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Thinking the Future in Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone


This essay examines Giacomo Leopardi’s reflections on the future in the Zibaldone, his encyclopedic miscellany of notes and thoughts. Leopardi (1798-1837) is one of Europe’s greatest poets and thinkers, yet his reception outside of Italy has been relatively limited. The article aims to situate Leopardi’s ideas in the context of modern European thought and to frame his vision of futurity by examining a series of interconnected issues: the question of the modern individual’s experience of time and relationship with the future; the nature of society’s responsibility toward the generations to come; and the question of literature’s engagement with future readers. It shows how Leopardi’s philosophy of the future provided both a critique of European modernity and a response to its challenges. It also draws out the parallel issue of an author’s contemporaneity, that is her capacity to belong to her period and, at the same time, to transcend it. Thus, while resituating Leopardi’s temporal reflection within the epochal changes that took place between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the article also attempts to decouple the texts and their message from their historical period, in order to investigate Leopardi’s relevance beyond the limits of his present.

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