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"Moribondo Cristo le rispose:/non mi toccare!" Touch, Isolation, and the Agonizing Flesh in Amelia Rosselli’s Variazioni belliche


The theoretical responses that constellate the recent debates around the pandemic often neglect the contradictory, painful tensions that arise in the aftermath of historical lacerations. What would it mean to approach the lyric, instead, when thinking about the diseased body, the dangers and potentialities of isolation, and the everyday fear of contagion? How could we turn to an understanding of poetry that might proudly elude a practical answer, escape the assumed (but not always achieved) lucidity of a comforting solution, and help us grasp the ineffability of the current crisis? Some of Amelia Rosselli’s Variazioni belliche (1964) could lead us into thinking beyond the mediatic hygiene that bombards us with graphs and projected figures, thus disclosing an eidetic and experiential horizon able to illuminate the present (in a way, to infect it). One of Rosselli’s lyrics, in particular, comments upon (and dislodges) the prohibition of touching contained in the Noli me tangere story, echoing the long-lived fascination that Western critical theory has felt towards Judeo-Christian tales as sites of “critical inquiry”. Delving into Rosselli’s lyrics will offer a glimpse of a new language of loss and seclusion able to question the well-worn constructs through which we are accustomed to reading the pandemic: beyond the abstraction of the biopolitical subject, and the numeric reports circulated by the media, the poet conflates civic participation and solitude, invoking the materiality of death and of the sacred within the vertigo of a personal and epochal shift.

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