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Where is my Brain!? Where's My Mommy? Where's My What? Duel Links Yu-Gi-Oh! S Zup! X Zup! Little Busters! English Edition. Last update: Series 1. Galileo was also the first to highlight that mathematics could be used to describe objects in the material world, and established the empirical scientific approach. The last great revolution in physics in the 18th century, arrived with Isaac Newton - His contribution included the three laws of motion, universal gravitation, and the invention of calculus.
Newton's work was important because it established a solid confidence in the scientific method. The 18th and the 19th century subsequently, saw great advancement in the field of chemistry, optics, energy, the discovery of thermodynamics and electromagnetism. The history of science, de Santillana and von Dechend remind us, tells us a great deal about the fundamental differences between the ancient and the modern age: It should be understood once and for all that the gulf between the archaic world and ours was as wide as science itself.
Prodigies of exactitude and computation could not bridge it. Only the astronomical map could. It amounted to pure mathematical rationalization, which did away with simple location, and with concreteness altogether. The edifice of Descartes lay in ruins. This is also true for biology with Charles Darwin's - Origin of Species published in , and his theory of evolution by natural selection. Notwithstanding substantial theological opposition, Darwin's thesis soon became widely accepted and provided a rather solid frame for a new biological world-view.
In the new Darwinian world-order, humankind had to re-think its position in the animal kingdom. In the 20th century another grand discovery was made: in , James D. Watson and Francis Crick revealed the structure of DNA and its role in the transmission of genes, the hereditary material of living organisms.
The double helix had added another dimension to Darwin's story: man was not only an intrinsic part of the animal world, but the entirety of the living realm was constituted of the same material. The story of the DNA is the story of the unity of life, as Theodosius Dobzhansky put it: The unity of life is no less remarkable than its diversity. Most forms of life are similar in many respects. The universal biologic similarities are particularly striking in the biochemical dimension.
The genetic code is as simple as it is universal. Uracil replaces thymine in RNA. The earthly bodies might not have been composed of Aristotle's four elements, but all living organisms shared the four fundamental nucleobases. Lately, computer science, linguistics, and neuroscience have developed quite quickly, and the scientific world has seen the rise of cognitive science, which postulates important similarities between brain functions and the ways in which computers process information.
Calvino saw a similarity between the developments in molecular biology and the theses of information theory: Hamlet's Mill, pp. Rhetoric of emancipation and scientific arrogance The Age of Reason was, above all, a European cultural movement, lead by intellectuals, whose main aspiration was to achieve a reformation of society, based on the value of reason and a constant effort to advance knowledge. The pioneers of enlightened thought, the more radical Baruch Spinoza - , John Locke - , Pierre Bayle - , and Isaac Newton, openly opposed the oppression exercised both by the Church and the political order.
In this sense, the Enlightenment was deeply rooted in the upsurge of political consciousness and echoed the political turmoil of the times the 17th century saw the unfolding of the English Revolution, followed a century later in by the American Revolution, and the French Revolution in The Enlightenment is therefore greatly related to the utopian tradition, taking a most practical and political form. Enlightened utopias are typically secular, gazing at the future, eagerly hoping for progress, and gradually abandoning the admiration and study of the past, that had been the trademark of the Renaissance.
The utopias of the 17th and the 18th century, celebrated communal property, promoted social regulation, and economical growth. In France, the leading figures of the Enlightenment, Voltaire - , Denis Diderot - , Montesquieu - , denounced the mysticism of Catholicism, leading the way to the establishment of the secular state.
Yet the shift from the utopia of revolution to dystopia was soon to become apparent; its most obvious example being the establishment of the Reign of Terror - after the French Revolution. It was also the birth of secret societies, such as the Freemasons. An interesting and emblematic figure of the Enlightenment was Sir Francis Bacon - , whose work includes contributions to law, politics, history, philosophy and science.
In The Proficience and Advancement of Learning, written in , he maintained that European intellectual life was in danger of remaining trapped in a static, unproductive state, because it stubbornly insisted on looking up to the achievements of the past, and glorifying them. For Bacon, history was progressive, and not cyclical as Aristotle believed. He identified three regrettable tendencies in the pursuit of knowledge, which he associated with vanity, and wished to dispel: fantastical learning, contentious learning, and delicate learning.
The first, belongs to the custom of occultism, devoid of any substantial foundation, in which we find the practices of astrology, magic, and alchemy. The second, is affiliated to the Aristotelian and the Scholastic tradition, of which he criticised the logic going adrift, and the metaphysical concern.
The last one he associated with the endeavours in the humanities, which all too often according to him, found a self-gratifying pleasure in reproducing classical rhetorical aesthetics. Interestingly enough, Francis Bacon's utopia, The New Atlantis published in Latin in , and later in English in , was founded on rationalism, technology and modernity or its conception of it in the spring of the 17th century.
