15 March 2009

SPECIAL TOPIC: Italo Calvino between the modern and the postmodern

In addition to taking an exam on 20th century literature in August, I also take something called a "Special Topic" reading list.  Formed in conjunction with my advisor, this list is supposed to theoretically help me prepare for writing a dissertation. Sometimes the exam list can go on to be a chapter or part of a chapter of the dissertation.  

When I was thinking about what would be the most beneficial way to approach the exam, I decided that the best thing to do would be to kill as many birds as possible with the fewest number of stones.  One of my courses this semester, which I love, is a seminar on Italo Calvino, one of the more internationally famous Italian writers.  So, of course, he seemed like a good choice for a special topic.  

Here is my reading list:
Primary books
Calvino, Italo. Sentiero dei nidi di ragno (1946) - Path to the spider's nest
Calvino, Italo. Ultimo viene il corvo (1949) - 
Calvino, Italo. Il visconte dimezzato (1951) - The cloven viscount
Calvino, Italo. La formica argentina (1952) - The argentine ant
Calvino, Italo. Il barone rampante (1957) - The baron in the trees
Calvino, Italo. La speculazione edilizia (1957) - A plunge into real estate
Calvino, Italo. La nuvola di smog (1958) - Smog
Calvino, Italo. Il cavaliere inesistente (1959) - The nonexistent knight
Calvino, Italo. La giornata di uno scrutatore (1963) - The watcher
Calvino, Italo. Castello dei destini incrociati (1973) - Castle of crossed destinies
Calvino, Italo. Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore (1979) - If on winter's night a traveler...

On its own, this list actually is really doable. I've read most of the books, and I feel like I could definitely use some of them in a dissertation.  But, wait for it. The secondary list is the theory, criticism and otherwise much more dense and difficult section.  

Secondary sources
Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations
Bové, Paul A. Early postmodernism: Foundational essays
Calinescu, Matei. Five faces of modernity: modernism, avant-garde, decadence, kitsch, postmodernism
Cannon, Joann. Postmodern italian fiction
Hutcheon, Linda. selection from Poetics of the Postmodern
Jameson, Frederic. Postmodernism, or the cultural logic of late capitalism
Luperini, Romano.  selections from Allegoria del Moderno
Markey, Constance. "Calvino and the existential dilemma"
Markey, Constance. Calvino: a journey toward the postmodern
McHale, Brian. Postmodernist fiction
Pacifici, Sergio. selection from From Verismo to Existentialism: essays on the modern italian novel
Robbe-Gillet, Alain. For a new novel--essays on fiction
Todorov, Tzvetan. The fantastic: a structural approach to literary genre
Vattimo, Gianni. The end of modernity: nihilism and hermenetics in postmodern culture
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. selection from Philosophical investigations

Honestly, I was relieved that the list was finally approved and has been filed away into my personal database of things that I need to learn between now and August. It felt really good to go in with a list that I felt would be useful and was also not too daunting and hear "You know, you have too much criticism. But I'm very pleased with this list." What a feeling!

