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The Deus (ex) Macchina: the Legacy of the Futurist Obsession with Speed


It is well known that the Futurists exalted speed and danger, worshipping both as god-like forces with the ability to renew the world. As a source of speed and thrill, the car was an important symbol of Futurism, one who’s symbolic impact continues to exert its influence on society and culture. It was not until the post-war period that the car began to take its place in popular culture as an icon and obsession, as the Futurists had sought to make it. The conditions of the "Boom economico" made it possible for the car to permeate the collective consciousness. In the postwar Boom years, many of the same socio-political forces that had been in play before the wars returned in full force, demanding continued negotiation. Through Il sorpasso, Dino Risi’s 1962 film, and Emilio Isgrò’s 1964 Poesia Volkswagen, I will examine the ways in which the Futurist ideology of the macchina as savior is carried through in two prominent cultural manifestations. This will also shed light on the continuing influence of Futurist ideology just when it is being most vehemently denied for its Fascist connections. I will also consider technical aspects of Futurist poetry and the Futurist artistic agenda as further support for the continued influence of Futurist ideology. This will include an examination of the use of parolibere conventions in Isgrò’s poem as well as the thematic similarities between Il sorpasso and the Fondazione e manifesto del Futurismo. Among these similarities are the obsession with speed and danger and the portrayal of the car as a lover. In Isgrò’s poem, the visual composition on the page and the figurative elements are just as critical to a complete understanding of the poem as what the text says.

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