In The New Atlantis, Salomon's House, an establishment of scientific knowledge and research, presides over society; the political establishment resembles closely a form of Scientocracy. Yet the scientific utopia came soon to be hand in hand with the scientific dystopia, and the schizophrenic literary portraits of scientific aspiration have only thrived ever since. The Enlightenment stood for much more than its immediate political dimension; it was a state of rational thought with specific values about humanity. Enlightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters.
Yet the wholly enlightened earth is radiant with triumphant calamity. It wanted to dispel myths, to overthrow fantasy with knowledge. The criminality of the Enlightenment was to instate the general belief that knowledge was the only safe and ethical gateway 76 See J. It is precisely the emancipatory aspect of the discourse that has been failed. Adorno and Horkheimer insisted on how blind celebration of knowledge could drift to technocratic oppression and abuse of power. Knowledge, which is power, knows no limits, either in its enslavement of creation or in its deference to worldly matters.
Just as it serves all the purposes of the bourgeoisie economy both in factories and on the battlefield, it is at the disposal of entrepreneurs regardless of their origins. Kings control technology no more directly than do merchants: it is as democratic as the economic system with which it evolved. Technology is the essence of this knowledge. In the Western tradition, mainly because of the wide triumph of the Enlightenment, science is so closely associated with knowledge that their correlation is often considered exclusive and as a result, we traditionally tend to think that knowledge is only possible through science.
Even within the Western tradition however, science is not our only gateway to the world. The experience of the world remains multiple and consequently, knowledge can still be achieved through a variety of means. The advantage of science, it is well known, is that it can be expressed in a language that is universally relevant and that it can be confirmed regardless of the cultural background, the gender, or the personal and unique experience of each individual. But there are other truths, equally universal and accessed through experience and collectively, as we have discussed in relation to myth.
Adorno and Horkheimer however, traced the origins of the enlightened degeneration in what they interpreted as the myth of the bourgeois hero: Ulysses and the tradition of the Odyssey. Ulysses' cunning character, especially in the episode where he manages to escape his fate, despite listening to the sirens' songs, is interpreted as an early form of narrative of Man establishing himself as master of Nature. It is in the same tradition that the literary image of Robinson Crusoe is later engineered.
Myth therefore remains indelible in enlightened thought by nourishing an irrational positivist belief. From the triumph of science emerges a criticism; it is generally not a criticism of science in itself, but rather a warning against the forms of scientism that can result from an overbearing reliance on the natural sciences to provide a coherent world-view.
On their way toward modern science human beings have discarded meaning. The concept is replaced by the formula, the cause by rules and probability. Causality was only the last philosophical concept on which scientific criticism tested its strength, because it alone of the old ideas still stood in the way of such criticism, the latest secular form of the creative Ibid.
Our ignorance not only remained vast, but became pretentious as well. This is a direct attack to the big Idea of Progress, which was one of the fundamental notions of modernity, but also one of the cardinal aspects of Italian nationalism, which resulted in the formation of the Kingdom of Italy in One of the most radical critical approaches to science however have been initiated by the Austro-British philosopher Sir Karl Raimund Popper.
His analysis gives an account of science which takes it back to its mythological origins Before, there was only the first-order tradition. A definite story was handed on. Think it over. Perhaps you can give us a different story. We shall understand that, in a certain sense, science is myth-making just as religion is. This distinction is achieved through his definition of scientific theory. According to him, a scientific theory ought to be falsifiable, in other words, its premises should not defy the possibility of empirical testing. Charles Fourier We have already mentioned how enlightened thought, and its unconditional faith in reason, soon saw the birth of a counter-discourse, which challenged its very foundations.
We would like to discuss now, the case of Charles Fourier - and Utopian Socialism, which followed the Romantic outcry against the philosophy of the Enlightenment, particularly because Calvino showed a great interest in 80 Hamlet's Mill, p. Utopian socialism, to which the names of Robert Owen - and Henri de Saint-Simon - were also affiliated, was born with Romanticism, the French Revolution and the Industrial revolution in the background.
The romantic poetry of John Keats - and William Blake - were suggesting an alternative to the exuberant rationalism of their time, with a focus on subjectivity and introspection and a celebration of the mysteries of the soul. For them it was the genius of poetry that could venture in this sacred direction. He believed that the ideal society for which he advocated was possible, and feasible in the immediate future.
But these Socialist and Communist publications contain also a critical element. They attack every principle of existing society. Hence, they are full of the most valuable materials for the enlightenment of the working class. The practical measures proposed in them — such as the abolition of the distinction between town and country, of the family, of the carrying on of industries for the account of private individuals, and of the wage system, the proclamation of social harmony, the conversion of the function of the state into a more superintendence of production — all these proposals point solely to the disappearance of class antagonisms which were, at that time, only just cropping up, and which, in these publications, are recognised in their earliest indistinct and undefined forms only.
