Author Archives: theodoreell

Special early-career academics’ workshop, ACIS Conference, 3 July, 4pm

acis2015Attenzione early-career academics in Italian Studies! You may be interested in this special workshop, being held in its own time-slot on the third day of the ACIS conference at the University of Sydney. This will be an informal discussion of the challenges facing early-career academics and the many ways in which you can create your own opportunities. It will also contribute to the formation of an early-career network within ACIS. All perspectives on early-career academic issues are welcome, and so as to broaden the outlook as much as possible, the session will feature guest speakers who are also early-career academics in a range of disciplines, bridging Italian Studies, Linguistics, English, History, Studies in Religion, Politics and Science. While early-career academic life has its difficulties, the aim of this session is to be constructive: to propose strategies, new approaches, ways of diversifying work and skills, or steps you can take to get help and advice, while staying true to your interests and beliefs. It will also be an opportunity to meet and connect with other early-career academics in the field of Italian Studies from across Australia and New Zealand and further afield, and to start thinking about the future shape of the discipline.

Continue reading

Tagged ,

Quaderno poetico #6: Going behind the scenes (II) – Archives

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

220px-Stipula_fountain_penThis is the first of two posts about working in archives, where so many of us spend so much our time, in Italy and elsewhere. My work concentrates on the Florentine poet Piero Bigongiari and I will have more to say about working on his archival materials later, as well as talking about the technical questions involved – transcribing handwriting, handling old paper and so on. First, though, I have found myself reflecting on archival work in general, the fascination, frustrations, fun and fanaticism that surround it. I’m interested to hear other people’s archival stories and philosophies, particularly if they disagree with mine. Archival work often makes you feel that you’re the only one in the world doing what you’re doing (a chosen one, even!) but of course we’re never alone. The Renaissance scholar Gene Brucker has called himself an ‘archive junkie.’ There must be more out there. Be proud of it.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,

Vale, Giorgio Orelli (1921-2013)

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

orelligiorgioItalian literature has lost a unique and much loved voice, with the death this morning of Swiss poet Giorgio Orelli, at the age of 92. Orelli was born in 1921 in Airolo, in the Canton of Ticino, and made his debut as a poet with the collection Né bianco né viola in 1944. He studied at Freiburg im Breisgau under Gianfranco Contini and made a career teaching literature in Switzerland and Italy. He published fiction (Un giorno della vita, 1960) and criticism (most recently La qualità del senso, in 2012), but it was in the domain of poetry that he produced his most inspired work, in collections that displayed his gift for rich, concentrated and emotional descriptions of nature: L’ora del tempo (1962), Sinopie (1977), Spiracoli (1989), Il collo dell’anitra (2001) and most recently L’orlo della vita.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,

Quaderno poetico #6: Going behind the scenes (II) – Archives

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

220px-Stipula_fountain_pen

This is the first of two posts about working in archives, where so many of us spend so much our time, in Italy and elsewhere. My work concentrates on the Florentine poet Piero Bigongiari and I will have more to say about working on his archival materials later, as well as talking about the technical questions involved – transcribing handwriting, handling old paper and  so on. First, though, I have found myself reflecting on archival work in general, the fascination, frustrations, fun and fanaticism that surround it. I’m interested to hear other people’s archival stories and philosophies, particularly if they disagree with mine. Archival work often makes you feel that you’re the only one in the world doing what you’re doing (a chosen one, even!) but of course we’re never alone. The Renaissance scholar Gene Brucker has called himself an ‘archive junkie.’ There must be more out there. Be proud of it.  

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Quaderno poetico #4: How the poetry works (II)

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

What do you notice about these two samples of poetry?

“…se il vento rintocca nelle corti / come un rullo sordo e opaco di tamburo, / un ululo fedele accanto al muro / del padrone addormentato.”

“Le corti fiorentine / rintoccano a morto in una cupa vanità / come una pelle tesa di tamburo, / le ardesie soffocate di polvere quassù in alto…”

The quotations come from two separate poems, “La notte fiorentina,” written on the 27th of February 1946, and “Inverno arido,” written a few days later on the 3rd and 4th of March. But yes, the thing you notice is the repetition. Different poems, same material: the courtyards reverberating with a menacing, drumhead sound. The last post ended with the suggestion that Bigongiari’s writing unfolded through a process of elaboration, treating certain phrases, words or situations as motifs, to be taken up from previous poems and recoloured in new ones. What you see here is an example of elaboration in action.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,

Quaderno poetico #3: How the poetry works (I)

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

Once the historical labels are removed, the project of getting to know Piero Bigongiari arrives at the biggest question: if the idea of ermetismo is not the key to defining his work, then what is?Bigongiari photo Bigongiari’s poetry is often deeply abstract; it can be highly charged with emotion, but without a clear reason or point of reference; it sometimes plays odd games with internal rhymes and repetitions. Furthermore, the poems are presented in chronological order and their dates of composition are given in the table of contents. How do we discuss this coherently and sympathetically? And how do we draw philosophical conclusions from it?

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,

Quaderno poetico #2: Peeling off the labels

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

When you write about authors who aren’t household names, the first thing you’re expected to do is place them somewhere in history, otherwise their writing won’t make sense. In Piero Bigongiari’s case this seems easy, as the job has been done for you by decades of common sense. The standard line is to say that Bigongiari was one of the terza generazione of ermetici. That is, he belonged to a group of poets who followed Ungaretti and Montale, dwelling on the abstract, the dreamlike and the mysterious. Other members of the terza generazione were Mario Luzi, Alessandro Parronchi and Alfonso Gatto, along with the critics Carlo Bo and Oreste Macrì. They all met as students in Florence in the 1930s, gathered in cafes for fervent discussion, and enjoyed one flowering of pure, apolitical poetic creativity (ignored by the Fascist regime, which didn’t get poetry) before the post-war shift leftwards in Italy’s cultural scene. Their moment was interesting while it lasted, but circumstances and politics turned taste elsewhere. This seems foolproof: the terza generazione come as a boxed set labelled Montale’s Friends, which fills out the library but which you pass over to read bigger things.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,

Quaderno poetico #1: Our man Bigongiari

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

bigongiariThe eyes follow you. They have been following me for six years. They belong to the Florentine poet Piero Bigongiari (1914-1997), one of the so-called terza generazione of ermeticiI wrote my doctorate on Bigongiari and am turning my research into a book. ACIS has kindly given me the opportunity to keep a diary of the project, and over the next several months I will be posting snippets and vignettes from the desk.

This will not be so much “writing about writing” as a reflection on Bigongiari as a subject and as a presence:  someone whose poems I read alongside his diaries and letters, whose voice I hear in recordings, whose loose and sometimes messy handwriting I have learned to decipher, and whose quirks and habits of mind are now very familiar to me, but who is not actually there. Few book subjects are, but there is still a feeling that they keep you company. How do you make your figure of interest seem real on the page? Bigongiari’s work may seem out-of-the-way, strange or difficult, but what are its real merits? What can it mean to us today? What is Bigongiari’s relationship to other poets of the last century, and what light do they shed on one another? And how, sometimes, do you manage to look away from those eyes that are following you all the time, and put your own opinion freely on the page?

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,