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Emilio Villa: Poet of Biblical Proportions. A Dissertation and Translation


Emilio Villa (1914-2003) was a poet, visual artist, translator, critic and Bible scholar. His poems encompass modern and ancient languages, including Milanese, Italian, French, English, Latin, Greek, Sumerian, and Akkadian. The present study seeks to address two major issues concerning his works. First, critics have chosen to separate Villa's different artistic interests, as well as the various languages he employs. Here, instead, I show how everything Villa did was interrelated: no matter the activity or language he engaged, he searched to harness the creative force of the verbum naturans, the original linguistic act. Second, Villa's texts were printed by small publishing houses throughout Italy, and are for the most part unavailable today. By offering both the originals and their English translations, this edition makes his works accessible to an international audience.

Section 1 of the introduction, the Status quaestionis, examines the rather fragmented state of Villa's artistic corpus (both published and unpublished) as it has been disseminated between various institutions and private collections across the globe. Here, I also consider the most prominent critical essays on Emilio Villa and discuss some of the claims made therein.

Section 2, Emilio Villa in the Landscape of 20th Century Poetry, inserts the poet within the 20th century canon, comparing his work to that of his Italian contemporaries, as well as to that of international poets, such as Ezra Pound and the members of Noigandres in Brazil. My findings demonstrate that Villa's poetic experiments anticipated many of those carried out by individual writers or entire groups.

Section 3, A Poet of Biblical Proportions, analyses Villa's translation of Genesis, his poetry in different languages, an essay on primordial man, and one of his "art criticism essays" to show how he displayed the same interest for the verbum naturans in all his artistic endeavors.

The remainder of this edition comprises selections from each collection Villa authored over the seventy years of his literary career. The Italian of these poems has been rendered in English and the other languages have been left intact in order to maintain the same feel as the original. At the end of every translation the reader will find footnotes that explain cultural references and highlight the various techniques the poet utilizes. The "Sampling of Things to Come" includes a passage from Villa's unpublished translation of Genesis.

Finally, I provide an extensive up-to-date bibliography on Villa's works that will prove a useful tool for future scholarship.

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