These proposals, therefore, are of a purely Utopian character. And the dire results of this stupidity which, for 2, years, has needlessly prologued the period of social chaos, i. He advocated a society, Armonia, where the education of children would be taken out of the restraining familial order and its psychological impairments, into the hands of vocational governesses. The children would take on a role in society very soon, but one that would not be in conflict with their desires and their amusement.
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Fourier devised a peculiar social landscape for children; one of its most striking features was the Petites Hordes. These satisfied two different things at the same time: some children's preference for playing and meddling with dirt, and society's need for a cleaning agent. In the adults' world the same principle is applied; the dominant morality among his contemporaries is discarded as a dogmatic stance. Fourier suggested that a harmonious society should not aspire to constrain passions, nor attempt to modify them to adapt to a certain order, but rather to devise the order that would allow them to be integrated in the greater whole, unaltered.
This was the essential idea behind Fourier's conception of attractive labour. The devices that were designed by Fourier, will certainly seem peculiar to the modern reader, for the proliferation of strange neologisms, the presence of many lists, categories, sub-categories, and an almost maniacal tendency to describe in the most minute details products of his imagination. The world that he himself had created, never stayed in the confined space of the page, nor in the abstraction of thought, it was a living image that was revealed to him through his own creation.
Fourier's utopia was read and interpreted in different ways from his contemporaries to the present day, but Calvino distinguishes two tendencies, which are essentially two practical ways to read utopia as SI, p. Calvino tells us, that Fourier's main difference from the other contemporary Utopian Socialists, and mainly Henri de Saint-Simon, was that all the attempts to put Fourier's models into practice, fell apart. We can read further into Calvino's comment and discern an essential quality of utopia itself, that of a form that defies being fastened firmly into a confined space.
The real value that Calvino attributes to Fourier is clearly a literary one. The characters in the story go on the surface of the moon, close enough to the earth to be reached with a long ladder. It is not accurate however, to say that Fourier inspired the project, because the twelve stories collected in the volume Le Cosmicomiche was published in and composed between and , whereas the reading and studying of Fourier started in for Calvino.
Fourier stands in the position that resists both these poles. When we move this discussion to Calvino himself we might be confronted with the same difficulty: does Calvino write in the tradition of the Enlightenment, or does he write in the tradition of its criticism? Our suggestion is quite simple though the space defined might itself be more complicated : Calvino writes, somehow continuing the spirit of Charles Fourier. Writing in an enlightened world: Calvino and science Calvino explained that he encountered and became interested in science during his stay in the United States and his meeting with de Santillana see also 1.
There have been several arguments made about the importance of science in Calvino's work, but the most extensive critical works on this aspect that are available to us today, are probably those from Kerstin Pilsz 95 and Massimo Bucciantini. He also never fails to mention that Calvino's interest is not scientific: Calvino does not have scientific aspirations, as he does not have philosophical or anthropological ones, but really literary ones.
One of the fundamental scientific influences in Calvino's fiction concerns the conception of time and space. When it comes to discussing their importance, we set ourselves to look at it from two different angles: we shall first understand why the author at times chooses those specific images as a primary material and then we shall discuss their function and evaluate their literary impact.
Time and space can be interpreted as referential systems, as dimensions for story-telling. Where does the need to transcend those limits that are time and space come from? His use of science, 95 Kerstin Pilz, Mapping Complexity. Literature and Science in the Works of Italo Calvino ed. Gli alfabeti del mondo Rome: Donzelli Editore, What strikes the reader and the literary community of the time is the use of such seemingly unconventional images. Before going into the process of looking at how those images are used and how they function within Calvino's composition and within the literary realm more generally, let us attempt a justification of their use in the first place.
Of course the problem faced by many authors of the second half of the 20th century is the highly difficult task to use images that would not appear redundant, fallacious, arbitrary or ineffective. In this frame of mind, using new images introduced to our era by the means of new scientific discoveries seems quite sensible. Modernist fiction has very widely used technological advance: the images of the clock or the train for instance are quite common both in prose and poetry.
In that way Calvino's use of images inspired by science was only a recycling of methods already known until then. What made the images appear unconventional is probably the use that he made of them: he subverted them either by using them as a hook for a different discussion or as established literary topoi. The discourse introduced by theoretical physics attempts to re-contextualize human conscience within the new framework of time and space created by the latest scientific discoveries, and Calvino's time was stirred by those major breakthroughs that radically changed our way of thinking time and space.
In terms of structure, the first volume of cosmicomic stories systematically presents a header at the beginning of each story, which is a scientific briefing of the images that the author has decided to use. Despite this image being presented as the basis of the story yet to be told, most of the times the initial aspect is merely a catcher, a lure into another secret and real story see also 2. Scientific reference will still remain the mould but not the only origin of meaning and structure itself.
