Dante, Petrarch, Machiavelli, Pirandello: Remo Bodei in Melbourne and Sydney

imagesThe philosopher Remo Bodei will be giving talks in Melbourne and Sydney in March. Time, eternity, history: Dante, Petrarch, Machiavelli is the title of his talk (in English) at the Italian Cultural Institute, 233 Domain Rd, South Yarra, on Thursday 9 March at 6.30pm (free, booking essential). On Friday March 10, at Co.As.It. – Museo Italiano, 199 Faraday Street, Carlton, he will be talking (in Italian) on Pirandello e la dissoluzione della personalità (free, booking essential), a lecture to mark the 150th anniversary of Pirandello’s birth. He will also be giving this talk in Sydney on 13 March, 4 – 5.30pm, in the Dept of Italian at the University of Sydney (registration here). On March 15, 6 – 7.30pm, he will talk on Memory and Forgetting: A Conflicting Complicity at the State Library of New South Wales (Metcalfe Auditorium, Macquarie Building: information for registration here) . For details of the contents of the talks

Time, eternity, history: Dante, Petrarch, Machiavelli:

‘My task will be to sketch a conceptual and historical analysis of terms such as “time” and “eternity”, and “history”, in order to restore them to their original set of implications and to brighten up the colors that have been lost or altered in the course of centuries. In this way, we will be able to measure the distances between Dante, Petrarch, and Machiavelli. For example, we derive the concept of eternity from our notion of time, imagining eternity as a very long time, extended to infinity. For millennia, however, “eternity” has been synonymous with “life” or, better, with plenitudo vitae (plenitude of life), a stable possession of a never-ending and simultaneous life, the complete opposite of time, which is instead a haemorrhage of life, a loss of fullness. Dante describes his journey in the afterlife as a path “from man’s time to Divine eternity” (Paradise, XXXI, 38), from our earthly life, constantly chasing after fulfillment, to the endless joy of paradise. Far from having a duration, an extension in time, eternity is, therefore, as un-extended as a geometrical point. It is a “point / in which all times are present” (Paradise, XVII, 17-18). Even Petrarch’s “three parts of time” (past, present, and future) coincide in eternity, according to his Triumph of Eternity. In Machiavelli, on the contrary, the concept of eternity vanishes altogether, and we are left with the time of human history, the time in which individuals are irrevocably immersed during the brief span of their existence.’

Pirandello e la dissoluzione della personalità:

‘Seguendo le posizioni di alcuni “medici-filosofi” francesi (Théodule Ribot, Paul Janet e Pierre Binet), che alla fine dell’Ottocento avevano distrutto l’immagine di un io monolitico e di un’anima immortale, Pirandello ha spinto sino al virtuosismo l’analisi delle scissioni della coscienza, ha descritto il prodursi di personalità sdoppiate o multiple e ha trattato con acume le fratture e le deformazioni psichiche. Ha così sperimentato le configurazioni della coscienza scissa di un individuo, simultaneamente o alternativamente sedotto dalla tranquillizzante sicurezza di essere “uno”, dall’angoscia e dallo sconcerto di accorgersi di essere “centomila” e dal sollievo derivante dall’ascetica decisione di azzerarsi per essere “nessuno”. Ben sessanta opere di Pirandello – tra racconti, romanzi e drammi – trattano della scissione (duplicazione o moltiplicazione), della perdita (vera o simulata, come nel romanzo Il fu Mattia Pascal) che scopre di non essere unica e compatta. La società ci incatena al principio di individuazione perché vuole vincolarci alle nostre azioni e ai nostri pensieri (in quanto preludi all’agire), fissarci a un unico e permanente io. La natura fissa ciascuno in determinate fattezze corporee, attribuendogli determinate ascendenze familiari; la società pretende poi di classificarlo secondo propri parametri. Entrambe, però, cospirano nel trasformarlo in un “individuo”, perché lo vogliono – alla lettera – indivisibile e sempre uguale a se stesso, ossia “integro”, cosciente, responsabile.’

Memory vs Forgetting: A Conflicting Complicity

The lecture proposes a kind of imaginary chess match in seven moves between memory and oblivion that has as its stake the construction of collective identity. Starting from the experience of unexpected changes, such as the collapse of political regimes, it aims to show how the underfeeding of the official memory produces oblivion. Memory and forgetting do not represent neutral territories, but actual battlefields in which identity – especially collective identity – is decided, moulded, and legitimized. Moreover, every victorious power or faith has always organized a kind of “vertical forgetting” in the sense of superimposing itself literally on old beliefs in the places where these traditionally held their celebrations. However, the defense of memory’s preciseness also has an ethical dimension, i.e. protecting a more conscious – and therefore, more free – identity. The final move of this game consists of understanding the conflicting complicity of logic of forgetting and logic of remembering. Together, they operate according to the formula of “neither with you nor without you”. And despite their mutual bitterness, forgetting is just as indispensable to memory as memory is to forgetting.

Remo Bodei, now professor emeritus at the University of Pisa, has taught for many years at the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa and at the University of California, Los Angeles. He studied for many years in Germany and taught in various European and American Universities. He is a Fellow of the Italian Academy at Columbia University and of the Italian Accademia dei Lincei. His scientific interests were initially focused on German classical philosophy, then on political philosophy; in the last two decades, he has concentrated on the theory and the history of oblivion, delusion, and individuality, and on the nature of passions and desires. His books have been translated into fifteen languages.

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