panel in honor of Prof. Giuseppe Mazzotta.

The paper was well received and triggered a lively discussion on how early humanist philosophy and poetry was pervaded by the idea of creative power of Nature as complement of human and divine creation.  Lollini showed in particular how Bernardus’s idea of natura parens becomes generative of elevating thoughts in Petrarch’s Canzoniere and instrumental in developing what Petrarch calls “more than human method.”

Lollini complemented the analysis of Petrarch’s poems with a reading of Petrarch’s letters and the analysis of some of the miniatures that illustrate the first printed version of Petrarch’s masterpiece published in Venice in 1470 (Inc. Queriniano G V 15). These miniatures are now available in the digital edition published by Lollini within the hypertext project Oregon Petrarch Open Book. In Lollini’s interpretation the miniatures suggest an uplifting reading of the Canzoniere that captures the fundamental role that nature plays in Petrarch’s masterpiece.

 

Miniature that illustrates Canzoniere 239

This paper is part of a broader research on the notion of a “more-than-human-humanism” that Lollini has been developing in recent years.

Il mondo visto da Sud e “La prima volta.” Una conversazione con Franco Cassano

Il 13 aprile 2013 presso l’Università dell’ Oregon in Eugene si è svolto il trentatresimo convegno annuale dell’American Association of Italian Studies. Franco Cassano era in quell’occasione uno degli oratori delle sessioni plenarie ed è stato al centro di una tavola rotonda attorno al suo pensiero che ha avuto come protagonisti alcuni studiosi particolarmente impegnati nelle problematiche storiche, filosofiche e politiche del pensiero Mediterraneo: gli italianisti Norma Bouchard, Alessandro Carrera, Roberto Dainotto, Valerio Ferme, Claudio Fogu e il filosofo latino-americano Alejandro Vallega. I due eventi, considerati insieme, costituiscono un’interessante e produttiva conversazione con Franco Cassano, un’efficace messa a punto della sua visione del Sud d’Italia e dei Sud del mondo, in rapporto ai temi e valori fondamentali della cultura Mediterranea.

La tavola è stata filmata, trascritta e pubblicata su California Italian Studies, 4(2) a cura di Massimo Lollini che nella sua breve introduzione presenta i protagonisti di questo dialogo e i principali temi emersi nel dibattito, sottolineando al tempo stesso quello che  a suo giudizio costituisce l’elemento più proficuo e passibile di auspicabili sviluppi positivi del pensiero meridiano sul piano culturale e politico. Si tratta dell’idea che il metro di valutazione del grado di sviluppo delle forme di civiltà non può essere determinato semplicemente dal grado di espansione economica e delle forze produttive; per questa ragione il pensiero mediterraneo di Franco Cassano consente e incoraggia la considerazione di altri elementi, come l’incidenza del clima e dei fattori naturali, che solitamente rimangono esclusi dall’attenzione delle scienze sociali e soprattutto dell’intervento politico-economico. È all’altezza di queste riflessioni che il pensiero meridiano si pone oggi come punto di riferimento essenziale per un approccio interdisciplinare volto a recuperare e sviluppare un nuovo umanesimo che abbia al suo centro non l’onnipotenza del soggetto sovrano, ma la relazione e il dialogo con la natura, non più considerata con oggetto di sfruttamento e trasformazione illimitata, ma come un organismo vivente capace non solo di rispondere alle sollecitazioni umane, ma anche di indirizzarle e condizionarle.

L’introduzione di Lollini, i video dei vari interventi e la loro trascrizione sono disponibili al seguente link:

http://escholarship.org/uc/item/1wz6n8z1#page-35

Questa pubblicazione include un inedito di Franco Cassano intitolato “La prima volta” da cui è presa questa epigrafe:

“Ogni tanto, molto spesso solo per caso, ci accade di ricordarci che al mondo non ci siamo
solo noi. E allora, per un attimo, riusciamo a guardarci attorno e rimaniamo storditi e
sommersi dallo spettacolo del fiume infinito delle prime volte, dalla loro immensa
successione, a partire dalla prima di tutte, dal venire al mondo del mondo. Nessuno del
resto può sottrarsi alla prima volta: atomo, molecola, pianeta o stella, albero, cavallo o
uomo.”

Franco Cassano, La prima volta (2013).