Especially about Palomar, we will discuss the importance of the concept of the absurd see also 4. However, the limitations of this kind of meaning are obvious to Calvino, because he observes the human imagination as well as external data. What we wish to stress out however, is that under no circumstances do those patterns appear to be a solution to the problem of being in the world. The choice to discuss this problem under an ontological spectrum might appear problematic at first, however, Calvino's proposition is that self- knowledge cannot and should not be conceived as separate from knowing how the self is in the world.
Even though it was published six years after the first collection of cosmicomic stories came out, this essay is very useful in the way it summarises all the most important scientific aspects of the theory of evolution and their ethical consequences. Only by knowing those things will we be able to understand Calvino's use of evolutionary biology. We do not know whether Calvino had read Dobzhansky himself, but we do know that he had most probably read Morgan, who was Dobzhansky' s teacher and precursor. The American Biology Teacher, 35, , Mi pare che le due posizioni che ho descritto definiscono abbastanza bene la situazione: due poli tra cui ci troviamo a oscillare, o almeno io mi trovo a oscillare, sentendo attrazione e avvertendo i limiti dell'uno e dell'altro.
So where does Calvino place the space literature may wish to occupy in an enlightened age, in an age of growing computerised processing? Forse in Fourier lei andava cercando di ritrovare l'illuminismo, il razionalismo, lo spirito settecentesco del Barone Rampante. Adesso ci sono dei critici che dicono: Calvino rappresenta la sconfitta della ragione, non crede nelle magnifiche sorti e progressive. His view is not as grim as Adorno and Horkheimer, mainly because he did not share their deep distrust in myth. The qualities of myth were altogether too important to him, to accept their discourse fully.
By earthly transcendence, we describe a twofold movement, which goes from the particular to the universal, and back. Earthly transcendence is not essentially mystical or divine, it is inherently human. It does not aspire to a unique universal truth belonging to a heavenly place, detached from the contradictions of human experience; it is always relevant to the senses.
It does not come from above, or from a realm beyond reach, it stays close to the tension at work in every event. However, Calvino's aesthetics always disclose a desire to overcome a certain difficulty or contradictions, and in that they remain transcendental. It is also by the means of earthly transcendence that Calvino's mythical spirit emerges.
The transcendental effort is constantly put to empirical trial. This aesthetic quality also accounts for the typically calvinian humour. Some of the tools of comic effect in fact participate in the aesthetic. We have for instance the practice of reframing an argument, usually abruptly applying it to a different context or scale. This is quite common for instance in the cosmicomic stories. In Palomar, humour is not as explicit as it is in the cosmicomic tales, but some of the stories still maintain a comic tone, if the reader is careful not to take Palomar's contemplation to the letter.
However, the same aesthetic effect is achieved. This is an argument in favour of the aesthetics that we have suggested, for it cannot simply be assumed that what we call earthly transcendence is merely another name for Calvino's comic tone. Yet it is not the experience of the ineffable, but more accurately, that of the ephemeral.
The divine appearance is revealed to man through his experience, but it is lost in the very moment of revelation. The symbol might be a reference to an empty space, but to a space left empty by the divine revelation which has been instantly lost. In other words, the symbolic is the language of absence. For Calvino's writing, metaphors and symbols, are the tools the artist has at hand to convey the earthly transcendence we have set ourselves to discuss.
For the reader and the critic, they are evidence of that aesthetic. In Palomar also, almost every observation experiences the temptation of metaphor the wave as time and the world, the odd slipper as the other, the universe as a mirror of humanity, etc. But the metaphors never really meet their end, they do not always do what they promise bring in the same and the other. In the Aristotelian tradition of poetics, metaphor is part of the great artistic mimicry, and in the same context, metaphor enables poetry to say more than what it actually does.
This is also the tradition that associates metaphor with transcendence. In , Gottlieb Baumgarten published his book Reflections on Poetry, imposing the discussion of aesthetics in the world of poetry. Baumgarten wished to separate the metaphysical from the poetical discourse, and as a spirit of his times, he insisted on the self-sufficiency of the work of art and the aesthetic experience it offered to the audience. The work of art had a life of its own, a reality of its own.
Authors list: preface
But the temptation of metaphor is admittedly very great: This tension the poet cannot escape. His works will never be pure enough; his work will always bear traces of the sensuous music of nature that they cannot silence as they gesture towards an elusive eternity, the metaphor of a transcendence that is nothing other than the place left vacant by the dead God.
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In earthly transcendence, the metaphor is the memory of a metaphor that could transcend, the memory carried by the symbol of the face of gods and their laughter. The choice of writing short Recent genre theory has faced the difficulty to define the short story as distinct from the novel.
Valerie Shaw situated the short story on the thin line between reality and dream, fixity and evolution, ordinary and peculiar. May suggested that the brevity of the short story is due to the fact it deals with experiences that are short and that those are most suitable to the short story itself. More than half are short-story writers, and some of them are emblematic figures of short fiction. However, as a craftsman, he certainly favoured shorter forms.