08 March 2009

Lists, in general

I was listening to “To The Best Of Our Knowledge” today, and the topic was lists. Why do we have lists, 1001 Books to Read/Paintings to See/Places to Visit/Foods to Taste/Wines to Drink/Albums to Hear/Places to Visit Before You Die? What does the creation and publication of the 1001 Books to Read say about the rest of the books, and any books to come after it? What do they do for us?
Having lists creates a vocabulary. It creates a shared experience, or a point of reference that you can have in common with someone else. You’ve both seen the same films, read the same books? Great, you have something to talk about. That’s why you ask people what their favorite things are, so you can cross-list their information to your own and find a way to relate to them.
In daily life, having lists helps us gain control and take the reigns in a situation which might otherwise feel chaotic and without meaning. How great does it feel to cross something off that To-Do List? How accomplished do you feel when you’ve crossed everything off it (though that rarely happens)? How many times have you written something onto that list that you’ve already done just so you can cross it off? I know I have.
In graduate school, lists are simultaneously more and less tangible. They are more tangible because we enter school knowing the list of books we will have to read during our tenure in the program; they are the lists we will be examined on at the various steps in our process. We can see a list online, hold it in our hands, and see what is ahead of us. At the beginning of each semester, we see which books we have to purchase, read and understand throughout the course of the term. When we teach, it is the list of students for whom we are accountable, who we will instruct in the list of beginning grammar - articles, adverbs, present and past tense verbs, object pronouns, etc.
Lists are less tangible in grad school because they only give you half of the information. Your course outline does not tell you which books you should have read sometime in the past and committed to memory (because it seems like some people have, and they like to make it known). It does not tell you if the books will ever arrive from the Internet Book Shop. It does not tell you how many of the books you won’t ever get to, since you will likely always be behind in discussion and you’ll probably find at least one meeting cancelled throughout the course of the term.
Your class roster does not tell you anything about your students except their name and level of study. It does not tell you who will come to class on time, late or sporadically. It does not tell you who is inclined to your subject or who wants to be inclined to your subject but just isn’t. It does not tell you if you will have a successful dynamic during your fifty minutes, or if you will have to make them do the chicken dance to come out of their shells. Hopefully, it will click sooner rather than later.
The least tangible of all lists are the master lists: THE READING LISTS. Sure, you can hold it in your hand and say, “I have to read the following 100 books in the next year,” but it will not tell you that you won’t have time to read any of them during the semester. You can say, “I’m reading a modern list and taking at modern class--yes!,” but the list will not tell you that maybe two of the ten books you will read in that class will be on your list of one hundred. It will tell you which books you may be tested on, but will not tell you that some books appear almost every exam period while others have appeared once in the past fifteen years; what’s more is that it does not tell you that you will more likely be asked about those other, more rare books when you are not ready for it, such as in an oral exam when you’re already sweating bullets trying to remember what seem to be important details that no one cares about.
I decided to use this blog as a way to share what I’m reading, for my classes, for ‘fun’ (though they are fewer than the rest), and also for my reading lists. My last written exams are scheduled for August 17th (20th century) and 19th (Special Topic: Italo Calvino from the Modern to the Postmodern). Hopefully, that will all go well, and then I will get to share my experience as I transition from the reading phase of graduate school (the first 4 years) to the writing phase (the rest). Of course, I’m towards the end of the first phase, but it’s a big end, and it will be a big step.

01 March 2009

Modern Reading List (20th century)

In the Italian department, they divide the reading lists into sections: Medieval (1200s-1300s), Renaissance (1400s-1600s), Early Moden (1700s-1800s), Modern (1900s-present) and Linguistics. You pick 3 exams. You take 2 exams in the first round and 2 exams in the second round (the 2nd exam in this round is your "Special Topic", which is designed with your Advisor). I'm currently studying for my second round, in which I'll take the Modern Exam and my Special Topic (I took Early Modern and Linguistics in the first round back in January). If you're interested in what I'm reading, it's probably from this list. If there is an English translation to the title, I included it afterwards.

