“On Necromancy and Collage: Re-Thinking the Reception of the Renaissance in Modern Italy”
Through a couple of cases related to Metaphysical Art, Magical Realism, and fascist propaganda, I am going to share the theoretical premise of a book that I have been working on since graduate school: a study of Ludovico Ariosto’s presence in 20th century Italian culture. The idea is to re-think the concept of ‘reception’ in a more active and less ethnocentric way: as a kind of philological conjuring or necromancy. Rather than actualizing the past in the present, this approach to cultural philology aims to host encounters between past and present people. It makes these people strangers to each other instead of drawing on familiarity and assumptions of kinship. It fills the gulf between them through the hospitable arts of interpretation, translation, and comparative combination. The Latin prefixes embedded in these words (inter, trans, com, par, bi) foster horizontal relations, alliances and exchanges. The prefix re-, at the root of reception (and, revival, return, rebirth, as well as Renaissance), is their opposite, just as nostalgia—the most risky of feelings when one deals with the past—should be the opposite of what we call Italian Studies.