It was in the experience of writing and reading short pieces that he justified his predilection. Io speravo di fare un librettino di raccontini, tutto bello pulito stringato, ma Pavese ha detto no, i racconti non vendono, bisogna che fai il romanzo. Io scrivo mangiandomi le unghie. Tu scrivi mangiandoti le unghie? Gli scrittori si dividono in quelli che scrivono mangiandosi le unghie e quelli no.
It appears that there are historical and social reasons that lie behind the rising interest in short stories over the last two centuries. The moderns, in a word, describe life in short stories because they are possessed with the sentiment that life itself is an uncommonly short story, and perhaps not a true one. The difficulty derives from the problem of choosing an appropriate style, or rather from achieving an aesthetic which renders this sense of discontinuity. According to its historical circumstances every age has created artistic trends that were believed to be more adequate for their time.
This idea, expressed at the beginning of the century, suggests that the proliferation of short fiction and the growing interest in it, was a form of literary necessity. The short story in this sense is the literary synonym of the episode in life. The question of an increasingly fragmented experience of everyday life has been a poignant one in literature. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, 7th edn. Ltd, , p. Calvino was very much aware of this increasing impression of discontinuity, and Claudio Milanini epitomised this aspect of his work in his book L'Utopia Discontinua.
This linguistic filtering process gains even more importance when it comes to short stories. This effect of lightness that Calvino longs for, as a reader and as a writer, is to be achieved through poetic resources. The short story, as it appears in Calvino's work, is impregnated by poetic style. It is arguable whether it is to be found more frequently in short stories than in novels. Walton R. Saggio su Italo Calvino Milan: Grazanti, It is a relation that associates mimesis and differentiation.
The story can be understood as a resistance to the continuous and chaotic nature of the world. There is a will to make some events, characters or landscapes stand out of the amorphous Walton R. College Composition and Communication, It is however indispensable to note that in many short stories that have been regarded as masterpieces of the genre, symmetry is not present.
Calvino believed that the end of a story can echo the function of the beginning, i. This characteristic mostly points at the end of the story, and as we have seen before, it is not what Calvino insisted on. Poe insisted that a short story should be the product of deliberate artistry; it had to put emphasis on a single effect and ought to be characterized by economy of language, which put the genre formally very close to the aesthetics of poetry.
This tension is the symptom that reflects the complex dimension of life. Calvino often said that through his writing he attempted to give a voice to anything that was lacking one, in other words to incorporate into literature things that were outside its realm until then. Calvino and Chekhov Anton Chekhov is one of the short story writer that Calvino greatly admired, and whose work he found paramount to the human experience. Lane, , p. We have seen before, that paradoxically, Calvino sees in this failure, a literary opportunity, which Chekhov does not fail to exploit as he points out.
What Calvino appreciates about Chekhov's aesthetics is the perennial suspension of aetiology, and the portrayal of men hanging on to ideologies, orchestrated to bypass the utmost triviality of existence. His comments on Chekhov are interesting on various levels. First of all, he recognises that Chekhov's world, in all its preoccupations, its difficulties, and its existential questioning, is the same as ours. The literary project in this sense, remains similar on many levels.
Chekhov is therefore a contemporary, because humankind's historical condition has not changed dramatically since his time; or more precisely, even if circumstances have indeed changed, the centrepiece of how we are in the world remains the same. Calvino's own work was no exception, it is equally concerned with the overwhelming presence of doubt and threat to meaning. Much like Chekhov, he refused to give in to the temptation of providing a definite answer to these doubts, making it an intellectual and artistic responsibility to remain faithful to them as to a form of truth about human experience.
Let us also remember Calvino's thoughts about beginning and ending a story; he declared that stories always began and ended in medias res. The first resulted form a characteristic of the human condition which had remained the same, and an adjacent point of view from which to look at it. The second, was not only an artistic choice, simply relying on subjective taste although it was that as well , but also a form revealed and emerging from that world- view. At the time he wrote the article, and at the time of the fiftieth anniversary of Chekhov's death, the world was already in the middle of the escalation of the Cold War.
Taking sides in that debate, Calvino maintains, reduces the depth of Chekhov's literary quality. The essence of his work is not to be sought in revealing which side he takes if he can even be imagined to take one. The artistry at work is made visible in the making of the tension.
He does not yield to the pressure to take sides. At this point, I would like to draw a line of comparison between Calvino's discourse on SI, p. It is no coincidence, that these two authors were discussed under the controversial interpretation and analysis that they owed to their critics, and that Calvino wished to place his own critical voice right in the middle.