1. Pascoli, Myricae
2. Pascoli, I canti di Castelvecchio
3. D’Annunzio, Il trionfo della morte (Triumph of Death)
4. D’Annunzio. Alcyone
5. D’Annunzio, Il piacere (Child of Pleasure)
6. D’Annnzio, La figlia di Iorio (The Daughter of Jorio)
7. D’Annunzio, Poema paradisiaco:Alla nutrice.
8. Croce,Breviario di estetica (Breviary of Aesthetics)
9. Croce, La poesia (Poetry)
10-14. Pirandello, from Novelle: La giara; Ciaula; Tragedia di un personaggio; La cariola; Ieri, oggi, domani. (Jar, Ciaula, Tragedy of a character, Carriola, Yesterday, Today Tomorrow)
15. Pirandello, Il fu Mattia Pascal (The Late Mattia Pascal)
16. Pirandello, Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore (Six Characters in Search of an Author)
17. Pirandello, Cosí è, se vi pare (So it is, if you think so)
18. Pirandello, Enrico IV (Henry IV)
19. Aleramo, Una donna (A Woman)
20. Deledda, Canne al vento (Cane in the Wind)
21. Svevo, Senilità (A Man Grows Older)
22. Svevo, La coscienza di Zeno (Zeno’s Conscience)
23. Gozzano, Le poesie (Poetry)
24. Corrazzini, Poesie edite e inedite (Poetry edited and unedited)
25. Marinetti, selections from Teoria e invenzione futurista (Futurist Theory and Invention)
26. Marinetti, Manifesti del futurismo (Futurist manifestos)
27. Campana, Canti orfici (orphic cantos)
28. Saba, Il Canzoniere (Collection of Poems)
29. Ungaretti, L'Allegria (Happiness)
30. Ungaretti, Sentimento del tempo (Snetiment of Time)
31. Ungaretti, La terra promessa (The promised land)
32. Montale, Ossi di seppia (Cuttlefish bones)
33. Montale, Le occasioni (Occasions)
34. Montale, La bufera e altro (The storm and others)
35. Montale, Satura (Satura)
36. Montale, Diario del 71 e del 72 (Diary of ’71 and ’72)
37. Montale, Auto da fe
38. Tozzi, Il podere
39. Gramsci, Letteratura e vita nazionale (Literature and National Life)
40. Bernari, Tre operai (Three Workers)
41. Buzzati, Il deserto dei Tartari
42. Banti, Artemisia
43. Betti, Corruzione al palazzo di giustizia (Corruption at the Palace of Justice)
44. Gadda, Quer pasticciaccio brutto in via Merulana (That Awful Mess on Via Merulana)
45. Gadda, La cognizione del dolore (Cognition of Pain)
46. Moravia, Gli indifferenti (The Indifferent Ones)
47. Moravia, Agostino
48. Moravia, La noia (Boredom)
49. Vitorini, Conversazione in Sicilia (Conversations in Sicily)
50. Vittorini, Uomini o no (Men and Not Men)
51. Pavese, La casa in collina (The House on the Hill)
52. Pavese, La luna e i falò (Moon and the bonfires)
53. Morante, La Storia (History)
54. Pratolini, Metello
55. Quasimodo, Tutte le poesie (All the poems)
56-67. Dalla scelta di Mengaldo, Poeti italiani del Novecento: Palazzeschi, Gatto, Luzi, Penna, Sereni, Pasolini, Fortini, Zanzotto, Pagliarani, Sanguineti, Porta, Rosselli.
68. Ginzburg, Le voci della sera (Voices of the night)
69. Ginzburg, Lessico famigliare (Family Sayings)
70. Ortese, Il mare non bagna Napoli
71. Bassani, Cinque storie ferraresi (5 Stories of Ferrara)
72. Bassani, Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini (Garden of the Finzi-Continis)
73. Lampedusa, Il gattopardo (The Leopard)
74. Pasolini, Ragazzi di vita (Boys of Life)
75. Sciascia, A ciascuno il suo (To each his own)
76. Calvino, Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno (The path to the Spider’s nest)
77. Calvino, Le cosmicomiche (Cosmicomics)
78. Calvino, Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore (If on winter’s night a traveler)
79. Fo, Selections from Le commedie (the Comedies)
80. Malerba, Il serpente (The Serpent)
81. Manganelli, Nuovo commento (New comment)
82. Manganelli, Centuria (100 Ourbouric tales)
83. Consolo, Il sorriso dell'ignoto marinaio (The smile of the unknown mariner)
84. Celati, Le avventure di Guizzardi (Adventures of the Guizzardi)
85. Volponi, Le mosche del capitale (Flies from the capital)
86. Eco, Il nome della rosa (The name of the rose)
87. Tabucchi, Notturno indiano (Indian nights)
88. Tondelli, Camere separate (Separate bedrooms)
89. Del Giudice, Atlante occidentale (Western Atlas)
90. Maraini, La lunga vita di Marianna Ucria (The silent duchess)
91. Vassalli, La chimera (The chimera)
92. Capriolo, Il doppio regno (The double-reign)
93-120 Selections from M. Cucchi, S. Giovanardi (a cura di), Poeti italiani del secondo Novecento, 1945-1995, Milano: Mondadori Editore, 1996.: A. Bertolucci, M. Luzi, G. Carponi, V. Sereni, P. Pasolini, F. Fortini, R. Roversi, L. Erba, R. Scotellaro, M.L.Spaziani, A. Merini, A. Zanzotto, E. Pagliarani, E. Sanguineti, A. Giuliani, N. Balestrini, A. Porta, A. Rosselli, G.Giudici, G. Raboni, C. Viviani, P. Cavalli, V. Zeichen, M. Cucchi, M. De Angelis, G. Conte, V. Magrelli, Patrizia Valduga

Visconti: Ossessione (Obsession)
Rossellini: Roma città aperta (Rome open city)
Pasolini: Accattone
Fellini: 8 1/2
Antonioni: L'avventura
Bertolucci: Il conformista