Fillia (Luigi Colombo, 1904-1936) is one of the most significant and intriguing protagonists of the Italian futurist avant-garde in the period between the two World Wars, though his body of work has yet to be considered in any depth. My dissertation uses a variety of critical methods (socio-political, historical, philological, narratological and feminist), along with the stylistic analysis and close reading of individual works, to study and assess the importance of Fillia's literature, theater, art, political activism, and beyond. Far from being derivative and reactionary in form and content, as interwar futurism has often been characterized, Fillia's works deploy subtler, but no less innovative forms of experimentation. For most of his brief but highly productive life, Fillia lived and worked in Turin, where in the early 1920s he came into contact with Antonio Gramsci and his factory councils. This led to a period of extreme left-wing communist-futurism. In the mid-1920s, following Marinetti's lead, Fillia moved toward accommodation with the fascist regime. This shift to the right eventually even led to a phase dominated by Catholic mysticism, from which emerged in his idiosyncratic and highly original futurist sacred art.
The purposes of my study are the following: to analyze and contextualize Fillia's oeuvre; to highlight his importance for a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of the futurist movement and the European avant-garde; to demonstrate his crucial aesthetic contributions to late futurism; and to bring critical attention to his radical political ideology. I also draw out the influence that his early communist activities continued to have even in his later fascist years, as well as his unprecedented interest in questions of gender and feminism.
Based on the evidence that emerges from my reading of Fillia's oeuvre, in my conclusions I show how my work contributes to a more thorough and nuanced understanding of futurism's complexity, and I discuss Fillia's importance to Italian intellectual life immediately before and under the fascist regime. Studying Fillia's ideological swing from left-wing radical to right-leaning conservative provides crucial clues about the intellectual and cultural climate in interwar Italy, and forwards scholarly understanding of the pressures and constraints that led so many Italian intellectuals to active participation in Mussolini's regime. Finally, using the evidence presented in the dissertation, I suggest some possible new perspectives for the comparative study of modernism and the avant-garde in Europe.