It is also revealing to point out that the polarity discussed is also the same: science and mysticism, rationality and irrationality, pessimism and optimism. But in the eyes of the critics they remained a puzzle, they were hard to confine and resisted systematic qualification. Calvino being himself the object of a divided critical reception, we can maybe understand the affinities he had with these two authors. As a critic himself he was doing for other writers what he hoped someone would do for him. Claudio Milanini however, interprets Palomar's death, as a sacrifice; this thesis will offer an alternative interpretation see also 4.
Saggio su Italo Calvino, Strumenti di studio Garzanti, , pp. Myth-making and individual responsibility in the cosmicomic stories Calvino started publishing the cosmicomic stories in his first volume was Cosmicomiche , and he went on writing them until the end of his life it was in that he published Cosmicomiche vecchie e nuove, including 2 new stories which had not appeared in previous volumes.
In between, further editions were published, including Ti con zero , La memoria del mondo e altre storie cosmicomiche The origin of the stories was clearly influenced by a need to establish a dialogue with the scientific discourse see also 1. In the Cosmicomiche, the first part of Ti con zero, and all the new stories appearing in La memoria del mondo except for the one giving its name to the collection feature the narrator with the unpronounceable and palindromic name: Qfwfq. Calvino's long commitment to the project reveals its significance and contributes to a better understanding of his greater literary project.
The name of Immanuel Kant suggests the strong philosophical concern behind the work, and Beckett's and Carroll's names hint at the absurdity of some situations which will often contribute to the comic effect of the stories. The cosmicomic cycle was born, evolved and was contained within the relationship between humankind and cosmos, and the imagery created is shaped by those two parameters. The characters are not human but their language, their relations, and their philosophical concerns most certainly are.
If for instance man and cosmos are in conflict, which they usually are, tension will be at the core of the product of imagination. To do so, we will first discuss Calvino's literary project, relating it to the debate with Pasolini and its critical responses. In order to develop this argument further within the context of the cosmicomics stories, it is necessary to study how utopia is represented and how it is defined. He recognised however that such an ideal situation was merely an intellectual utopia, he suggested, that in the meantime literature should follow the discoveries and tendencies revealed by science and philosophy, discuss them, while at the same time, it should keep a certain critical distance.
The comic effect is indeed crucial in the body of the cosmicomic stories that we set ourselves to discuss. With his work on the cosmicomic genre, Calvino experimented on the possibility to make mythological motifs emerge from a scientific discourse, which had so insistently tried to set itself quite apart from any such affiliations, and which is also systematically transcended.
This opinion was first articulated by Pasolini and gave birth to a debate that would last long after Pasolini's death, but also Calvino's. Pasolini contro Calvino. Per una letteratura impura, was Carla Benedetti's account of this opposition and it raised important questions, which judging from the number of varied polemical responses, have not been answered yet. Per una letteratura impura Bollati Boringhieri, In this book, Carla Benedetti summarises the difference between Calvino and Pasolini to a battle where one side remained engaged Pasolini and the other became gradually disengaged.
With the occasion of J. But there might be an alternative interpretation to this outcome. If the intellectuals and artists who chose to mark their stance in this debate were indeed divided between Calvino's and Pasolini's supporters, then it is only fair to assume that those in favour of Calvino, opted for a positive narrative in support of the writer of their predilection, while Pasolini's advocators preferred a polemical stance against the identified enemy.
In this sense, both sides closely followed the steps of their inspirational figure. Through their stance, supporters on each side can thus be said to have perpetuated the debate roughly on the same level on which it was set by its emblematic figures. Is it really accurate to assume that choosing language over base matter, or form over content necessarily translates into detachment? And more importantly, is it fair to exclusively associate engagement with action? Language is as important as base matter if we recognise that we are entirely conditioned by it; and form equates to our way of being in the world.
Once these issues have been taken into consideration we have to admit that what is called disengagement by some is in fact essentially an ethical choice. The utopian images that Calvino offers us are to be understood as the most sincere intellectual and political engagement.
What prevents Calvino from stating a political preference or from indicating a supposed solution to a social or political conflict is his anti-authoritarian approach. Calvino's utopian impulse is not historically unimportant. He was living in Paris during the student movement of May '68, and although he chose to stay silent somehow and not make any open political statements, his concern about this utopian drive is transparent in the cosmicomic stories. Non era la letteratura della negazione che veniva proposta, ma la negazione della letteratura. La letteratura era accusata soprattutto d'essere una perdita di tempo contrapposta alla sola cosa importante: l'azione.
Che il culto dell'azione fosse innanzi tutto un vecchio mito letterario fu compreso - o sta per essere compreso - molto lentamente. Even if Pasolini should be praised for putting the author forward in his work, one cannot ignore that throughout the centuries, orality and anonymity have also played an important role in literature, participating in the enrichment of literary culture. This thesis however, presumes that Calvino's style and his stubborn reluctance to use autobiographical elements in his fiction, reduces the whole of his work to an artistic object that denies its context and fails to challenge the important questions raised by the reality of his time.
It is not obvious, and maybe it should not be accepted that these are the only two ways to evaluate the literary value of an author. When it comes to Pasolini and SI. Calvino wrote that the student movement was characterised by radical points of view, and that that was devastating for literature. He also associated this radicalism with the blind faith expressed in action. Thus, action became more and more linked to oppressive and authoritarian behaviour in his work, while he insisted that action also meant the exertion of force by one person on others. Carla Benedetti explains how Pasolini chose to address the problem of a certain disturbing conventionality in literature by attacking it as an institution.
When literature becomes a political action, it is incorporated in the political sphere, and it therefore loses its ability to look at politics in a critical way. It is therefore not far-fetched on Calvino's part to express concerns for the blows literature could take from this attitude. Calvino's intellectual commitment to political, historical and social issues had changed form, but it had been there all throughout his career as a writer. In the same way a novel, a short story or a poem should not try to be a philosophical treatise. He did however keep the right to express his need for literature to participate in the political debate.
He also pointed at another level in which literature participates effectively in the social discourse, and that consists in the — accidental most of the times — discovery of concerns that are of general interest. Calvino explained how good literature has educational outcomes, but that it should not be driven by a didactic scope; and how it should always keep a critical approach to the world.
Through his fiction, his essays and his correspondence, we understand that Calvino believed in action only to a certain extent; the most significant and fundamental changes, the ones that can last, are the ones that happen in thought. It appears that the values Calvino fought to find and defend in Lezioni americane are still problematic to the critical audience.
It is with lightness that Calvino tackles the subject of utopia in the cosmicomic stories, and yet within the same work, the sense of individual and more obviously intellectual responsibility is omnipresent. Those who take after Pasolini's views, interpret Calvino's lightness as intellectual superficiality in engaging with important political, ethical, critical and artistic issues. On the contrary, it should be interpreted more as tolerance, caution, and sincere and responsible personal involvement. Whatever our weaknesses may be, the nobility of our craft will always be rooted in two commitments, difficult to maintain: the refusal to lie about what one knows and the resistance to oppression.
Utopia would thus be the place and time in which the violence that has ravaged society through the fallacies of science, philosophy, politics and the individuals within it, is amended by the artistic literary process. Calvino only recognized the possibility of a utopian impulse instead of a solid utopian construct, but like Wilde, he affirms the necessity of utopia.
The problems that are dealt with have no historical reference and the elements of the descriptions do not allow the reader to place the story anywhere near a realistic image of the world.
However, all the issues, emotions, struggles and dilemmas remain human. We could refer to Palomar in order to understand how the same project can be attempted using different means. Unlike the stories we are mostly studying here, Palomar is confronted with everyday images and events that eventually trigger his intellect and his imagination. In the first one the experience of sexuality is narrated from the point of view of the individual who experiences the effects of his own sexuality, while on the other hand the turtles are being spied on by Palomar, an observer. Capiranno meglio se stesse, le tartarughe?
It also suggests that the way in which we conceive our social order is bound to evolve, in other words that any form of utopia is subjected to the parameter of time. Its inconsistency in time is what makes Calvino's utopia discontinuous. One such attitude is fatalism. He survives to tell a story of hope but also to remind us that the equilibrium we take for granted is ephemeral. New and Old combine and confuse categories that had previously been the only frame of reference. Utopias are thus not only discontinuous but also conflictual: an order of things that was once ideal becomes gradually oppressive and needs to be overruled.
However, all these characteristics are intrinsic to the very nature of utopia as Calvino understands it. In other words Calvino's utopias are only defined as such if they do not last in time and space. Utopian creations usually have a divine dimension — as is the image of Heaven in the Christian tradition or the image of Valhalla in the Viking world — if there is one to be found in Calvino's work then it is created in the image of the world with all its tensions and inconsistencies.
Whereas Christians are guaranteed a way to Heaven provided they live by God's rules, and Viking warriors are accompanied by the Valkyrie to Valhalla if they live and die like brave warriors; there is no prescribed path to utopia in the world of the Cosmicomics. Life being a flow conditioned by the arrow of time, and decisions being made on the spot, there can be no warranty.
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We have seen that utopian states are not perennial; they perish almost as soon as they have been recognized. The utopian nature is defined along with other things by its infinitesimally short life. Under that prism the form of the short story does not seem arbitrary at all but very adequate to render this sense of finiteness. Within the cosmicomic stories utopia also keeps its etymological meaning: it is a no-place, a place that is not. Being atopic, heterogeneous and sometimes paradoxical, it is also amorphous. Many cosmicomic utopias are indeed indefinitely-remote, both in time and space.
Most of them are reported as memories of the same narrator, Qfwfq, from his experience in the most distant corners of the universe. All of these aspects are relevant to utopia in as far as they contribute to its definition of relations in scientific, conceptual but also ethical terms. The organic process mainly involves self-preservation, reproduction, and potential change. There is even more evidence that what Calvino is writing about is indeed the power of poetry. It is narrative, that combinatorial machine, which creates the possibility of poetic delight.
In the situations we are about to discuss, utopia does not work as a dreamed destination of infinite possibilities; it is the certitude that the characters will never get back there. The characters are ipso facto denied utopian images as they contemplate reaching them. The Edenic model has been a utopian one for a long time, and Calvino persisted in exploring it even if it was only to stress that it was pursued in vain. This is the initial image created by the story. Childhood has also been linked to utopia in many different ways.
It has been a topos where utopian hopes have been placed, wishing the forthcoming generations what the previous ones were unable to achieve. Childhood has been idealized in various literary contexts, and depicted as a place and time deprived of all evil intentions. Even though the twentieth century, especially with the advancement of psychology, has demystified most of this ideal childhood narrative, many of its aspects still persists. It is interesting to notice that change is almost understood as a synonym for an ideal state of things.
As soon as the circumstances change, the relation between the two children does as well; they are no longer companions, they are rivals. Ironically, it starts with the image of a never ending fall and instead of having only two individuals longing for each other, we are introduced to a peculiar triangular situation. Yet again, Qfwfq is looking for a universe where he could meet and be with his beloved, but in the end he can only point at it. Motion in time and space are represented as necessary conditions for any utopian hope to be expressed.
He has witnessed the world from its very beginning, and he is still around to tell. He is the embodiment of the idea of a universal consciousness, and most extraordinarily, he is a narrator of what happened prior to human consciousness. The credibility of this narrative is of course questionable. The stories of the cosmicomic cycle owe their humorous tone to the utter unlikeliness of their narrative. Also, various scientific theories and discoveries mentioned or indirectly referred to in the stories are in opposition.
The scientific framework behind the narration is to be taken more like a well of inspirational images than like a network of unquestionable information. One of the aspects that render utopia ever so distant is the multi-layered problem of language. La parole encloses within it the entire struggle, the injustice, the weight of tradition, the mannerisms of various discourses, and the sclerosis resulting from ready-made, de-mythologized logos.
In order to attempt a depiction of utopia, Calvino's strategy is quite consistent: he first warns his reader about a specific danger, and then proceeds to reveal possible ways out of the trap that lays ahead. The witness who can account for the history of the universe repeatedly falls into ominous logical traps, making the authority of his narration crumble to the extent that it can definitely not be taken for granted.
Ironically, this states the impossibility to fully grasp circumstances that involve parameters, which are unconceivable for us. However, should we attempt to appropriate them, it seems we are bound to fall into the same traps as Qfwfq. The narrator of these stories is the embodiment of the individual trying to impose order onto chaos. In this endeavour he faces other individuals as well as the entire world, both in its physical and metaphysical dimension. In order to achieve this, Qfwfq is always willing to reconsider his point of view. I would like to borrow Kathryne Hume's hypothesis that the narrator's tendency towards change can be understood as a quest for meaning.
Insisting on changing oneself serves the purpose of being able to adapt according to the challenges raised by different circumstances. It also suggests that the rigidity found in some ideologies can lead to intellectual dead-ends or oppressive behaviours. In this sense Qfwfq always seems to be anticipating change in order to avoid this dangerous kind of stasis. In this particular story, whose function is primarily humoristic, Qfwfq sees a message written on a board on another planet while he is observing the sky from his telescope.
Most of them are translated into possible answers he could give to that message. Here are a few of them.
Jorge Luis Borges
The point is that Qfwfq does not rush into any decision making. It is an entire process of thinking that he reports through his narrative He assumes that out of all the individuals in the universe this message he has just read is meant for him, and he seems to suffer from delusions of persecution. The expression of hope for a utopia in this story comes from the narrator's acceptance of the largely replaces death in this mythology, and offers us one way of transcending it.
Qfwfq is interacting with a message which is several light-years away from where he is. Whereas his reaction to the sight of the board is immediate, what the board refers to and the moment he reacts are light-years away from each other. There are several intriguing elements that are brought together by the particularity of this situation: the image of the individual judged by society, the hierarchy of values on which justice is based, the disguised guilt and remorse embedded in human existence, the anonymous, almost god-like quality of the person who has written the message on the board, the implications of an ever so distant judicial process, and the exercise of intimidation.
The ethical aspects of an individual being judged by others are redefined constantly within the story. The story is written in the form of a diary that covers an entire week, with one additional introducing passage that consolidates the entries coming afterwards. To some extent both narrators resemble each other inasmuch as they rely on signs to interpret the world, to give their life a meaning.
Mi sto convincendo che il mondo vuole dirmi qualcosa, mandarmi avvisi, segnali. The story is also set in an environment completely detached from history and any recognisable reality. Calvino has in fact taken the problem of how a person is supposed to assimilate and interpret the events in his life, and put it completely out of context.